21 Comments

Summary:

So it is a bit ridiculous that Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN) has been trying to keep us from disclosing the details on its Kindle e-book device, w…

imageSo it is a bit ridiculous that Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN) has been trying to keep us from disclosing the details on its Kindle e-book device, while giving Newsweek a cover story two days before the launch. Then, pretty much decline our request for a 5-minute interview with Bezos at the press conference on Monday in NYC (I know, we’re not Newsweek…). Also, the business side of our company has been under an NDA with Amazon, as our news feeds are part of the news section in the reader…while we will still honor that NDA and not disclose any other details (we haven’t, even in the two previous stories we did on it), the Newsweek story pretty much has it all, and more. Reinventing the book: sure. Reinventing PR: oh well…

Anyway, the details from the story:
— It costs $399.
— Kindle is a 10.3 ounces device, with dimensions of a paperback, with a tapering of its width that emulates the bulge toward a book’s binding, the story says.Kindle’s six-inch screen uses the display technology from E-Ink, which mimes the clarity of a printed book.
— It can hold as many as 200 books on the device (with more on the memory card), gets as many as 30 hours of reading on a charge, and recharges in two hours.
— Also, it has wireless connectivity, via a system called Whispernet, which is based on the EVDO broadband service offered Sprint, (NYSE: S) allowing it to work anywhere, not just Wi-Fi hotspots.
— The device can function independent of the PC: you can use it to go to the store, browse for books, check out your personalized recommendations, and read reader reviews and post new ones, tapping out the words on a thumb-friendly keyboard, the story says.
— About 88,000 digital books will be on sale at the Kindle store on launch. The new books are priced generally around $9.99.
— Besides books, you can subscribe to newspapers (the Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, (NYSE: WPO) Le Monde) and magazines (The Atlantic). You can also subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.
— It also allows you to look up things in Wikipedia, search via Google (NSDQ: GOOG) or follow links from blogs and other Web pages.
— Bezos: “This is the most important thing we’ve ever done..It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.”

  1. Does this run the risk that the ESPN mobile phone ran, of being a device that is outside the general scope of Amazon's core success, selling books? Are they inventing a new division of their business here, digital book devices? Where do you think this will take Amazon?

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  2. I've been working with clients to get their content over to Amazon's kindle project for awhile now and I am really excited for this product. Sadly, it was so secret I didn't know any of the details of the product until now. Cursed NDA's.

    I hope they get it right, because I need something like this.

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  3. Randall Williams Monday, November 19, 2007

    I still don't understand the need for thisor any of the neumerous "reader" projects I've been hearing about. For this money I can buy a nice PDA, which I can put microsoft reader or any other number of programs, get all the functionality listed in the article PLUS have word, outlook, excel, ect ect. Sorry, not even remotely interested in this. It's like having a car, and then someone trying to sell you a horse because "everyone has car's now" It may be unique, but other, less expensive devices already do all this does and more.

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  4. Why not just download an audio book?

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  5. I hope it'll read any type of open text format, reading any blogs as well as auto-downloading blogs, maybe even doing somekind of ringing noise when there is a new RSS item or email. And I hope one can read any email, not only Kindle emails, also Google Books, Google Blogs, Google News should work on this. Forums should be reformated to be read on this. USB host or bluetooth connection to a full sized foldable keyboard should be possible to input text at full speed setting this up on a table with a kickstand or a leather case that can hold it up.

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  6. To Randall,
    Simply because reading text on small lcd screens isn't a pleasant experience, people who love reading books loathe reading them on such a clunky user interface.

    Just like how tv videogame consoles are so popular despite pc's giving the same features on top of its computer functions.

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  7. Randall, ever tried to get 30 hours charge out of a PDA? Not bloody likely. I've been a big user of e-books for ten years, Microsoft Reader mostly, and the experience has a long way to go. A specific device which can sustain a decent charge (long enough for a trans-Pacific flight) for a few hundred bucks sounds pretty good to me.

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  8. I have not seen the Newsweek story. Can anyone confirm whether, as in the NW illustration, this thing supports color?

    As to the utility versus a PDA: Does anyone honestly believe that the average Joe would rather read an e-book on a lower-resolution, 2.8-inch screen (or 3.5-inch, if you have a whopper PDA) rather than something like this? My only concern would be if the device includes EVDO instead of, rather than in addition to, WiFi. I'm not subscribing to Sprint data access for the questionable convenience of downloading on the fly.

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  9. It's not color, the article mentions:

    "But if all goes well for Amazon, several years from now we'll see revamped Kindles, equipped with color screens and other features, selling for much less. "

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  10. I think it's all about form factor, and the standard size and shape of the traditional book is pleasing. The book evolved to its present shape and form because it works well with the size of our hands, has a page width our brains comfortably scan, and a range of text size that suits our eyes when the book is comfortably readable in a resting-armed position, etc. On the other hand, books have some serious drawbacks that have always bothered me, ever since I was a kid. You have to wrestle them to keep them open, sometimes cramping your thumbs…or you have to practically break the binding of them to get them to lay fairly flat in your hands so you can read all the way to the inside of a page. They age, yellow, get musty, store poorly, take up amazing amounts of space if you have a lot of them, and weigh a ton if you have to tote them around. Their covers wear, their bindings fail, and their pages wrinkle. You can stop to scratch your nose, accidentally close your book, and lose your place. Some books are printed with squintingly-small text, which gets annoying as you hit your middle-ages. Books also have the unfortunate quality of being fairly linear and difficult to search. How many times have I read something in a book and later wanted to refer to it, or tell someone about it, and spent ages trying to find the passage again.

    I think the form factor and features of Kindle and some of the other book readers that have come out of late seems just about right. I can imagine snuggling up in a chair and reading from one, just like I would a book. It's the right physical dimensions and page size (I have difficulty picturing myself curling up with a nice PDA), can adjust its text to my eyesight, holds a whole library of books in a 10 ounce package, is just as clear to view outdoors on the patio as it is in the den, will undoubtedly remember what page I'm on if I get distracted, will let me mark my place without having to use a comb or whatever's within reach, and will let me skip around in it rapidly, leaping to chapters rather than flipping and thumbing a lot..

    While I haven't learned all the features of Kindle yet, I have to assume that if it can search Wikipedia, it may also be able to search its own contents, meaning the reader should be able to rapidly find something he/she read earlier. That's a real plus.

    To me, the larger question isn't whether this type of device is valuable; it is to me, definitely. I've wanted a paper book substitute for a long time. It's whether Kindle is the right one. Amazon is playing Apple here. It wants to lock readers into a format and force them to buy their books and publications through them. They're so protective of their book reading format that you can't even read a PDF unless you first submit it to them for proprietary conversion to Kindle format. If I'm going to spend that sort of money on an e-book reader, I want it to be universally useful. There's something a little insulting to be about being told, we're going to sell you this at a premium price, and then charge you for the privilege of only being able to get your content for it by purchasing it from us.

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