Kindle Fire HD not so hot without Prime

21 Jun

kindle_fire_hdAmazon’s announcement last month that the Kindle Fire HD tablet e-reader was finally coming to Canada elicited some excitement from gadget watchers. I myself wondered if the news might mean renewed interest from Amazon in a country where it has devoted less than its full attention, a fact that has probably resulted in the stalling of the e-book wave here.

I’ve been playing around with the smaller of the two announced tablets, the seven-inch Kindle Fire HD, for the past week and can safely say that nope, Amazon really isn’t ramping up its Canadian operations. The device itself is fine, but it’s not very useful because of what it doesn’t come with – a decent version of Amazon’s premium subscription service, Prime.

Hardware-wise, the Fire HD is about as nice a device as you’ll get – and it’s tough to beat on price. The seven-inch version sells for $214 while the larger 8.9-inch model, which has a slightly higher screen resolution, goes for $284. The closest decent tablet is Google’s Nexus 7, which regularly sells for about $239, while the iPad Mini starts at $329. With a solid screen, stereo speakers on its back and the capability to do most of what you want to do on a such a device – surf the web, check email, read e-books, play videos and post to Facebook – the Fire HD is good value.

The smaller tablet has the same screen resolution as the Nexus 7 and is slightly sharper than the iPad Mini, and its stereo speakers beat both competitors.

It’s when we get to the software side that the deficiencies start to become apparent. For one thing, the Fire HD – although based on the Android operating system – doesn’t have full access to the Google Play app store. Instead, it offers up Amazon’s own curated version, which has far less going for it, such as fewer apps and no music or movies.

The key, though, is the lack of a proper Prime service. In the United States, an annual $79 fee gets subscribers unlimited two-day shipping on products ordered on the website, plus access to the Amazon Instant Video streaming service and the Kindle e-book lending program. In Canada, the same fee only gets the shipping perk and not the other two services, which would definitely make the expenditure worth it. As it stands, Prime is woefully overpriced for Canadians given how seriously it’s hobbled.

The only real way to get media onto the device, aside from Amazon’s own e-books and streaming apps such as Netflix, is by side-loading files through a computer connection. That’s a giant pain in the butt that competing tablets aren’t handicapped with. The Nexus 7 is well worth the extra $20, just for the option of having access to the full Google Play app and media store.

The Kindle Fire HD is therefore a thoroughly handicapped device. In the United States, its big advantage over competing tablets is its smooth interoperability with Amazon’s video streaming service. Without that option in Canada, it’s tough to figure out why anyone would want it over one of the competing tablets.


Posted by on June 21, 2013 in amazon, apple, Google


2 responses to “Kindle Fire HD not so hot without Prime

  1. tom

    June 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Completely agree. this tablet would really make sense with prime, but only if Prime included the video service.

  2. Justin Amirkhani

    June 21, 2013 at 9:28 am

    So, let me shed a little light on something:

    The way Amazon’s Prime lending service works is that the author who wrote whatever you “borrowed” from the store using Prime gets paid a cut of a big, monthly fund that’s split between all the authors participating in KDP Select.

    Including Canada in the offering is a much harder proposition than it seems because injecting a new market of that size into the program has the potential to unbalance a lot of things. One scenario that’s pretty obvious is that with all the extra people using the service (let’s say an additional 1/4 what they’ve got now as U.S. only), authors get upset because their cut per copy sold goes down.

    There’s another scenario in which there are significant taste differences between US and Canada and it shifts the weighting of the fund distribution because of the sudden increase in an otherwise less-popular brand – meaning less money in the pockets of established US authors and very little more money in the pockets of a bunch of those writing to the Canadian sensibility.

    It’s actually a much harder problem to solve when you consider these things, but I applaud Amazon for doing it. Their system right now rewards pretty much all writers relatively even handedly. Those that put the effort in can make their money, and those who want to do it as a casual affair can do that as well. Prime’ll come to Canada, preferably with a completely separate KDP Select fund that’s split up based exclusively on how that market reacts.

    Really though, who gives a shit about any of this when you can pirate all the books you want?

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