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How Amazon Could Kindle Some Interest in E-books

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[qi:038] Wouldn’t it have been cool if Amazon built an e-book reader so inexpensive they could almost give it away for free, then make money by selling e-books for people to read on it (or selling upscale versions of the reader later)? Instead, they stuffed it so full of technological wizardry that it costs $399.

Most people have no idea if they’d really like to use an e-book reader or not. It may be something you just have to experience to grasp. But who’s going to experiment with electronic book reading when the price of entry is so high?

Newsweek’s Steven Levy reports that the Kindle goes 30 hours on a single charge, stores 200 books, and uses wireless connectivity based on EVDO so it operates completely independently of a PC. All cool, but not as cool as an e-book reader that demands only a small commitment of cash. An inexpensive Amazon-branded e-book reader could have been the star of this holiday season.

Disclosure: Our RSS feed is part of the Kindle device, and we are under NDA to comment about its features. We are going to wait till that NDA comes off. Newsweek has pretty much all the feature details in case you are interested. – Om

41 Responses to “How Amazon Could Kindle Some Interest in E-books”

  1. laVonne Johnson

    Is there a website where I can see all the books available for my Kindle without a lot of advertising . I’m just interested in all the books available for sale.

  2. How about e-books for $3.99 in amazing 3D page-turning technology, using DRM? Available now at No, you can’t read ’em on your phone, Ipod, whatever, just your PC and laptop. Affordable, the reader’s free, and the books aren’t boring PDF style. Amazon, Sony, etc. are targeting the gadget group. How about just offering good books at reasonable prices so the masses can enjoy reading?

  3. Price is not so determinant as the need for a killer app. Kindle comes close, but the proprietary aspects are an obstacle. What eReaders really need are eBooks written by eBook authors that will create an experience impossible to duplicate in print. (Think eBay.) If it provides a unique experience, price of the device will be no object and then it becomes a matter of determining what the digital content will cost. I would guess quite a bit cheaper than publishers or distributors like Amazon would hope. Digital content is a low margin-high volume business. See iTunes and ripping CDs. We will need a micropayments service and some content will given away.

  4. After reading a side by side comparison of the Amazon Kindel vs. The Sony Reader, the AmazonKindle is clearly the winner here because ultimately it’s about content as much as the device itself. Sony simply doesn’t have the content and won’t ever. Look at it this way, would the iPod have been nearly as successful without iTunes?

    Amazon will get the kinks out of this reader and will own the market by end of 2009.

  5. If I buy a Sony Reader can I buy eBooks from Amazon for the $9.99 vs eConnect’s $20 for the same title and read them on the Sony or is the file format totally different? (I know the Sony doesn’t have wireless. I don’t care. It seems like a better reading device for book lovers.)

  6. Personal Ensign,

    If you’re concerned about your partner then use the Kindle’s mini-lamp. The main point being that the Kindle’s e-ink screen is vastly superior to any backlit LCD when it comes to reading. Your assertion that the lack of a backlight is a deal breaker for the mainstream is laughable. If a mainstream consumer saw an e-book on an e-ink screen compared to the same book on an iPhone, PDA, etc., they’d realize how much easier it is for them to read.

    Have you ever seen an e-ink screen? From the way you’ve been glorifying the Rocket eBook, it doesn’t sound that way.

  7. Personal Ensign

    “Yeah? So what? Reading a backlit device in the dark isn’t exactly the best thing for your eyes.”

    The Rocket eBook, a 10-year-old device, managed to pull this off nicely. If you’ve ever had your partner insist you turn off the bedside lamp while you’re in the middle of a terrific novel, you would understand its value. The market for the Kindle isn’t for tech nerds, it’s for book lovers — and the lack of a backlight is a deal-breaker for many.

  8. Personal Ensign

    I’m not too worried about the price, which is set at early adopters levels as always. It will be $300 in 6 months and $200 in a year. Even at that price, I probably won’t buy one for the same reason I didn’t buy a Sony Reader –no backlight means no reading in bed without a bedside light. I still use my old Rocket ebook reader (a great device, by the way) because of its gorgeous backlight.

  9. Anyone want to make more money than God? Then design, market and sell an e-book reader that anyone can afford. Also, standardize the e-book format and make it flexible to upgrade.

    Amen. And no $10 ebooks, either, dammit.

  10. Yes, heavy on the features. but, probably because they started designing in 2004 and during three years things tend to evolve. As far as the price I agree it’s steep. But, with the widely adopted software as a service model I’m sure AMZN will/could come up with some creative plans.
    For example, $199 for the Kindle + $15.99 per month for 24 months. That’s a beautiful model, eh. Really no different from NetFlix……

    Also, would be nice if the Kindle offers text to speech.
    How long before ALL college students will be required to use this device. This keeps the costs down on the textbooks and allows their professors to track their reading assignments real-time. OOPS! Maybe I should have not mentioned this last idea because I could start a company around this.

  11. I’m very interested in this device, but I’m curious about the content and what the EVDO charges will be. I’m pretty underwhelmed by Sony’s catalog so far. I’m going to guess Amazon’s will be superior, due to existing relationships. The periodicals feature is pretty appealing too.

    People seem to be dismissing the readability of these devices. I’ve spent some time with Sony’s reader and it’s SO much better than reading a book on a PDA. The readability of Sony’s reader and the Kindle is a tremendous feature. Reading a long book on a backlit screen sucks.

  12. Keith Shepard

    As much as I don’t want to agree with anything written for this site (ever), I TOTALLY have to agree with Anne about the price and how utterly cool it would have been if Amazon had built the “Model-T” of e-book readers (i.e., affordable for the masses).

    BUT NO.

    Amazon geeked it. Bloated it. And…doomed it.

    It’s an over-priced toy for aging hippies or spoiled kids.

    Anyone want to make more money than God? Then design, market and sell an e-book reader that anyone can afford. Also, standardize the e-book format and make it flexible to upgrade.

    Oh, and make it look like something other than a run over “Speak & Spell”.

  13. also, the screen size of an ipod or iphone doesn’t lend itself to reading books … you would be scrolling every five seconds.

    Yeah, so I guess you must cringe at all the poor deluded people who have been actually READING ebooks for years and years and years on Palm/WinMob PDAs.

    And I guess things such as SMS are dumb too. Because, like, u knw 2 fw wrds k?

  14. hmm, ebook on iphone? right. if so, then we need to carry about a case of batteries around … oh, wait a minute, you cannot change batteries on an ipod or iphone, so you better be near a power outlet. always.

    also, the screen size of an ipod or iphone doesn’t lend itself to reading books … you would be scrolling every five seconds.

  15. Anna- Steve Rubel added an interesting thought on his Twitter feed; Steve said that it would be great if this e-book service was available through his iPhone. Instead of developing another device we have to carry around it would be great, as Steve suggested, to optimize its content for our existing smart phones.