E-book lovers who want a multi-purpose device may be adding a late entrant to their holiday wish lists, with the announcement of Amazon’s new Fire HD 8 Reader’s Edition tablet ($250). Available for pre-order today (Dec. 7) and shipping on Dec. 9, the Reader’s Edition comes with a full year of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service ($120 per year) and a limited edition brown leather case ($80).
The Kindle Fire HD 8 Reader's Edition in Blue Shield mode. Image: Amazon
Kindle Unlimited gives readers access to more than 1 million Kindle e-books. That's about 30 percent of Amazon's overall catalog of e-books, and won't include some best sellers because Hachette, MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Penguin have opted out of Amazon's program. You can keep up to 10 books at a time with no due dates, but you don't have to buy the books. It is similar to services offered by Scribd and Oyster. Scribd and Oyster offer books from MacMillan, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Any Kindle Unlimited books you do check out in a month will be accessible through any device you connect to your Kindle account, not just the tablet.
The Fire HD 8 Reader’s Edition also comes preloaded with reader-friendly features such as the new, nighttime reading-enhancing Blue Shade, which reduces the amount of blue light emitted by the tablet’s display, which some believe allows for a better night’s sleep. The Word Runner reading mode, designed to improve your speed reading abilities, presents books word-by-word in the center of the page, and adjusts to how fast you read, is also included in this tablet.
Those software features come standard in the Fire OS 5 “Bellini,” which comes pre-loaded on all new Fire tablets. The Reader’s Edition of the Fire HD 8 is only available in black, while the regular edition of the tablet also comes in blue, tangerine and magenta. While users can opt to remove sponsored lock screens (for $15) from the regular edition of the Fire HD 8 tablet, that option is not available at checkout for the Reader’s edition.
In our review of the Fire HD 8 ($149) we weren't blown away by its performance or low resolution display. But, if your primary motivation is reading Amazon content in particular, this might not be a bad choice. Parents will appreciate the complex parental controls.