Kindle Store

To this point, I've basically been ignoring the elephant in the room - content purchasing. The Kindle Fire is naturally tied to Amazon's Kindle Store for eBooks, newspapers, magazines, and singles (essays, articles, and short stories). 

Displayed prominently on the Newsstand and Books libraries is an innocent looking link to the Kindle store. The Newsstand store is pretty similar to Apple's Newsstand store, while the Book store basically looks like iTunes for eBooks. 

The standard array of newspapers and magazines are available, with a couple of notable exceptions (like the Wall Street Journal). Most magazines go for between $1 and 3 a month and around $3-5 if you're buying a single issue. Newspapers tend to be in the $10-12 range per month and $0.75-0.99 per day, though The New York Times asks for $20 for a monthly subscription.

Some magazines (TIME Magazine and Conde-Nast publications among them) have tablet-specific apps from which you can purchase and download issues. Because they're designed specifically for the tablet form factor, the reading experience is first-rate, with clearer text and fewer slowdowns than the standard magazines, in addition to videos and other interactive content. One major annoyance though: if you leave the application while an issue is being downloaded, the download will be cancelled. Considering that the interactive, rich-format apps are 250-300MB in size, it gets a bit tiring to wait through the downloads. 

The Kindle eBook store is basically the biggest name in digital book purchasing and delivery, so it's about as comprehensive as you can get. Recent books and big name titles go in the $10-15 range (top sellers in order are $15, 15, 14, 10, and 13), whereas classics can be had for as little as $0.99. Singles and short stories also go in the $1-3 range. I think most digital books are overpriced considering that you don't actually get a physical book with them, but people are still buying them in droves, so what do I know?

The experience is pretty seamless - select the title you want and you're given two options - "Buy" and "Try a Sample". Pick one and it'll download. Samples are actually pretty nice, they send the first few chapters, just enough to get you interested, and then you see a nice message that says "End of this sample Kindle book. Enjoyed it? Buy now."

There's actually a third option, if you're a Prime member. You can go to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. You can basically pick a book from their list, and every calendar month, you can borrow one to read for free. No due dates, no strings, just one free book a month that you can borrow. And it's some pretty major titles too, former New York Times bestsellers and the like. Currently, the most popular books on the Lending Library are the Hunger Games trilogy. The Lending Library is the first of two Prime services on display here, the other being Instant Video. 

Prime Instant Video & Movies

Prime is the second major money maker here after the Kindle store. Amazon even throws in a one month free trial to Prime with the purchase of a Kindle Fire, just to make sure you know what you're missing if you decide to not get it. The biggest content pushed by Prime is Instant Video, basically Amazon's equivalent to Netflix. You can stream any of 10,000+ movies or TV shows instantly through Prime, or rent/purchase them for a cost. The streaming option is definitely nice, because you don't have to deal with downloading and storing the movies and running into issues with the limited amount of onboard NAND. 

As such, the video library takes you directly to the storefront. At the top are the featured Prime Instant Videos; underneath that are the featured movies and TV shows available for purchase. The Prime Instant selection is good enough that you can get away without paying to download movies. You can save videos from Prime or the Video Store to the favorites list. The video playback controls are very simple, just play/pause, a time bar, a rewind by 10s button, and volume control. 

Music and video content can be preloaded onto the device, so long as the videos have a filesize of less than 2GB. High Profile H.264 content plays without an issue. The Kindle Fire had no problems with HP streams at up to 30Mbps. In fact, you're more limited by the 2GB file size limitation than you are bitrate on the Kindle Fire. We have TI's excellent video decoder to thank for this.

In addition, music can be purchased from the Amazon MP3 store and streamed from Amazon's Cloud Drive web storage app. The music player itself is pretty standard and relatively similar to the original Gingerbread one. When music is playing, the song shows up in the drop down notifications menu for easy access to the player. I'd like to have seen some form of control in the notifications menu or on the lockscreen, but no such luck. 

