Oprah Winfrey, the empress of taste makers, is about to anoint the Kindle.
Oprah, who became a force in book publishing in the mid 1990s when she began recommending her favorite titles on her TV show, said during Friday's broadcast that the Kindle, Amazon.com's electronic book reader is her "new favorite gadget." She also called the device "life changing."
There's nobody in publishing who hasn't heard of the "Oprah effect." This is the term given to how the daytime TV star's recommendations can send book sales soaring. She is credited with reinvigorating sales of John Steinbeck's East of Eden. The 51-year-old title spent seven weeks atop the The New York Times bestseller list.
That was at the height of Oprah's popularity. Her show's ratings, however, have sagged in the past year. What's unclear is how much impact her endorsement will have on the Kindle. The good news for Amazon is that Oprah's adoption of the Kindle is a signal that the device is transitioning from early adopters to the mainstream. Amazon played up Oprah's glowing testimonial by posting clips of her show on its front door.
Amazon said this week that the company is happy with Kindle sales but declined to break them out. The company said it wouldn't release the next version of the Kindle until next year at the earliest.