Amazon Kindle is an electronic book reader service that was launched by Amazon.com back in November 2007. It is a convenient, portable reading device with the ability to download books, magazines, newspapers, and website content by a wireless broadband method that does not require connection to a PC. It uses an “electronic paper” display that provides an experience similar to that of reading a newspaper without using any sort of background lighting. Kindle uses a proprietary AZW format and downloads content using Amazon’s Whispernet, which accesses data through the Sprint EVDO network.
Amazon Kindle is also easy on the fingers because it is relatively lightweight (10.3 ounces) and easy to handle. It does not generate any significant amount of heat and is designed for ambidextrous use so that both left-handed and right-handed people can easily operate it. Overall, the device is designed to be lighter and thinner than most paperback books.
The Kindle represents Amazon’s entry into the ebook reader market. Although the basic concept is not particularly new (companies like Sony and Microsoft have already produced dedicated ebook readers), Amazon brings a large marketing presence to the table that may be able to increase the popularity of these devices through its advertising and associates networks. It also has the important advantage of being the first such reader that allows users to download books and other content via wireless broadband as opposed to a electrical power or PC connection. This makes it very convenient for business travelers and vacationers.
It comes equipped with a 6-inch 800 x 600 display, 256MB of internal memory storage, a small two-thumb keyboard cursor bar, a scrolling wheel, a standard USB port and cable, 3.5mm headphone jack, and an SD slot. Although it primarily uses its own Kindle file format (a structured HTML variant), it also accepts other common formats such as Word, Adobe PDF, Mobi, HTML, plaintext, and image files like JPEG, GIF, and PNG.
Authors can upload documents in several different formats for delivery via Whispernet and set their own prices anywhere between 99 cents and $200 per download. They can receive commissions equal to 35% of revenues based on list price, regardless of any discounts offered by Amazon. Writers who take advantage of the new ebook format may also include hyperlinks for curious readers to follow, thus integrating their books with other content on the web. In this way, reading a book does not need to end with the final chapter.
For downloading newly published content to the Kindle, books from the New York Times Best Sellers list as well as new releases can be purchased for a flat rate of $9.99 apiece. Newspaper subscriptions cost $5.99 to $14.99 per month, and magazine subscriptions run from $1.25 to $3.49 per month. Content is available for purchase straight from the Kindle Store, and according to Amazon, delivery is done wirelessly in less than one minute. Major newspapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post as well as magazines like Time and Forbes are all delivered automatically as soon as they are published.
In addition to its benefits and features, the Kindle also has a few disadvantages that may be annoying to some people. For example, converting images to Amazon’s proprietary format can be a little slow because the files must be emailed first. Also, although it is possible to download mp3 files with the Kindle, it is not an effective replacement for the iPod because users do not really have control over what music is being played. It seems that certain features such as the ability to pause a song and continue where you left off are sorely lacking.
Perhaps the largest drawback for some folks is the $399 price tag, which may put the initial purchase of a Kindle out of reach. Fortunately, most people who have a real use for it (such as the business travelers mentioned above) seem to think that the convenience and portability are ultimately worth the price.
UPDATE 05/03/08: According to an email I received this morning, Amazon Kindle is now officially in stock:
Amazon is excited to announce that Kindle is now in stock and available for shipment. Customers can order today and receive free two-day shipping on Kindle.
UPDATE 06/05/08: Amazon has now lowered its price on the Kindle to $359. I wouldn’t be surprised if the price drops some more due to increased supply and competition from similar electronic reader devices as we move forward in time.
UPDATE 7/29/10: It seems that due to competition from other brands of e-book readers and advances in technology, the Kindle has become substantially less expensive over the past couple of years. It’s now selling for $189, with a Wi-Fi version priced somewhat lower at $139. Here is the announcement from Amazon that I received by email earlier today:
We’re excited to announce that Kindle, Amazon’s #1 bestselling item for two years running and the best e-reader on the market, is now even better.
Let your readers know that the all new Kindle is smaller, lighter, and faster. The new Kindle features built-in Wi-Fi, 50% better contrast for sharper fonts and clearer text, more than double the storage capacity, a new graphite color option and more—all for just $189, and still with free global 3G wireless—no monthly bills or annual contracts.
Amazon has also introduced a new addition to the Kindle family of reading devices — Kindle Wi-Fi, a Wi-Fi only model for just $139. The new Kindle and Kindle Wi-Fi are now available for pre-order at Amazon.com and they will ship to customers in late August.
The Kindle Store now has over 630,000 books and the largest selection of the most popular books people want to read, including 109 of 112 New York Times Bestsellers and New Releases from $9.99. Since its release, Kindle has been the #1 bestselling product across the millions of items sold on Amazon.
Meanwhile, if you cannot yet afford the Kindle or simply want to shop for other products through Amazon.com, you can use this handy little search function in the box below: