Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Kindle, its much anticipated e-book reading device at a packed press conference in Manhattan this morning. Intended to compete with the now discounted ($299) Sony Reader, Kindle is priced at $399 and offers wireless access to more than 90,000 downloadable titles at a uniform price of $9.99 for new releases.
The Kindle weighs in at 10.3 ounces with a black & white electronic ink screen that can be read in bright sunlight. It’s thin as a pencil and will hold about 200 books, which are also stored in online user accounts and can be redownloaded at any time. But most impressive is the title selection and pricing as well as its wireless functionality. Unlike most digital reading devices, Kindle does not require a personal computer. Through an agreement with mobile carrier Sprint, Amazon has built its own network on the back of Sprint’s EVDO wireless cellphone network. There is no separate fee or monthly billing for use of Kindle’s wireless access and all titles and services for Kindle can be purchased through the wireless access provided through the device.
Online connection to the Kindle online store was very quick and downloads of even the largest books take less than a minute. The device also downloads newspapers and magazines and provides full-text access (not RSS Feeds) to more than 300 blogs that can be updated continuously. Each device comes with a pre-assigned email account that allows the user to email themselves personal documents (Word, plus gifs and jpegs) that can be read on the device.
Using a giant overhead screen, Bezos demonstrated the device (which worked flawlessly) to the assembled press corps. He said that they were trying to create a device so easy to use that it “disappears when you use it.” He said Amazon’s designers believed, “you can’t outbook, the traditional book. You have to have a device that can do things that the print book can’t do.”
From the looks of Kindle, Amazon may have made good on that claim. New media professionals at the event seemed impressed by the device, although not necessarily by its price. To seal the deal, Bezos unveiled a video presentation with such authors as Michael Lewis, Toni Morrison, Neil Gaiman and James Patterson, all lavishing praise on the new device. And then Bezos ended the press conference by handing out free devices to the assembled press corps. Now that’s the way to get the buzz started.