Report: front-lit Kindle coming in July

When Barnes & Noble launched a Nook e-reader with an integrated light last month, many speculated that it was only a matter of time before Amazon would release a new, front-lit version of its monochrome Kindle E Ink e-reader. Well, according to an unnamed Reuters source who's allegedly seen a prototype of the product, Amazon is aiming to have that new Kindle in stores by July.

Strong rumours suggest that a light will be built right in to the next Kindle, obviating the need for this optional cover.
(Credit: Amazon)

Barnes & Noble began shipping its US$139 Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight in the US at the end of April, in time for Mother's Day. The e-reader received a CNET Editors' Choice award, and Barnes & Noble says that sales have been brisk.

Until now, E Ink's chief selling points have been how readable it is outdoors, even in bright sunlight, and how energy efficient it is. While the lack of a backlight was touted as reducing eyestrain, the inability to read in the dark or dimly lit environments has always been one of E Ink's weaknesses. You either had to buy a clip-on light or a case that had an integrated flip-out light built in to it.

Barnes & Noble considers its integrated GlowLight as a key differentiating feature. At the time it launched, rumour had it that Amazon was also working on an integrated light for its next Kindle. A report at TechCrunch recently noted that Amazon had acquired Oy Modilis, a Finnish company that's "the world leader in light-guide technology", and that he'd seen a prototype for an E Ink Kindle with a front-lit display at Lab 126, Amazon's Silicon Valley-based design lab.

The big question is how much the new "Glow" Kindle will cost. The Reuters source suggested that Amazon is "likely to keep prices the same, or raise them by a very small margin, if at all". (If history is any indicator, Amazon will undoubtedly undercut Barnes & Noble's US$139 price).

The Reuters article also quoted an analyst, Jennifer Colegrove, vice president of Emerging Display Technologies at DisplaySearch, an NPD Group company. "They [Amazon] can afford to add a front light, because the component is not very expensive and their display otherwise uses very little energy," she said


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