November 15, 2007 2:21 PM PST

Amazon to debut Kindle e-book reader Monday

Amazon is betting that e-books aren't a total e-bust.

On Monday, the online retail giant will unveil its Kindle e-book reader at a high-profile event in New York, an industry source told CNET News.com Thursday. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos is expected to be present for the announcement, to be held at the chic W Hotel in Union Square.

The Kindle is equipped with a Wi-Fi connection that taps into an Amazon e-book store, which users can access to purchase new electronic books--and Amazon has reportedly signed onto a deal with Sprint for EVDO access. Additionally, the device comes with a headphone jack for audiobooks, as well as an e-mail address.

But the source said the Kindle apparently won't bear many other BlackBerry-like features such as a calendar or address book. The Kindle may also lack a backlight. Instead, it comes with a small reading light attached to an adjustable arm.

"They have a huge repository and huge track record of selling content. They also have customers who keep coming back to them."
--Richard Shim, analyst, IDC

From its inception, the Kindle has been geared toward "road warriors" and business travelers. The source told News.com that the device includes a feature to download digital editions of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal each morning.

The company was also said to be considering a deal with the W Hotel chain to offer Kindle devices to guests, who would be able to check them out like library books.

The final price of the Kindle is expected to be $399, which is consistent with rumors and earlier reports. The industry source also added that Amazon had been looking to ink a deal for the launch so a hot book title could be bundled with the e-book reader.

This marks a major launch for Amazon. According to the source, Bezos has held this project very close, delaying it for more than a year to perfect the details. The company reportedly even studied the launch tactics Apple used for the iPod. In particular, the source said, Amazon's team liked the videotaped celebrity testimonials that accompanied the iPod's launch, and suggested that the Kindle launch may feature something similar.

Amazon did not immediately return calls for comment.

The Kindle device has been anticipated for quite some time, with specifications and early photographs surfacing more than a year ago. Earlier reports had claimed the e-book reader would be unveiled last month.

The industry source said Amazon experienced setbacks in the process, but attributed them in part to natural difficulties that a retailer would experience when expanding into the hardware business. One of the foremost challenges, the source added, was battery power.

But an even bigger problem was reportedly getting publishers onboard. Amazon wanted to have the biggest e-book catalog of any reader available, the source explained, to give it an advantage over other e-book readers and services that are already on the market.

The company is also said to have forged agreements with somewhere between 50 and 100 newspaper publishers, in addition to the daily New York Times and Wall Street Journal features. Kindle owners are expected to be able to select from a long list of publications for automatic download.

"The hardware isn't necessarily what's important," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC. "It's the delivery mechanism for the content. That's where Amazon has a major advantage. They have a huge repository and huge track record of selling content. They also have customers who keep coming back to them. One of the things that companies have neglected in the past is developing an e-book store where you can get the content and use the leverage to get the publishers to get content into a digital format."

In preparation for the launch, the source said, Amazon stopped selling e-book formats other than the Mobipocket about a year ago.

But electronic books have failed to catch on the way some predicted they would. Likewise, e-book readers haven't been a huge draw.

Sony unveiled the second edition of its Sony Reader device in October. The original Reader, released in September 2006, proved to be a bust. For the Reader's Version 2.0, Sony maintained the Reader's $300 price tag, the storage capacity (160 "typical" books), and the battery life (7,500 "page turns"), but improved the device's speed and navigation features and slimmed the hardware down.

Indeed, delays on the Kindle resulted in Sony's Reader hitting the market first. But the source told News.com that Bezos was ultimately unfazed, and told people he wanted the Kindle to have the kinks ironed out before it was offered to consumers.

