Last night on PBS Jeff Bezos was talking about his new Kindle device on the Charley Rose show. When asked if he felt more emotion about Kindle than Amazon.com, Jeff replied with an enthusiastic yes. To paraphrase, “Books are technology and every technology evolves. The book has been about the same since Gutenberg in the 1430’s, but Kindle evolves the book. Books are the cornerstone of civilization. I can’t think of anything I could do that is more significant that evolving the book.”
We’ve seen electronic book devices before, but this one may actually fly. Charley Rose likened the Kindle to the Apple iPod and the thought is that the Kindle will do for the written word what the iPod did for music. At $399, Amazon completely sold out in 5.5 hours Monday.
Jeff talked about how “books disappear” when the readers gets lost in the world of the author. (Well, I doubt my book ever disappears ;-) the plot development and characters are a bit weak, and the ending is predictable.) Jeff wanted the Kindle to have the same experience, but he said it’s hard to out book a book. So the Kindle tries to be better at what it can add to the experience.
Kindle does look pretty amazing. The Kindle holds up to 200 books and downloads books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, and Wikipedia using an internal G3 cell phone. Using the cell phone connection, you can buy any new book for $9.95 in about a minute. At launch yesterday they had 201 of the 212 NY Times best sellers and a total of 9K books available. Jeff’s goal is to have every book ever printed available for instant downloading and viewing.
A new type of screen called electronic ink is supposed to be as readable as paper. It took Amazon 3 years to develop the blank and white screen. A color version is in the labs now but won’t be available for a couple years.
It’s a version 1 and it’s already getting controversial negative comments from folks who haven’t even seen it. With Amazon and “every major publisher” behind it, if they can make enough of them and if it really is as easy to read as they say, the Kindle may fly. I’d sure like to try one.