Amazon’s Kindle Announcement

Do you think the Kindle will be the “iPod of reading?” Newsweek leaked Amazon’s information early when their online article (“The Future of Reading”) went live the day before the scheduled announcement (and the day before the magazine hits the stands). What we all discovered is that Jeff Bezos believes he has the winning device and service, and we’ll all be able to buy the fruits of his vision for $399. More interesting is that they’ve arranged for present NY Times bestsellers to retail through their service for $9.99 each, which is an ebook coup.

Launching with over 88,000 titles (including most of E-Reads’ titles), the device is much like a hybrid Blackberry and ebook reader. Thanks to a built-in EVDO cell device, that connects to Sprint’s internet network, and built-in 802.11 Wi-Fi, the Kindle can browse for books, blogs, and news on the internet anywhere you can get a signal. Its keyboard is good for searching and note-taking with your text or on the web. You can even listen to music or audiobooks. Just keep in mind it’s still an ebook device with a typical E-Ink grayscale screen and no backlight, you can’t yet shop at Amazon beyond their ebook store, and you have to pay extra to use your Kindle EVDO service for emailing or blog subscriptions. Barring those limitations, it seems to have everything else the $299 Sony Reader has and more.

  • Small size factor: 10.3 ounces, 4.9 inches x 7.5 inches x 0.7 inches
  • Full Qwerty keyboard
  • 30-hour battery life
  • 2-hour recharge time
  • SD card storage
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • E-Ink screen
  • Adjustable font sizes
  • Easily stores over 200 books
  • You can search books for phrases or names
  • 3.5 stereo headphone jack

However, Publishers Lunch’s characterization of Amazon’s marketing strategy as “brutal” deserves underlining, bold and italics. In plain English, you take your Kindle with you to a bookstore, find the book you want at full retail price, then walk out of the store and order it at a discount from amazon.com. Or maybe, as long as we’re being brutal, you don’t even wait until you get out of the store. Either way, in Bezos’s vision your local bookshop becomes a brick and mortar catalog from which you may select merchandise from an online discounter.

On the other hand it’s hard to shed too many tears for the brutes at Barnes & Noble whose ambitions of empire have driven beloved book shops out of business. The chains have had plenty of time to foresee that in the war between tangible merchandise and digital, hard goods simply don’t stand a chance.

It will be interesting, fun, and scary as hell to see how this all plays out. Amazon is at the glamorous W hotel in New York today, with Jeff Bezos delivering the Kindle’s official introduction with celebrity endorsements (Toni Morrison, James Patterson, Neil Gaiman, etc). Unlike the Sony launch, this seems to be more out of Steve Job’s iPod announcement playbook. We’ll have more to say on this hot item in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

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