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Amazon Kindle, e-book Reader, industry source, Amazon.com Inc., Richard Shim

32 comments

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My problem with e-books
I love the concept of e-books. However, my biggest problem with them is the ridiculous price charged for most of them. They usually cost as much as a hardback book! I almost never pay that price for a regular book, and I would never pay that much for an e-book. If publishers would sell e-books at paperback book prices, I would love to buy them. I truly believe that publishers don't understand the market. The irony is that e-books have no production costs--you don't have to print a physical book! They can, therefore, charge whatever they like. I suspect that many people feel the same as I do. All the people I have talked to about this agree.
Posted by Stefan G (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That hasn't been my experience
I've found e-books to usually cost about as much or slightly cheaper than a paperback book. Of course, it depends on the book. I'm referring to mass produced books that also have an e-book version. I'm not considering things like textbooks, which is a completely different story.
Posted by Kesteral (70 comments )
Link Flag
Not for me...
The eBooks I've bought have been, without exception, priced below retail for the paperback. Usually $4 or thereabouts, compared to $7 for the paperback.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Link Flag
e-book readers
i think that e-book readers need to support some form of tablet
pc properties. Tablet PCs are relatively unwieldy, and e-book
readers are typically lack features that people would want. I want
to be able to highlight parts of a book or pdf document, or write
notes in the margins which could then be synced back to my
computer. I read a lot of pdf files and I want to have a bit ability
to manipulate them. I also don't want to spend more than 300
bucks for that functionality. Come out with something that
actually solves the problem and people will buy it.
Posted by diablojota (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: e-book readers
I think you're not a large enough market. Most people who read books don't need to mark them up. So an e-book wouldn't need to support that feature either to be successful. I'm not saying that it is not a desirable feature, just not a necessary one.

See my other comment: if Amazon charged less for an e-book than what the Average Joe would pay for a discounted paperback _and_ they made it super easy to maintain/grow ones book library remotely, then I think they will be hugely successful. If they try the same stupid ways that others have, then it no matter how good the actual e-reader is technologically, they'll have a dud.
Posted by twolf2919 (278 comments )
Link Flag
Way too expensive
$399 to read a book, nope, you can buy an Asus EEE and read it on there for the same price. Amazon need to get this thing out the door for $99, its the only way it can stay on the market.
Posted by krosavcheg (262 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amzz
Just read a book.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
Price Price Price
I love the theory of e-books, but e-books chain me to my computer. I read paper books when I'm waiting for things, usually - in line, on the bus, on the train, in an airport. It's not usually practical to carry my laptop around, just to read a book. With e-books costing around the same as paperbacks, and also needing to buy special hardware to be able to treat the e-books as ordinary books, the price is just too high for me to afford.
Posted by talia_ali (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't have said it better myself . . .
When I see a durable, wieldy, e-book reader that will allow me to tote it around and use it like my blackberry (or a paperback!), that's when I'll get it. I'd use it mainly for recreational reading. For work-related reading, I need something I can make notes in (EASILY, without having to spend five minutes uploading these changes to my desktop, laptop, whatever).
Posted by Skull Dugger (3 comments )
Link Flag
E-books work, but not if locked down
Look at Baen.com and the way they handle eBooks: you can get them in several formats and read them on anything that can display the format ... and if you trash your hard drive you can download them all again.

Is there "piracy"? Possibly, but apparently Baen is happy with the results, because they keep offering more books. They even give e-books away for free and watch the sales of hardcopy increase AFTER they give something away.
Posted by Tsu Dho Nimh (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed!
I am amazed by the stupidity of these companies. I don't want to suffer a VHS vs. Betamax fight again. Publish the book in one format (or lots of formats) and sell lots of hardware that reads that format. Forcing users to choose a reader because certain content is available only on that reader is crazy.
Look at CDs. One format and everybody played them. Now with Blu-ray and HDDVD, who knows what to buy?
argh, this is such a damned step backwards.
Posted by tdi1 (9 comments )
Link Flag
E-book reader not competitive pricing
I have an Axim. I can read books in whatever format in the dark, listen to music, play games, review spreadsheets, browse the internet, talk on skype, make notes, control my TV, schedule my time, etc., etc. for LESS than $300. Plus, I added the necessary hardware and software for GPS for less than $399. E-book reader pricing makes no sense.
Posted by JeffW42 (44 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A bad idea...
I don't know about other people, but if I had to bet, I'd bet that this is going to have a hard time succeeding.

I like Amazon, I shop there often, but this is not a good idea. It's overly expensive, and I'll tell you what - when I stay at a hotel, I certainly won't be asking the staff if they have one of these book readers so I can read e-books or newspapers.

> "The hardware isn't necessarily what's important"

They're kidding, right? For $399?

