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Amazon Kindle Purported to Debut Tomorrow

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Despite the fact that the PR gathering tomorrow was supposedly a secret, everyone on the internet knows that Amazon invited a number of publishing representatives and technology folks to New York for a PR event to take place on November 19. No details were given, but based on the people that were contacted and other sources, it seems pretty clear that the Kindle is making its debut. The details:

  • Price: $399
  • Internet Access: Sprint EVDO access (I assume that this is a monthly fee that you have to pay in order to avail yourself of this feature) and Wi Fi
  • Design: same fugly hot mess we’ve been seeing for months. There is some debate on this. CNET says this is the design, but others have suggested that there was a redesign. Maybe the latter group is just engaging in some wishful thinking.
  • Light Source: Package might include a swing arm booklight that attaches to the side of the Kindle
  • Download times: 2 minutes for a book. This is unacceptable in my mind. A book should not take 2 minutes to download.
  • Library: A bigger book collection than Sony with 50-100 digital newspapers like the WSJ and NY Times.
  • Audio: Audiobook support and a headphone jack. Some sources indicate that the device might even come with a set of headphones! Can you believe that? Because no one has a spare set of earbuds just lying around. Why do companies think that headphones are a big selling point?
  • Format: Mobipocket. I wondered when the first Kindle pricing showed up at Amazon whether it would be a Mobipocket version that every device that could read mobipocket could read or whether it would a special one, designed just for the Kindle. Since the Bookeen e-ink device reads Mobipocket and is priced cheaper and looks a thousand times better, it seems that Amazon would lose some ground to other online eretailers. IPods have its specialized format and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that Amazon shows up tomorrow with its own specialized format.

CNET speculates that there might be some hot book that is tied to the launch and I say no way. Publishers and authors want to sell as many books as possible to get on a bestseller list and I can’t see either group okaying an exclusive to Kindle buyers book, particularly a hot book because a) ebook sales are not reported to the major lists and b) even if they were, Amazon would have to sell at least 5,000 units in a week to make the lists for that “hot book”. I call shenanigans on that speculation.

The CNET article also says that Bezos has studied Apple launch tactics used for the iPod such as celebrity endorsements. Um, yeah, that’s really what sold the iPod, not the hot ass design and ease of use. Plus, we totally believe that superstars and celebrities listen to music. I don’t think the general public believes that the Hollywood set are big readers. For example, I am not taking a Posh Spice literary recommendation seriously.

IDC analyist Richard Shim believes that Amazon has the advantage of a superior delivery mechanism for content. Amazon has increased tremendously in the past few years reporting sales of books, music, and DVDs in 2006 at 3.58 billion.

Why am I so down on the Kindle? Because it is ugly. kindleBecause it is too high priced. Because Bezos started out his company delivering a product to book lovers and if anyone could possibly get this right, I would think it would be him. I almost feel like he thinks Amazon could put out any old piece of trash and people will knock each other over to pay a premium for said trash.

I really want the Kindle to be successful because I am a huge lover of ebooks and Kindle’s success means greater access to digital content for everyone. I would love it if I woke up on Monday and was greated with a super sexy design with wi fi access, ability to read and respond to emails, and a price tag sub $300. I would ditch my Sony Reader so fast that its little joystick would fall off.

Here’s the one way I think the Kindle will succeed with consumers (non business consumers). It chooses to employ a subscription program whereby you agree to buy x amount of books at Amazon in exchange for getting the Kindle at some reduced price. Another way to drive ereading traffic to Amazon would be to sell books without DRM. Jeff Bezos was convinced that DRM free music was imperative. Why not DRM free ebooks?

Why I don’t think that it will succeed is because there simply aren’t enough business people buying books. The heart and soul of the publishing industry are genre readers. Look at the statistics I posted the other day if you don’t believe me. The advantage that Sony has over Kindle is that many people like to see a device before purchasing. Sony is in nearly every major Borders bookstore and Borders will be selling Sony ebooks on its site to be launched in 2008.

I am prepared to be terribly underwhelmed, and bitter, at Amazon on Monday for screwing up what could have been a good thing for ebook readers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

28 Comments

  1. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 08:11:02

    Well, hell. That’s all I have to say beyond I’m very disappointed. Hmm, and maybe Pfthleerp! :-(

  2. Leeann Burke
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 08:37:38

    I’m with you Sarah this is very disappointing. Thanks for the information Jane.

