Amazon’s Kindle for Kids bundle aims to inspire next generation of readers

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2016
Amazon’s Kindle e-readers are versatile little gadgets, no doubt — they are lightweight, durable, last days on a charge, hold hundreds of digital books, newspapers, and magazines, and even sport accessibility features like font size adjustment and text to speech. That has helped establish the Kindle as an e-reader to be reckoned with — it has almost single-handedly driven the adoption of e-books in India, for one, plus become the official e-reader of the National Parent Teacher Association. Given the educational bent, it is no surprise that Amazon sees readers of a younger generation as potential Kindle users. And on Tuesday, it expressed as much in the form of a bundle: Kindle for Kids.

If Kindle for Kids sounds familiar, that is because it is not new — Amazon launched the discount package in May 2015. But it has been refreshed with a number of goodies the retail giant contends are worth a look. There is a Kindle in the box, of course, and one that does not skimp. It is the latest generation of Kindle and sports a design 11 percent thinner and 16 percent lighter than the previous generation, a glare-resistant e-ink screen, and 4GB of storage that Amazon said can hold “thousands of books.” It packs more memory (512MB) than previous Kindles, too, and a battery delivers up to “four weeks” off a charger with Wi-Fi disabled.

On the software side of Kindle for Kids, Amazon said there are plenty of functions geared specifically toward kiddos. One, called Zero Distractions, locks away games and videos to ensure kids remain reading. Another, FreeTime, is a mode “designed with kids in mind.” Parents can populate a library with specific books from an existing Kindle account, Amazon said, and kids can view the progress they have made through books and earn badges for reaching completion milestones. And they are blocked from accessing inappropriate content and making purchases — FreeTime disables purchasing in the Kindle store, access to the Internet, access to Wikipedia, and social sharing.

Additionally, Vocabulary Builder lets kids save unfamiliar words to a dictionary of digital flashcards. A built-in New Oxford American Dictionary powers offline definitions. Word Wise provides supplementary, truncated word lookup online. And a digital highlighter lets kids save memorable quotes and sentences.

Kindle for Kids would not be a bundle without accessories to match the Kindle, of course, and there are a few. One is a durable, “kid-friendly” cover available in black, blue, green, pink, and purple. The second is an extended, two-year warranty that protects against accidental drops and spills in addition to manufacture defects — if anything happens to Kindle, you can send it back for a no-questions-asked replacement.

The Kindle for Kids bundle began shipping Wednesday.

Amazon’s Kindle business is booming. The retailer does not release sales figures, but market analysts at the International Data Corporation estimate it sold 5.2 million units on year-over-year growth of 175 percent last holiday quarter. Those results, driven in large part by Amazon’s new $50 tablet, rocketed Amazon to third place in global market share among tablet vendors — behind Samsung and Apple.

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