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Amazon unveils e-book reader Kindle

Priced at $399, the device wirelessly downloads books, newspapers and other content

By Linda Rosencrance
November 19, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Amazon.com Inc. today unveiled Kindle, an e-book reader that allows users to wirelessly download books, newspapers, magazines and blogs.

The Kindle, which weighs 10.3 ounces, costs $399 and is the size of a paperback book, reads like real paper even in the sun, Amazon said in a statement. The device uses electronic paper, a high-resolution display technology, that provides a sharp black and white screen that's as easy to read as printed paper, the company said.

"The screen works using ink, just like books and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically," according to the statement. "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."

<br></br>Amazon.com's portable reader the Kindle (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

Amazon.com's Kindle portable reader (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com )

Users can choose from a selection of more than 90,000 books, Amazon said, and can wirelessly download a book in less than one minute. The book downloads cost $9.99 unless otherwise marked, the company said. The device can store more than 200 books, Amazon said, and users can add more storage with an optional SD memory card.

Customers pay subscription fees to download newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Fortune magazine. Fees for newspapers range from $5.99 to $14.99 per month and $1.25 to $3.49 for magazines, Amazon said.

Kindle uses Sprint's high-speed data network (EV-DO), and Amazon pays for the service, Amazon said. Typically, users can read the first chapter of a Kindle book for free, Amazon said. Users also can download more than 300 blogs for 99 cents each per month.

"We think this will be very successful," said Steve Kessel, senior vice president, Worldwide Digital Media, Amazon.com. "Customers can think of a book and be reading it in less than a minute. They can subscribe to newspapers and so those papers will get updated automatically overnight and when they wake up in the morning their newspapers will be there waiting for them. That convenience, that service is what customers love. We have a history of taking the customer experience and working backwards and that's the exact same thing we did with Kindle."

Kessel said the name Kindle comes from the idea of igniting a passion for reading. But if customers want to ignite that passion by ordering Kindle they'd better hurry. Although he declined to say how many devices Amazon sold today, Kessel said the Web site has changed from "available today" to "more coming in stock in the next few days."

"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, in the statement. "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."

Richard Shim, an analyst at IDC, said the concept of accessing digital books through a service is interesting. "There have been several hurdles with e-books, and I think the industry's gotten over the hardware hurdle, and now we're getting into the services hurdle. It seems like Amazon's put together a pretty thoughtful service here," Shim said. "The question is how successful they can be with this service."

"Previously, it was all about the hardware and so you have Amazon, which obviously has a lot of clout with its distributors, being able to promote this," he said. "So I think this is the first legitimate effort to take e-books mainstream."

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