  3. Jill Myles
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 10:09:52

    Not everything amazon touches turns to gold. Remember Segway? It was going to change our lives! Instead, it ended up as a joke on Arrested Development. *g*

  4. TeddyPig
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 11:51:59

    Still cheaper than an iRex iLiad but it still depends on one type of DRM. Palm T/X at least reads three different DRMs and can be found at Walmart for less than $300.00

  5. TeddyPig
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 12:41:32

    WOW! Um guys go check out Sprints new HTC Advantage.

    Windows CE mobile phone which means it supports Palm eReader, Mobipocket, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Reader

    5-inch VGA color touch screen, 8 hours of battery life, 3G, Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth and 8 gig storage.

  6. karma
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 12:59:34

    The “powers that be” JUST don’t get it, do they? PRICE, PRICE, PRICE, morons!!!!!!

  7. veinglory
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 13:05:14

    I believe the production model will look a little nicer, but I await the pictures.

  8. whey
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 15:32:13

    Are they trying to kill the epublishing industry? With spectacular failures like the “Kindle” is bound to be, how much support will the industry not gain, or even worse, lose? It’s ugly, it’s overpriced, it’s pushing a single proprietary format…

    The first company to come out with a reasonably priced ereader that can support multiple proprietary formats (including pdf and lit) is going to make a killing.

  9. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 16:27:26

    Teddy-

    I just dont’ find a PDA fits my ebook needs. Too quirky, too fragile, microscopic screen, short battery life (I don’t consider 8 hours impressive when I already have twice that much)

    Right now, my ebookwise has more features, more flexibility than any of the new readers that have come out at 1/3 the price. (I edit manuscripts on mine). I’m not overly impressed with eink, I prefer a backlit option, and I really love the ergonomically friendly design, so I’m with Whey. Until they get real and keep it simple, keep it reasonable, and maintain the focus on the purpose of an ereader, I’ll stick with my ebookwise.

  10. JasmineF
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 17:27:01

    Well, I had the same reaction to the Kindle as I did the last time I saw a photo of it…..’my eyes! my eyes!’.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so damn ugly! At least if it had some advantage (multiple formats, price etc) over the other current offerings, then you might consider it, but as it stands I’m wondering why they are bothering to launch it at all. Quite happy that I went for the Cybook.

  11. LinM
    Nov 18, 2007 @ 21:59:28

    I was thinking of the Kindle in the dark hours after midnight when my ancient Windows system couldn’t download my latest ebooks. At that moment, I wanted an ebook device that would let me purchase, download and read ebooks without a PC. But I will only be interested in a Kindle if the ebooks are distributed without DRM. Amazon has failed in the ebook department too many times already; I’m not eager to sign on for more abuse. I used to have an Amazon ebookshelf but they discontinued it – and the Mobipocket downtime this summer was handled abysmally. I suspect that I will be buying my ebooks and ereaders elsewhere for a long time to come.

  12. J.D. Rhoades
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 08:47:36

    The price alone will kill it.

  13. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 09:34:53

    Amazon used to carry eBooks then discontinued them a while back. Just last night, I was trying to set up my Amazon blog and I kept seeing this listing for Anticipation (which is an eBook I have with Samhain), I was scratching my head, knowing that Amazon didn’t carry eBooks. I clicked on it and nothing was there.

    Then this morning, I’m on Amazon and it’s on there now as a Kindle book. LOL!

  14. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 09:39:33

    I would love it if I woke up on Monday and was greater with a super sexy design with wi fi access, ability to read and respond to emails, and a price tag sub $300.

    I agree that the wi fi and reasonable price tag would make a huge difference in readers embracing it. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes for the Kindle.

  15. Roslyn
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 10:41:00

    Well, I guess I’ll be getting an iPhone for Christmas.

  16. Lorelie
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 10:54:53

    Well the one displayed on amazon today doesn’t look as bad as the pic up here but it’s still not pretty. I must admit, if it weren’t for the choke-worthy price tag I’d be drooling a little. Amazon pays for the Sprint network, so I can download everywhere? Really everywhere? In a minute? I could probably get in some fun trouble with that.

