We are sitting in a second floor conference room at the Union Square W, waiting for Amazon to unveil its new Kindle e-book reader. On stage: A desk, two Ikea-style bookshelves and a large video screen. Sitting in front of us: Newsweek’s Steven “Insanely Great” Levy, who’s already plenty familiar with the Kindle. He doesn’t seem to have brought a notebook.
Full text of Amazon’s press release after the jump.
Now Jeff Bezos is onstage, walking us through the history of print: cunieform from 4,000 years ago; papyrus from 1,000 years ago; Gutenberg, who “really sped things up.” Books are a 500-year-old technology, and a sophisticated one at that. Production technology has changed over years, but books still in analogue format…
“Why are books the last bastion of analogue? Why have they stubbornly resisted digitization?” Because books are already excellent — the book “disappears when you read it” (same quote in Newsweek story, above).
A quick digression into Jeff’s past, with picture of young Jeff working on 70s era PC.
Can book tech improve? Yes, luckily. Criteria: New tech has to: “Get out of the way” of readers. It can’t “out book the book” – has to do new things a book could never do.
After three years of hard work, Amazon Kindle. Which looks just like leaked photos.
Stats: 10.3 oz, holds 200 books. Blackberry-style QWERTY keyboard. E-Ink display (like Sony ebook).
Wireless: PC not required. Jeff explaining how installing software is an awful experience (Jeff has not used iPod/iTunes, apparently). Using free EVDO wireless (not wifi) to browse for books, other content. We assume AMZN leasing airtime from Sprint. Yes – they are. Basically offering their own MVNO, dubbed “Whispernet”
Content: 90k books. 101 of 112 NYT bestsellers. New releases and bestsellers $9.99. Newspaper subs (see pricing in press release after jump). Deals with NYT, WSJ, Time Inc pubs (but not Newsweek!). Blogs (Boingboing, TechCrunch, the Onion etc.) are full feed “not like RSS”. Each Kindle comes with email address so you can email yourself docs: Word, JPEGs, GIF, etc. Dictionary, Wiki access.
The Jobsian delivery: Kindle is onsale, right now, for $399.
Now a low-tech video with cocktail jazz soundtrack, featuring testimonials from Jeff, his employees, and some authors: James Patterson, Guy Kawaski, Michael Lewis, et al. Which gives us time to remark: The Kindle really is kind of fugly — it has a sort of late 1970s Battlestar Galactica/Pong/digital watch aesthetic about it. Which is fine with us – we’re function over form people, when push comes to shove. But this thing would not pass muster with Steve Jobs.
Still watching a video. If you’d like to watch a video yourself, you can see another version at Amazon’s Kindle page here.
Back to live demo: Jeff’s reading list: The Black Swan, WSJ, BoingBoing, The Onion, TechDirt, Tech Crunch, Don DeLilo. Jeff says we can read the Kindle on a treadmill. Using dictionary to show off the scrollwheel on bottom right — when you use it, a gold cursor lights up on screen’s right margin. Showing off Kindle store. He’s been able to buy Ken Follett’s World Without End. Automatic bookmarking. Books archived on AMZN servers so if you lose book or wipe out memory, you can get another copy in 60 seconds.
The most important thing about Kindle: “it does indeed disappear, so you can enter the author’s world.” Fin.
INTRODUCING AMAZON KINDLE
Revolutionary portable reader lets customers wirelessly download books
in less than a minute and automatically receive newspapers, magazines
no PC required, no hunting for Wi-Fi hot spots
SEATTLE—November 19, 2007—Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) today introduced
Amazon Kindle, a revolutionary portable reader that wirelessly
downloads books, blogs, magazines and newspapers to a crisp,
high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like
real paper, even in bright sunlight. More than 90,000 books are now
available in the Kindle Store, including 101 of 112 current New York
Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are $9.99, unless marked
otherwise. Kindle is available starting today for $399 at
“We’ve been working on Kindle for more than three years. Our top
design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands—to get out
of the way—so you can enjoy your reading,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
Founder and CEO. “We also wanted to go beyond the physical book.
Kindle is wireless, so whether you’re lying in bed or riding a train,
you can think of a book, and have it in less than 60 seconds. No
computer is needed—you do your shopping directly from the device.
We’re excited to make Kindle available today.”
Downloads Content Wirelessly, No PC Required, No Hunting for Wi-Fi Hot
The Kindle wireless delivery system, Amazon Whispernet, uses the same
nationwide high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones.
Kindle customers can wirelessly shop the Kindle Store, download or
receive new content—all without a PC, Wi-Fi hot spot, or syncing.
