Retailers, consumers and prices
Amazon’s hotly anticipated Kindle e-reader got even more press on Wednesday, but not the good variety.
In an op-ed titled “The Kindle Swindle” that appeared in the New York Times Wednesday, the president of the Author’s Guild, Roy Blount Jr., took Amazon to task for its text-to-speech function on the new Kindle that began shipping this week.
The new Kindle can read books aloud — but unlike audio books, royalties are not paid to authors. Blount argues the technology Amazon uses to turn text into a human voice is quickly improving, and authors need to be “duly vigilant” about this new means of transmitting their work.
The Guild, which is studying the issue, has called the Kindle’s speech function a “significant challenge to the publishing industry.” It has recommended to its members that they bring up the issue of the Kindle when negotiating new book contracts.
Reuters spoke to Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos at the launch of the Kindle 2.
He talked about device's price, Amazon's big picture for Kindle, international plans and cannabilization.
Reuters: Has Kindle been a big hit since its debut late in 2007?
Jeff Bezos: We had way more demand than we ever expected or even hoped for.
which meant that we were sold out during 2 holiday seasons. which is not a good idea - not the plan. we made more than we though we would need and we still sold out. so its a high quality problem in the sense that demand has been very very good.
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.
Amazon's newest Kindle is out -- We've got reporters on the scene, and we'll be back with more details shortly. In the meantime, here's a link to the device on Amazon.com and part of today's press release:
Amazon.com, Inc. today introduced Amazon Kindle 2, the new reading device that offers Kindle`s revolutionary wireless delivery of content in a new slim design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over seven times more storage, sharper images, and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2 is purpose-built for reading with a high-resolution 6-inch electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, which lets users read for hours without the eyestrain caused by reading on a backlit display. More than 230,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 103 of 110 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are typically $9.99. Top U.S. and international magazines and newspapers plus more than 1,200 different blogs are also available. Kindle 2 is available for pre-order starting today for $359 at http://amazon.com/kindle2 and will ship February 24.
Reuters and others are reporting that Amazon.com is expected to unveil a new version of the Kindle electronic reader on Monday.
While the Kindle is a tiny part of Amazon's web retail business, it gets a ton of buzz, and a new version has been much speculated about on the web. The question is whether mainstream consumers are really ready to buy it, particularly in the current economic environment.