Retailers, consumers and prices
Resembling a larger, whiter, thinner, but not-as-sexy iPhone, the Kindle 2 got its high-profile launch on Monday by Amazon, the Seattle-based online retailer.
Analysts, media and gadget hounds filled New York’s Morgan Library to hear Chief Executive Jeff Bezos touting the slimmer, faster new version of the e-reader that at $359 is still hardly a steal.
The press conference even featured an appearance from horror author Stephen King, whose novella “Ur” — about a college instructor who orders a Kindle (no joke) to frightening consequences — is only available on the Kindle.
But despite the advance hoopla — read Reuters’ preview of the Kindle launch here — the blogosphere was surprisingly low-key about Monday’s unveiling — perhaps given leaked photos of the supposed device that could be seen on the Internet beginning last fall.
“Wow, even Amazon is jumping on the iPhone-killer bandwagon,” said one blog, http://www.boygeniusreport.com, adding that the new Kindle is 25 percent thinner than the iPhone. Gizmodo, calling its new design a success, wrote: “It looks like Amazon got a few clues from Apple and Braun’s design guidelines.” The www.Techcrunch.com blog summed it up even more succinctly: “It’s much less ugly.”
Bloggers praised its thinness, more storage, better battery life, better display and faster page turning, but some still griped at its price tag and design, with one blogger saying the new Kindle is “still not pretty.”
“If I’m going to spend $370, why wouldn’t I buy an iPod Touch or a Netbook and get way more functionality,” asked one posting. Another referenced the ubiquitous debate in cyberspace over open devices: “Where is the universal open device that consumers really want? Limited consumers just so you can direct all sales through Amazon will not play out in the long run.”
For an interesting read on how Amazon is currently cornering an underserved market niche, but how competition from tablet PCs could be an issue in the future, read here.
Few bloggers commented on the new “read-to-me” feature, which allows users to hear their content read by either a female or male voice — although one blog said it “should be fun.” That may steal away some sales of books on tape, but Kindle said the feature was still experimental.
Amazon won’t disclose how many advance orders for the Kindle 2 it expects — nor how many of the first version it sold. And still a mystery is whether or not the Kindle is cannibalizing sales from the company, whose highest margin business is physical book sales, according to Bernstein Research’s Jeffrey Lindsay.
Bezos said last month for every physical book an Amazon customer with a Kindle buys, he or she buys 1.6 to 1.7 Kindle books.
(Photo of Bezos/Reuters)