The Kindle Fire: The End of Books?

Let’s keep our discussion of the Kindle Fire simple, shall we?

Amazon’s media-heavy, Android-powered tablet, as too many tech journo hacks have explained in exhaustive comparisons of the two, is no match for Apple’s iPad 2 -- a product that happens to cost more than twice as much as the Fire. The comparison is about as helpful as pitting PBR against bourbon in a head-to-head contest, and then complaining that the beer’s flavor is lackluster, or that the bourbon lacks bubbles.

To stretch the metaphor a bit, it is fair to say the Fire is the PBR of tablet PCs. It is a utilitarian, and somewhat cheap and chunky device. And it restricts your access to the Android universe by sticking you with Amazon’s Appstore, rather than Google’s Android Market.

And rooting the Fire -- modifying its operating system so you can install apps from outside the Appstore, among other things -- is just a bad idea for many Amazon customers. It has been reported in the past week that people who have installed software that alters the Fire’s OS have been unable to access their Amazon videos. Futhermore, the ever-popular CyanogenMod isn’t quite ready for Fire primetime, as there are more than a few glitches, including no working audio.

The fact is that the purpose of the Fire, and the Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble, to which it can be more realistically compared, is simply to channel multimedia content from the retailer behind the device.

According to some reports, each $199 Kindle Fire costs more than $200 per unit to make. So it seems that Amazon has a reason for taking a loss on each sale of the gadget.

Indeed, the Fire’s seven-inch color LCD (which it has instead of a reflective, easier-on-the-eyes E Ink screen) means the device a better choice for those who prefer to get their music and movies from Amazon. And that goes especially for those of us who already subscribe to Amazon Prime, which includes a large swath of free content. (The Fire comes with a free month of the $79 per year Prime service.)

Books, magazines and newspapers and docs: all take a back seat to multimedia on the Fire, as they do on the Nook Tablet.

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  • Nook tablet only has 1GB memory for non-B&N content. But it does stream a higher definition(not true HD) from netflix.

    The whole e-ink vs lcd is overblown. Research has shown e-ink isn't "easier" on the eyes when compared with lcd screen. If anything its like a placebo effect or just people saying what they heard. They both have situational benefits(e-ink in the sun, lcd in the dark).
  • ryedizzel
    Great review. Thorough, yet to the point, while giving us the good AND the bad. My only disagreement is that it’s a better option than the Nook simply because they offer more TV shows and movies on the marketplace. You can easily get content from many other sources, and then copy it to a memory card which can be used in the Nook. CNET also did a screen comparison and found the Nook to have a better screen. And finally the Nook Tablet comes with 1GB of RAM compared the 512MB of the Kindle Fire, which makes it a little snappier for games, videos and simply navigating through content.
  • ryedizzel
    Also I believe you had a small typo. At the end you put "Purchasing the Fire will make you an early adapter", where I think you meant to say "early adopter".
  • How come no one compares the iPod Touch to Kindle Fire? They are in the same price range.
  • jsilophi
    Another downside about the Nook Tablet is that it does not charge via USB. Just noticed it after a few days of use. When I checked, the adapter is capable of delivering 1.8 - 1.9amps vs the USB port with 0.5amps.

    Apart from that, rooting the Nook Tablet will give more edge to it as you can install Amazon apps to on it once rooted, just like the Nook Color (probably one of the compelling reasons why one will get a Kindle Fire, their software and services).

    Unfortunately, the root developers have still to unlock the boot loader, but that's another story...
  • dconnors
    azNephiHow come no one compares the iPod Touch to Kindle Fire? They are in the same price range.

    They are capable of many of the same tasks, but the screen size difference is what keeps the comparisons to a dull roar.

    -Devin Connors, Tom's Guide
  • few things you missed about the nook
    1- micro usb -normal one WILL charge the nook tablet, just in trickle mode- ie takes a lot longer, it will work though, how do i know, because i have done it.

    2- if amazon prime is the key factor between the nook and the fire,,,get the nook tablet, it WILL run the amazon video player app fine, it WILL install amazon marketplace, and the kindle app, HOWEVER, you need a microsd card install on the tablet to work with the amazon apps

    i have the nook tablet, i have amazon market installed, i have amazon's video player installed, i use the amazon market to buy almost all of my apps due to the pricing and selection is better than the nook app market. i also have gmail installed, google maps, android market, dolphin hd (sideloaded that android market place says it is not compatible...)

    video plays better on the nook, it is smoother framerate wise, with my 16gig microsd card i can install 15 or 16 movies and play them no problem (i am in the process of ripping all my dvd's to the computer in .mkv format) the only thing it will not play that i have found so far is bluray rips because they end up too large.

    for the 50 dollars -to me- and being able to do everthing the fire can do, just better, to me was worth the 20 dollars more it ended up costing me (i got the nook tablet for 199.99 due to using a gift card)