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
$399 Is Still Too Much
As others have mentioned, $399 for the hardware is *too* much. The cost of ebooks is also a problem. I believe in 5-10 years, ebooks and readers will be standard issue, but not until you can by the hardware for $20-$30.
Posted by FrankTurd (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM is bad and other thoughts
Several people have commented about the "if I trash my device, I have to rebuy the content" they forget the other half of this as well: If I buy a paperback, I have the right to loan it out, sell it, trade it, use it to start fires, or whatever else I feel like.

That said, I like Baen's price per book and the fact that I can read them on my pocket PC that I have to carry around anyway. WOULD be nice to be able to get e-versions of Wired and a couple newspapers, though....and I would love to be able to legally loan out my books. Never have been a fan of SELLING books, though that should be an option.

textbooks would be GREAT to have in electronic format....10lb reader vs 5 or more 10-20lb books....no contest! Long as I can take notes at least as well as I can now on my PDA.
Posted by bryan314 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe Amazon should rent the devices?
There is a coffee company, Gevalia I think, that gives away a coffee maker when you buy a certain amount of coffee. Perhaps Amazon should try this model, since nobody wants to spend $399 for an e-reader: if you promise to buy a certain number of books or enter a subscription plan, you get to use the Kindle for free; once the subscription is over or you're not buying books anymore, you have to send it back :-)

Alternatively, if the life expectation of the Kindle is the equivalent of reading a 1000 books, then the books have to be cheap enough to allow the buyer to armortize the cost of the reader over 1000 books.

And, above all else, the user of a Kindle must be able to download any book they've purchased via the service as often as they'd like.

Another poster commented on how e-readers would not succeeed because they tie you to a PC: not necessarily! With wi-fi built in and the ability to store one's books at Amazon, you never need to connect to a PC.

That is the same direction that Apple is finally going with their iPhone and iPod - you can download songs directly into these devices, bypassing the PC entirely. The only flaw in Apple's plan is that they don't provide for a way to store songs at their site - so people still need to connect to a PC to "backup" the stuff they bought! How bogus is that!
Posted by twolf2919 (278 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Book Reader
Why would I want to spend $399 for a book reader with unknown formats, when I can spend $300 for a good PDA, with wifi capability that can do the same thing and more. I have the Palm T|X and I have no trouble reading on it in any format except adobe (which is a little slow on it) or microsoft reader (which is unavailable for Palm machines.) At the very least, a book reader needs to be cheaper than a mid-level PDA which can do the job and a whole lot more.

I use fictionwise.com for most of my books, they charge the publishers prices, but often offer partial rebates on books, so I end up paying about 30% less overall on most books I buy. Some, I get 100% rebates on. They offer a wide variety of formats, including a host of books (getting bigger all the time) without DRM.
Posted by DJHarkavy (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Agree with PDA comment & finding a bookstore that cares
It does seem silly to pay $399 and be stuck with a proprietary format. One more device and a little large at that. A PDA can fit in almost any pocket, has a backlight and a touch screen, has wireless, is color, can view three different ebook formats and play audio. And you can navigate with one hand. Amazon bailed on tens of thousands of us a year ago when it deleted our ebook bookshelves very quietly when they decided that business was not profitable enough. Getting married to their proprietary device and only their format seems just plain unwise. Two months ago, Amazon's ebook servers at Mobipocket (which it owns) went down for ten days. Readers could not download their books and Amazon said nothing to anyone - no explanation, no refunds, no apologies, nothing. They are not concerned about the end customer in ebook space for some reason. Went to booksonboard.com and fictionwise, both of which offered some services to get around the problem. They at least tried to help. And both have good prices. Plus BooksOnBoard has email support 7 days a week. (They even helped with Mobipocket issues for a Fictionwise book one weekend during the server downtime.) So, I'm all for PDAs or Windows Mobile phones (with a decent-sized screen) and books from outfits like these two that care about the end customer.
Posted by monteagle1 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A free book-reading platform we all have ...
... is called hands. We all come equipped with it for free. $399 for a reader is insane.
Posted by Rants&Raves (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ROFLMAO
Uhh, so I have 3 laptops, 2 desktops, an ipod and a Treo and you want me to spend $400 on something that will only read books?!?!?!

