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 Reuter's source who's allegedly seen a prototype of the product, Amazon is aiming to have that new Kindle in stores by July.
Barnes & Noble's began shipping its $139 Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight at the end of April in time for Mother's Day. The e-reader received a CNET Editors' Choice 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 very energy efficient. 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 into it. Amazon charges $59.99 for its Kindle Touch Lighted Leather Cover.
Barnes & Noble considers its integrated GlowLight as a key differentiating feature. At the time it launched, rumor had it that Amazon was also working on an integrated light for its next Kindle. A reporter 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 will the new "Glow" Kindle cost. The Reuters source suggested that Amazon was "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 $139 price).
The Reuters article also quotes 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."
Not surprisingly, the Reuters source says those are coming, too, but they'll arrive in the fall, closer to the holiday season. That seems like a reasonable assumption given that the original Kindle Fire was released in November of last year.