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Summary:

Amazon.com’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, in talking about the future of Kindle says he thinks it won’t be long before Amazon is “selling more electronic books than we are physical books.” He shares his Kindle ambitions with The New York Times. Here is a summary.

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos in an interview with The New York Times talks about the future of e-readers and the Kindle. Bezos thinks it won’t be long before Amazon is “selling more electronic books than we are physical books.” Here are some key points from the interview :

  • If a book is available on Kindle, it sells 48 copies compared to 100 physical copies sold.
  • Kindle launched with 90,000 titles two years ago.
  • More than 350,000 titles are available for the Kindle now.
  • Amazon is adding thousands of titles to the Kindle library every week.
  • Amazon wants to offer “every book ever printed in every language, all available within 60 seconds.”

I think this last statement outlines Bezos’ ambitions about the business. If it can pull it off, Amazon is going to control the printed word market much like iTunes controls the music business. I think from that perspective, it’s smart for the company to bulk up and build market share, even if it means sacrificing some near-term profitability.

Amazon has a history of losing money on products in order to build market share, and so far has been proved right. I believe that Amazon & Kindle are taking a giant step forward and this is going to pay handsome dividends for the company in the long run.

Some may question Bezos’ strategy, just as many questioned the company’s foray into cloud computing services about three years ago. I remain bullish on Amazon’s prospects mostly because it’s playing offense and taking wild gambles on big markets of the future. As Bezos once said: “People overemphasize their failures when trying something new. Actually failure is not that expensive and it’s part of work.”

That said, the Kindle isn’t doing too badly. According to some estimates, the Amazon Kindle will bring in $310 million in revenue for 2009 and $2 billion in 2012. The company has made some tremendous progress on the Kindle since Bezos spoke to Charlie Rose about it back in March.

Related Research from GigaOM Pro (subscription required.): The Evolution of the e-Book Market and Irrational Exuberance Over e-Books.

  1. I doubt “Amazon is going to control the printed word market much like iTunes controls the music business” unless they follow Apple’s lead and ditch the DRM. For me and many others, DRM might as well stand for “Don’t Read Me”.

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  2. Julius Seizure Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Really, can someone explain the value proposition of an e-book to me? Unlike music, I don’t need fifty books when I travel to shuffle through. One book and a magazine will suffice at the most. I can buy another book at my destination if I finish the one I have. Honestly has anyone ever gone back to re-read fiction or even non-fiction enough times to warrant carrying it around when you travel? It may be cool now, but do people need it? I need an iPod/MP3 player. Will I ever need a Kindle?

    Here are the only value propositions I can see:

    1. Textbooks for students or reference books for professionals or anything that needs to be referenced constantly but not read.

    2. Saving trees, obviously. This could be a big incentive for people to care without much effort and feel good about themselves.

    3. Out of print, not in stock due to any number of reasons. These problems cease to exist. But, how often is this really a problem?

    P.S. And if e-books do take off, the publishing industry will be the new RIAA, some author will be Metallica and people will be searching for an invite to a private torrent tracker to get free books.

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  3. Kindle user here.

    I don’t need 50 books when I travel, but 1 isn’t enough. (1) I’m one of those who reads 2 to 4 book simultaneously, one fiction, one non-fiction (for different moods), and often within each of those, one “easy” one and one “challenging” one. Challenging means long, difficult and slow to read, or something I can only take in small chunks (content that requires thought, is emotionally draining or the like).

    I’ve always read this way, so travel always meant choosing at least two books to take. But then there’s the additional issue of when you’re nearing the end of a book, especially a big hardback. You want to finish it, but do you take it? Do you take it and then another book to read when you finish it?

    Buying a book at my destination? I haven’t been able to do that with paper books for the past 15 years, since I got hooked on Amazon. The odds of a bookstore having something I’m interested in are small. If you read current bestseller fiction though, it’s an option, yes.

    So, no 50 books, but a half a dozen or a dozen? Sure. No, I don’t re-read books. I don’t lend books, and I didn’t with paper books either, so DRM is no problem for me personally. LPs are still around, and I’m sure paper books will always be around for those who are bothered by DRM, so I think we can peacefully coexist.

    Having actually used a Kindle, I think they would be bad for many types of textbooks and reference books. They are good for long-form text reading like novels, biographies, and the like. If you need images, there is the internet, which you can use during the period you are reading a book.

    Here’re some other things I like, some of which may not seem obvious or may seem trivial to those who haven’t experience an e-book reader:

    – Easy to hold, no holding pages open, easy to read in bed or lying down or on your back, can be set on the table without holding pages open, works well in the bath (with a zip-lock)

    – Uniform typography, no type that is too small or an annoying font or a too-narrow gutter margin, no distraction from creative book design

    – Adjustable font sizes and page widths, didn’t think I’d use it, but I’m constantly changing based on lighting, distance, whether I’m wearing my eyeglasses.

    – You can quickly get books, including new books on publication date

    – Instant word definitions, great for 19th century literature

    – Project Gutenberg: it’s always been there, but the Kindle makes it easy to read the stuff

    – You can search for characters and names and the like when you’ve forgotten who the heck they are (the first mention comes up first in the results)

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