Books & Newsstand Appstore, Documents & Email
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  • StormyParis - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    The original Nook Color, at $200, was an heck of a deal. The current proprietary tablets (Nook Color 2 and Kindle Fire) are a lot less compelling due to the arrival of non-proprietary tablets at the same price point. Those are.. non-proprietary, and offer arguably better features.

    I'm still happy ith my original Nook Color. WHen it gets replaced, if it does, it probably will be by a true, un-walled-gardened, tablet.
    Reply
  • Wierdo - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    Ars had a good review of the Nook tablet here:
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/reviews/2011/11/lea...

    "I have less doubt about the Nook Tablet as a capable product than I did about the Kindle Fire. The experience is not frustrating or jagged and doesn't feel as unfinished... However, I do have some doubts about the value of the Nook ecosystem. Amazon's selection in all categories seems a bit more diverse..."
    Reply
  • rruscio - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    I wanted an entry level tablet that was an eReader. Check. But ...

    1) I really miss having Skype on here. Really.

    2) The lack of Google native apps results in my using the browser for gmail, Reader, et al. And then Google gives me links to all the other apps. Not the most comprehensible experience.

    3) The single/double/drag tap issues are more annoying than they need to be.

    4) wiFi isn't immediately available when the device wakes up. It takes some number of seconds to make the connection. The "wiFi not available" error is easily resolved by me tapping again. Why isn't is resolved by the app / OS waiting instead?

    5) The entire software experience seems less than fully baked. Yeah, I get the Christmas rush thing, but I don't have experience with Amazon updating software. Hope isn't change.

    6) The device feels familiar because I'm used to my Droid Inc. The speed is better, and the screen size is acreage versus postage stamp.

    If there's ever a phone that just 1) phone calls 2) text messaging 3) wiFi hot spot 4) non-larcenous plan, I'd predict that, and a tablet in this form factor, will kill the smart phone business.

    Great review.
    Reply
  • genomecop - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    1. I dont miss it at all.
    2. Not true. It comes preloaded with an email app that has gmail setup.
    3. Dont know what your talking about never have this issue
    4. Dont have this issue and I use mine all day long.
    5. Have no problem with the software at all. Everything works very smoothly.
    Just want to add...I've had an Ipad since launch and I have since stopped carrying it around. This fits in my coat pocket for use at the gym while doing cardio. At work, on my desk for quick web browsing. RSS feed for all Tech related news. Gmail. Reading on the subway. Uses my phones hotspot in the cab for use. Quick download of movies. I think its a great device.
    Reply
  • mcturkey - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    In your conclusion, you state that $199 should be the entry level price point now. I'm anxiously awaiting your review of the Nook Tablet to see if that extra $50 is worth it (excluding my personal bias towards B&N for their willingness to fight back against Microsoft's ridiculous patent war against Android). Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    Agreed, the new Nook looks interesting. I remember reading it has a larger battery than the Fire. Locking all but 1GB of its memory to B&N content sucks, but I'm sure someone will take that limitation off. Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    Hardware wise, the extra 8GB of internal storage, extra 512 MB of RAM, and microSD slot, I think it;s worth it. Still I think the extra $50 would be worth it a lot more with the full Android experience. If the other Android manufacturers could put android 4.0 on an equivalent tablet to Kindle Fire, and price it at $250, I'd pick that one any day. You can still get all Amazon's services on the full Android, too, so no point limiting yourself for $50. Reply
  • nace186 - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    I don't understand why you are comparing the Fire with all the tablet out there that's in a different class. What it should really be compare to is the Nook Color, and the Nook Tablet. Which either of them were included. Reply
  • Wierdo - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    Yeah I read a review on Ars about it and they think the Nook tablet is a more capable product but Amazon has the edge in the ecosystem department, link posted on this thread somewhere if interested. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    We'll have a Nook Tablet review that touches on the comparisons to the Kindle Fire relatively soon :) Reply

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