Kindle Update Starts Rolling Out. Twitter, Facebook Included. Color, Touchscreen Not.

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I have a confession to make: today was the first day I touched my Kindle in weeks. And I only did it to check if I had received the new Kindle 2.5 software update (I hadn’t) that is beginning to rollout to users and will continue to do so throughout this month. And even that was only to chuckle at the update.

The reason why I haven’t used a device I paid several hundred dollars for in weeks is probably obvious: the iPad. As even the most diehard skeptics note, the iPad has absolutely made the Kindle obsolete. Sure, there’s e-ink, but you don’t even really hear that argument anymore. In fact, I feel like praise of the device’s weight has become the Kindle-apologists only real line of defense left. Still, this impending doom isn’t stopping Amazon from trying to update the device.

Software update 2.5 contains a number of new features. The biggest one is the Twitter and Facebook integration. “Share book passages with friends on Facebook and Twitter directly from your Kindle,” the feature page notes. That’s somewhat interesting — provided the passages are short enough for Twitter. Actually, it’s more interesting that Amazon is apparently letting users use their baked-in cellular connect to send out this data.

Other updates include the ability to organize your books into collections (read: folders), popular network-wide highlights in books, more fonts, pan & zoom in PDF viewing, and password protection for you device. No, I’m not kidding.

Absent from the list of updates are a few key features that would actually help the device compete with the iPad. First, a touchscreen. Second, a color screen. Third, the ability to play other media (the “experimental” MP3 support is laughable). Fourth, a somewhat usable browser (the current “experimental” browser is even more laughable). Fifth, apps — ahh, forget it.

Amazon was wise to make an iPhone app for its Kindle books. It was even wiser to make an iPad one (which is great, by the way). The fact of the matter is that while they may try to come out with some sort of touchscreen, color Kindle, Amazon is unlikely to be able to compete in hardware with Apple. And the fact that Apple has 200,000 apps at their disposal, while Amazon has none, just makes it even more daunting.

And really, Amazon should probably be more concerned at this point with making sure the book publishers stay with them rather than jump ship to Apple’s new iBookstore. They’re working on that. Or at least trying to outsell Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

A $259 device that does one thing well (the Kindle) versus a $499 device that does a dozen or more things well (the iPad) is not a fair fight. Yes, even with this software update. Though I am interested to see what fonts they’ve added.

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