  17. Roslyn
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 10:58:34

    I buy most of my books from Amazon anyway, but that doesn’t mean I want to be shut out from buying elsewhere as well. I also would like to be able to read my critique partner’s manuscripts when we email back and forth. That would be really convenient for those times when I take the little guy to the park or other places where he doesn’t need my full attention. And for road trips it would be awesome. I get some of my best critiquing done in the car, and I’m tired of printing them out.

  18. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 11:17:16

    I want a device that can meet several needs…ie, be an eBook reader AND a great editing program. I’d like to be able to write on my manuscript and have those handwritten notes STAY on the document (as handwriting OR even better convert to type written text if I chose it). then I’d like to be able to upload that document to myself or my critique partner. Okay Santa…that’s what I want. :D

  19. Jane
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 11:31:01

    This device will allow you to make annotations so that might serve authors well. The problem isn’t the device itself (besides being super ugly) but the fact that it is a closed system. You don’t store the Kindle books on your PC, but they are stored on Amazon’s servers. You can’t read the Kindle books on your laptop and your reading device.

    You can’t read Kindle books on anything but a Kindle. If you want to read a html document it looks like you have to email it to yourself, incur a $.10 conversion fee, and then it’s available for the Kindle to view.

    No PDF support either.

  20. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 11:37:52

    Pretty limiting for sure. Thanks for the info, Jane

  21. Roslyn
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 12:24:49

    Ooooh, Patrice, that would be so freaking awesome. My critique partner isn’t local, and right now I have to print out her manuscript to read or read it on the computer. Then email her my notes, or fax my handwritten ones. Major PITA.

    (Reading on the computer gives me a screaming headache.) I just thought about something…I wonder if reading one of these little gizmos would give me a headache as well. I’ve always assumed it was poor posture at the computer that makes my head hurt, but what if it’s the backlit screen or something? I’d be majorly pissed if I invested big bucks then couldn’t use the thing. It’s not like you can do try it before you buy it.

  22. Jane
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 12:30:14

    Roslyn, there is no backlight. E Ink technology uses a different system that cannot allow for a backlight. It was a static display, unlike a computer screen. That’s why they advertise it as paperlike.

    The screen is likely the same as the one by Sony, so if you can go to Borders, you should be able to see a demo version of the eink screen.

  23. Ann Bruce
    Nov 19, 2007 @ 13:31:29

    Hmm… I have to say this: It’s so ugly! I’m shallow when it comes to my gadgets, and the Kindle so doesn’t make the cut.

    I’m off to Houston next week and the Sony store in the Galleria to get my early Christmas present to myself. Can’t wait!

  24. Samuel Smith
    Nov 20, 2007 @ 12:04:04

    My girlfriend and I have a Sony Readers and we love them, but I have a couple of big complaints. No native Mac support. So to buy books, transfer files, etc., I need to boot up my old rickety PC. So Amazon’s incredibly ugly device has a one up on that. I write screenplays so being able to put my own content on it and share it around is very useful.

    My biggest issue is not having highlighting (I’d love more advanced commenting), but if any of these yokos could just give me some highlighting (in addition to allowing me to put my own content on it) then the $400 price tag is worth it to me.Even with books, I like to write notes and highlight passages that I think are good to reference. I think I paid about $350 for my Sony Reader. I’d buy a new one this christmas season with they through highlighting in.

  25. joe
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 23:23:49

    This thing is going to kill book writer to their death. It will be like a cd writer for music and movie industry. When anything become digital, it will be downloaded illegally. as you have seen in music industry.

    And soon nobody would want to write book any more at least good books anyway. I hope people hate this thing. Reading paper book is a thing people do with feeling of loving to read, to turn to pages and smell the paper and definitely isn’t the same as holding that stupid thing.

  26. Terri
    Dec 29, 2007 @ 02:19:03

    Reading is very tactile to me, I need the actual book to hold in my hands, turn pages and carry around with me.

    While not against new technology, I really hope actual printed books are never going to be replaced by anything electronic.

    I personally buy 99 out of every 100 books I read, and about 75 of those 99 from Independent Booksellers.

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