Well, the Kindle Voyage had a good (and short) run at the top. This week, Amazon is announcing a brand new model of Kindle called the Oasis, and it’s an almost complete design overhaul. The company is so keen on that new design that they’re expecting it to command a very high price — you don’t charge $290 for an e-reader without a lot of confidence.
The pricing is very interesting (read: risky) considering that internally, the Oasis isn’t substantially different from the Voyage. It has the same 6″ 300 ppi Paperwhite display as the Voyage, although the Oasis uses 60 percent more LED lights in a more optimal array to provide brighter and more even lighting when reading in the dark.
But, a $90 price increase has to come from more than just better lighting. The premium feature of the Oasis is its exterior design, which has been made lighter and more ergonomic than the Voyage. Whereas the Voyage was shaped like a traditional e-reader, but with a metal exterior, the Oasis has been made thicker on one side to imitate the feeling of holding the spine of a book in your hand. It’s an answer to the common refrain of e-reader not feeling the same as regular old books, and while the Oasis won’t necessarily convert any doubters, it’s definitely a more comfortable experience for people already on board with e-readers. The Oasis has some smarts, too. If you’re a lefty, you can flip the Oasis around, and it’ll automatically adjust the screen’s orientation and page forward and back buttons to suit the reader.
Despite that one thicker edge, the Oasis is lighter than the Voyage at 4.6 ounces. On its thinner side, the Oasis is 3.4 mm thick, which makes it the thinnest e-reader Amazon has created. Instead of having a pure metal body, Amazon used a light polymer and with metal plating, keeping the device light while giving it a sturdy, premium feel.
Battery life seems like it’ll be a question mark — Amazon hasn’t specified what we should expect, but if internally the Oasis is a Voyage with a brighter LED array, we’d guess it’d be a step down from the weeks-long battery life of the Voyage. Whatever the case, Amazon has planned for battery concerns. Included with the Oasis is a leather charging case, available in black, merlot, and walnut. When the Oasis is attached to the case, it’ll automatically start getting charged by the case’s internal battery. The cases have a sleek, luxurious look to them, and definitely figure into that higher price tag. With the cover, the battery life is extended to several months.
The Kindle Oasis will start at $290, but you’ll have to pay more to get 3G connectivity and to get it without special offers (ads). That’s really, really expensive for an e-reader, especially considering the display is no sharper than any other e-reader Amazon has. The leather case has a lot to do with that price increase, but it’s hard to say how many readers that will hook. But, if Amazon did get your attention, you can order one now, with shipping scheduled for April 27.