Taking a lesson from the iPod playbook, Amazon has launched its own electronic device for book reading called the Kindle.
On the surface, this seems like an insignificant development (we’ve seen these gadgets before and they’ve all been flops), but the details and genius of Kindle’s overall “book-like” concept and design using a screen technology called e-Ink, the seamless wireless integration, and the ease with which books can be downloaded, blogs read, global newspaper subscriptions read, and Wikipedia browsed (my favorite feature – a portable Wikipedia!), combine to make the Kindle a major revolution in book production and distribution.
MP3 players had been out long before the iPod, but the iPod succeeded because it built the iTunes service and launched iTunes simultaneously with the iPod, making it easy for users to purchase music and content for their iPods. Consequently, Apple controls some massive portion of the downloaded music market (90%? – someone help me out here with the correct number).
With the Kindle and the Kindle eBook service, which already has 90,000 eBooks ready for purchase in their exclusive .AZW file format, will mean that the future of digital books will likely be controlled by Amazon, a seemingly inevitable outcome; what consequences await publishers are yet to be determined.
The genius of the Kindle’s wireless network is that it works anywhere that Sprint has mobile service, yet the user doesn’t need to buy any wireless connectivity: Amazon in partnership with Sprint provides the service for free to the user, covering their costs with the revenues from sales of eBooks.
Price? $400. Will our iPods download music over a wireless network eventually, bypassing the desktop computer altogether, as the Kindle is doing with books, newspapers, blogs, and Wikipedia?
Here is video of Charlie Rose interviewing Jeff Bezos about the launch of the Kindle on November 19, 2007.
Here is a radio podcast of OnPoint discussing the implications of the Kindle on book reading and the publishing industry.