No Monthly Wireless Bills or Commitments
Books can be downloaded in less than a minute and magazines,
newspapers, and blogs are delivered to subscribers automatically.
Amazon pays for the wireless connectivity for Kindle so there are no
monthly wireless bills, data plans, or service commitments for
Reads Like Paper
Kindle uses a high-resolution display technology called electronic
paper that provides a sharp black and white screen that is as easy to
read as printed paper. The screen works using ink, just like books
and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically. It
reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlight, eliminating
the eyestrain and glare associated with other electronic displays such
as computer monitors or PDA screens.
Books, Blogs, Magazines and Newspapers
The Kindle Store currently offers more than 90,000 books, as well as
hundreds of newspapers, magazines and blogs. Customers can search,
browse, buy, and download from this wide selection wirelessly from
their Kindle. The same Amazon shopping experience customers are
accustomed to is offered in the Kindle Store, including customer
reviews, personalised recommendations, 1-Click purchasing, and
everyday low prices. Additionally, Kindle customers can download and
read the first chapter of most Kindle books for free.
Kindle customers can select from the most recognised U.S. newspapers,
as well as popular magazines and journals, such as The New York Times,
Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, TIME and
Fortune. The Kindle Store also includes top international newspapers
from France, Germany, and Ireland, including Le Monde, Frankfurter
Allgemeine and The Irish Times. Subscriptions are auto-delivered
wirelessly to Kindle overnight so that the latest edition is waiting
for customers when they wake up. Monthly Kindle newspaper
subscriptions are $5.99 to $14.99 per month, and Kindle magazines are
$1.25 to $3.49 per month. All magazines and newspapers include a free
The Kindle Store has over 300 blogs on topics ranging from Internet
and technology to culture, lifestyle, and humour, to politics and
opinion. Examples include Slashdot, TechCrunch, BoingBoing, The Onion,
The Huffington Post, and ESPN blogs. Blogs are updated and downloaded
wirelessly throughout the day so Kindle customers can read blogs
whenever and wherever they want. Wireless delivery of blogs costs as
little as $0.99 each per month and also includes a free two-week
Holds Hundreds of Books in 10.3 Ounces
At 10.3 ounces, Kindle is lighter and thinner than a typical paperback
and fits easily in one hand, yet its built-in memory stores more than
200 titles, and hundreds more with an optional SD memory card.
Additionally, a copy of every book purchased is backed up online on
Amazon.com so that customers have the option to make room for new
titles on their Kindle knowing that Amazon.com is storing their
personal library of purchased content.
Built-In Dictionary and Wikipedia
Kindle has built-in access to The New Oxford American Dictionary,
which contains over 250,000 entries and definitions, so readers can
easily look up the definitions of words within their reading. Kindle
customers also have seamless access to the world’s most exhaustive and
up-to-date encyclopedia, Wikipedia.org, and its collection of over
Long Battery Life
Customers can leave the Kindle wireless connectivity on and recharge
approximately every other day, or turn wireless off and read for a
week or more before recharging. Kindle fully recharges in two hours.
Kindle has a standard-layout keyboard that makes it possible for users
to search the Kindle Store, their entire library of purchased content,
and Wikipedia.org. Customers simply type in a word or phrase and
Kindle will find every instance.
Annotation and Bookmarks
The Kindle keyboard lets customers add annotations to text, just as
they would write in the margins of a book. Customers can edit, delete
and export these notes, highlight and clip key passages, and bookmark
pages for future use. Additionally, Kindle automatically bookmarks
the last page a customer reads of any content on their Kindle.
Kindle is designed for long-form reading, so it is as easy to hold and
use as a book. Full-length, vertical page-turning buttons are located
on both sides of Kindle, allowing customers to read and turn pages
comfortably from any position. The page-turning buttons are located
on both the right and left sides of Kindle, which allows both left and
right-handed customers to hold, turn pages, and position Kindle with
Adjustable Text Size
Kindle has six adjustable font sizes to suit customers’ varying
Customers can take their personal documents with them on their Kindle.
Customers and their contacts can e-mail Word documents and pictures
directly to their unique and customisable Kindle e-mail address for
$0.10 each. Kindle supports wireless delivery of unprotected
Microsoft® Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files.
Comes Ready To Use
When customers order a Kindle, it arrives from Amazon.com ready to
use. There is no software to load or set up. Customers are
immediately ready to shop, purchase, download and read from Kindle.
Amazon is adding new book, periodical, and blog titles to the Kindle
Store every day. Publishers and authors can submit their content and
make it available to Kindle customers by using Amazon’s new Digital
Text Platform (DTP), a fast and easy self-publishing tool that lets
anyone upload and sell their books in the Kindle Store. Sign up today
for DTP at