“If you’re going to do something like this, you have to be as good as the book” — Jeff Bezos
Called The Kindle, it weighs less than a paperback book and uses an “electronic ink”. Currently, the screen is black-and-white with no backlight. E Ink, which manufactures the screen technology for Kindle as well as for the Sony Reader, can be read outdoors in bright sunlight.
The Kindle E book features a 6-inch SVGA 800×600 screen with 4 grey scales, keyboard, EV-DO wireless. Kindle will play MP3 music files, but for now Amazon doesn’t allow customers to purchase music directly from its store. It includes Amazon’s Digital Rights Management, but supports unprotected books using Mobipocket (.MOBI, .PRC), as well as TXT files, HTML, and Word. Batteries will last several days to a week. Steve Levy has a video review.
Amazon will sell “Kindle editions” of bestsellers and new books for $10 each. Subscriptions to newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times will range from $10 to $15 per month, and magazines such as Fortune and Time will run from $2 to $3 per month.
Kindle does not require a PC for synchronization or any software to be installed. “Instead of shopping from your PC, you shop directly from the device. The store is on the device, and then the content is wirelessly and seamlessly delivered to the device,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained.
Kindle, which was manufactured by an undisclosed Chinese original equipment manufacturer, connects to its specialized Amazon store through “Amazon Whispernet,” built atop Sprint’s EV-DO network. No data plan or monthly bill is required. “We pay for all of that behind the scenes so that you can just read,” Bezos said, adding that he estimated that it would take “less than a minute” to download a book.
The device can hold about 200 books. A slot for a standard SD memory card can increase that capacity to about 1,000 books.
Bezos said dozens of newspapers, from The New York Times to France’s Le Monde, would be available for the device, as well as magazines and 300 of the most popular blogs, such as BoingBoing and Slashdot. “On Kindle, newspapers are delivered while you sleep, automatically,” he said. The publications will receive a cut of the subscription fee revenue, as no advertising will be displayed on them.
According to Paid Content, Kindle can sideload content through an SD slot. Publishers can convert open standards to Amazon’s DRM by uploading the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF standard) to Amazon’s Mobipocket service. But there’s no friend sharing system: the book is tied to the Kindle, but your books are yours forever. If you lose your Kindle or drop it in a pool, your library is stored at Amazon.
Brewster Kahle, who made his fortune by selling his company to Amazon, is unhappy with the digital-rights management on the Kindle, says Newsweek. His choice of an e-book reader would be the dirt-cheap XO laptop designed by the One Laptop Per Child Foundation.
C/Net compares Kindle with Sony’s Reader. Kindle and Sony’s Reader ($280), share the same 6-inch grayscale screen, displaying 600-by-400 pixels at 160 pixels per inch. The Apple’s iPhone ($399) is a full-color device that uses anti-aliasing to improve text legibility on a 3.5-inch, 480-by-320-pixel, screen to approximate 160 ppi while the Nokia’s N810 ($479) has a 4.13-inch, 800×480 color touchscreen.
But Kindle has a lot going for it. All the major publishers are on board. It doesn’t require a PC. It’s easy to read and it can use the Web to look up things in Wikipedia, search via Google or follow links from blog feeds, newspapers or other Web pages. Kindle’s DRM could be particularly important for the education business and publishers like Washington Post/Newsweek and the NY Times.
Jeff Bezos talked with Charlie Rose after the Kindle launch today and discussed the future of the book, e-commerce, retailing and Blue Origin.
Rosetta Books last week estimated that e-book sales range between $15 million and $25 million annually. That would be a tiny portion of the $25 billion in revenues the publishing industry generated last year, says C/Net.
Creating a back end of a massively connected library to supply future e-book devices with more content than a city full of libraries, is the trend, says Newsweek.
With the backing of major publishers, will ebooks (finally) take off with Kindle? Many eyeballs will be watching with a great deal of interest.