A new type of Kindle might be on the horizon, but not the kind we need

A color Kindle mockup
(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)
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Amazon doesn't refresh its best-selling Kindle lineup very often. Unlike Android phones and tablets, e-readers see updated models once in two to three years. It probably doesn't make sense to upgrade such devices as often as phones because the improvements would be too minimal.

Every single one of Amazon's Kindle e-readers have had black and white displays to date. It's not like the technology for color e-paper doesn't exist, though. Competitors like Onyx Boox and Pocketbook have long since taken advantage of the E Ink Corporation's color e-paper displays.

Now that color e-ink displays are several generations old, it seems like Amazon might cash in.

Onyx Boox Nova Air C

Earlier this month, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who mainly focuses on Apple products and trends — predicted that Amazon is likely to roll out color E Ink devices as early as 2025. Despite the high cost associated with color e-paper screens, Kuo's predictions suggest that color Kindles will come with the latest Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP) display.

Amazon generally plays it very safe with its e-readers, but Kuo's insight leans towards a potentially risky move. See, the cost of e-paper screens is the most expensive part of any e-paper device. Color e-ink displays cost more than double the price of B&W e-ink screens.

This means that a color Kindle would probably cost nearly twice as much as a regular old Amazon e-reader and that spells trouble for the brand. One of the major selling points of a Kindle is that it is darn cheap and accessible. Feature-wise, it loses out to competitors like Onyx Boox in nearly every single category except for waterproofing.

Kindle (2022) display text

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

Amazon limits the potential of its Kindles, filling them with ads and removing access to the Google Play Store. On the other hand, other popular e-readers like the Boox Palma give you unfettered access to the Play Store, and you are free to install whatever app you want. Then there are other factors like e-ink tablets with styli, speakers, a mic, and microSD card slots.

When such fully-featured e-readers exist, the only reason why people buy Amazon's limited paper tablets is obviously money. And when an expensive color Kindle rolls around with just as narrow a use case as all the rest of the Kindles, it just won't make sense to the consumer anymore.

If you don't believe me, just take a look at the Kindle Scribe, which comes in at around $340 apiece. For the same amount of money, you can purchase something from Onyx Boox with far superior specs and a stylus that supports better pressure sensitivity levels with unrestricted access to the Play Store. Add a little more money and you can even score one with a color screen.

There was a lot of talk about a Kindle with a stylus up to its release, but once everyone saw the price of the Scribe, they weren't as interested anymore. The general consensus is that the device doesn't deliver much value for money.

Onyx Boox Tab X E Ink tablet

(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

Aside from the price, the only other factor keeping Kindles at the top is the battery life. As we have tested and discovered time and time again, color e-paper tablets don't last anywhere near as long as monochrome black-and-white ones.

Naturally, you won't be able to squeeze out weeks upon weeks of battery life from a color Kindle, at least not unless you are very miserly with your usage or Amazon bumps up the battery capacity significantly. Neither of those scenarios is optimal because you either sacrifice performance or the price goes up even more because of the larger battery.

At the end of the day, I am forced to ask a simple question. Who benefits from a color Kindle? Is this even something we want to see? Based on my own judgment, I wouldn't say so.

Instead, I would much rather see a Kindle with the Play Store, speakers, more apps, a microSD slot, or something else practical along those lines. Give me fast charging or better stylus support. I want a better Kindle, not the same old thing in color.

Namerah Saud Fatmi
Editor — Accessories, speakers, and tablets

Namerah enjoys geeking out over accessories, gadgets, and all sorts of smart tech. She spends her time guzzling coffee, writing, casual gaming, and cuddling with her furry best friends. Find her on Twitter @NamerahS.

  • radiobabylon
    i think, probably, you are not the target market for the kindle devices, especially not the 'basic' kindles (paperwhite etc, not the scribe/oasis/et al)... i buy kindles explicitly BECAUSE all they are is a reader. and i would pay double for a color kindle paperwhite in a hot minute (like, immediately, right this instant, i would preorder one if it were available). ive wanted a color e-ink device ever since the first ones went on the market but havent bought one, and it isnt because of price... its because i dont want an everything and the kitchen sink device, i want a READER. and i especially dont want an android reader.

    youre also incorrect about the battery usage. a color e-ink screen uses no more power than a black and white one. the thing that causes the terrible battery life on the other color readers is ANDROID. the kindle os does mostly NOTHING when you arent turning pages (or adjusting settings), and if airplane mode is on, its for really real doing nothing at all. aside from readability, thats the whole point of e-ink, it takes zero power to hold a screen. so that power drain is from all the OTHER things the device is doing.

    i think its great that there are kindle alternatives, because clearly, not everyone buys a device for the same reason. but i suspect a lot of kindle die-hards use them not because of the price, but because theyre very focused devices that are EXCELLENT for what they do: reading books. and i suspect a basic paperwhite with a color screen would sell quite well indeed.
  • OutofNames
    I agree with radiobabylon.

    The Kindle (especially Paperwhite) is meant for one thing, reading.
    It has a long battery life, charges quickly and the newer models are mostly waterproof.
    People buy books from the Amazon store, and use other various free/discounted services, particularly checking out books for free from the library (a tedious process but it can be done).
    If you want an electronic Swiss army knife with apps/perform multiple functions, use an Amazon Fire, or your Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop, etc.
    The last thing you want when reading a book is interruptions/notifications popping up on your screen/constant updates.

    I'm currently using a 4GB 2015 Kindle Paperwhite model that I purchased in 2017 and I've only used half the storage to date.
    When I checked within that last year it still had the most current OS (I'm sure it's about to stop getting current OS updates if it hasn't already but 8+ years of primary OS support for any device is pretty good these days). This is my first Kindle and all I've done to keep functioning is
    1. Buy a case and keep it closed when the Kindle is not in use
    2. Keep it away from water, keep it out of the sun when the Kindle is not in use
    3. Keep it away from pets/small children
    4. Keep it out of dusty/dirty environments
    5. No throwing it around or putting anything heavy on top of it
    6. Put it in Airplane mode at all times when not syncing for new books or updating the OS, which is not frequent (WiFi is the biggest battery drain).
    I would pay more for a Kindle with a color screen with the idea that I would get at least 6-10 years of use out of it.
    I like the idea of a color Kindle to better see illustrations/maps in books, I may even consider Manga and Comics on a Kindle (depending on image quality/storage use).