No company has prodded Amazon to improve its eInk Kindle readers more than Barnes & Noble. Last year B&N’s Nook Simple Touch preceded the 2011 Kindle refresh by several months, and Amazon adopted elements of the reader for each of its 2011 eInk Kindles: the smaller, boxier, keyboard-free design for its 4th Gen Kindle, and the IR touch interface for its Kindle Touch.
And the same may happen in 2012.
B&N just announced the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, a reader with an LED front-lit screen for reading in the dark. In theory, this type of front lighting should allow for comfortable, long-term reading without the eye strain caused by backlit displays. The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight ships in May, but if you’re interested you can pre-order today.
I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one 5th generation 2012 Kindle includes this technology, or something very similar to it. In fact, I’d be quite surprised if it didn’t. Front lighting the eInk screen takes away one of the major downsides to the technology – the requirement of an external lighting source – without impacting its strengths
UPDATE: Well, it looks like Amazon will indeed be adopting this technology. Devin Coldewey of TechCruch said on April 6th that he’d actually seen a prototype Kindle with a front-lit screen.