ROFLMAO..

How dumb are some of these CTO's...at least Palm was smart enough to pull the plug on that Foleo disaster.
Posted by inverse137 (514 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My problem with the idea of e-books and readers
My $8 paperback doesn't need batteries, is easily replaceable, can be taken anywhere, and can often be obtained for free in a library.

I'm never going to sit on the metro reading a $399 device, scribble notes on its margins, or lend it to a friend for him to read at his leisure. I'm never going to buy a $399 device to read books when, as another commenter said, hands are free.

No matter what happens, physical books will never become outmoded as long as e-book readers cost over $30.
Posted by Jortibereal (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
taking a bath
no, I'm not referring to Amazon and the losses they will incur if this product doesn't fly or to consumers buying e-books. I'm talking about immersing oneself in water and reading a book. If I drop a paperback in the bath, I'm a little upset because I'm out a small amount of money. Can you imagine how upset you would be if you soak your ebook?
Posted by esjatharvee (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm a convert...
A six-month assignment far from English-language libraries and bookstores (but not from the net) prompted me to buy a used Sony e-Book off craigslist. It has become my constant companion, and has got me very interested in the Kindle. Sony, Amazon and others won't be happy to know however that, after my initial short-money investment, I have spent not one dime.

Many websites offer free ebooks in most of the popular formats, including Sony's. These are not obscure titles but rather the classics or any books old enough to be off copyright. My favorite e-book site is probably www.manybooks.net - highly recommended...

I love my e-book. It's compact and portable - I can put it in my coat pocket, my gym bag, my carry-on, wherever, it stays charged up for days and days, and I have access to truly vast amounts of books that I really want to read.

As for "can't read it in the bathtub" comments - gosh, I do still have some hard-copy books. Magazines work well there too.

Still - I bought used because I thought the initial investment was too steep. I download free (but intend to donate money to keep these e-book community sites viable) because, well, I can. I genuinely want to read these books, and it'd be silly to pay when they're there available for short money or free...

What does this mean for e-book readers? If I'm representative of their target market, the prices for readers and content have to come way down. I run from DRM ball-and-chains, but will pay for connectivity and "connected" content...

I'm all ears (or eyes, as the case may be...)
Posted by emersonstreet (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
ebook drm model has already destroyed the confidence of consumers
I recently upgraded my computer to Windows Vista. After doing
so I learned that some $200 worth of ebooks I had purchased
from amazon could no longer be opened: the Adobe Digital
Reader allowed me no way to re-activate the books I legally
purchased. Amazon let me know that my books had been
removed from my "Digital Locker" because it no longer sells or
supports ebooks. In other words, amazon said, 'tough luck.'
Adobe offers no support for its Digital Reader, and it has left
countless ebook purchasers in the lurch with studied silence
about similarly lost ebooks. I had a similar experience with the
Microsoft Reader, which is still made available but has no
support from Microsoft. I consider the ebook drm situation a
disaster, and what the industry is doing to dupe the consumer
criminal. After this experience I would never trust amazon with
anything digital again. Who would be so naive as to buy their
ebook reader after knowing how tenuous their ebook purchases
are?
Posted by spinoza2 (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Paper books are hard to beat
Ebooks are a nice novelty, but I have yet to see one that wasn't awkward to use or simply not a pleasant interface experience.

Paper books rarely crash, lose entire chapters, suddenly close the cover stating you don't have permission to read the book, or run out of batteries.

I think I'll stick with paper versions.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't replace a good book
I, like most postings, agree that the only thing the Kindle would be good for is text books. When I want to read a good book, the feeling of curling up on the couch with a small device and blanket would just not be the same. However, for my child's text books it would be great for her shoulders and back if she didn't have to carry around 10 or more pounds of books.
Posted by mmccu720 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
So...what's the future of Mobipocket?
I'm an independent publisher, interested in the future of Mobipocket, having learned the format and submitted. Will Kindle require publishers to learn/buy yet another program for submitting e-books?

Comments, anyone? (
Posted by whimsy01 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Another great invention that only the rich can afford to own!
Posted by AdvocateLady (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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