The original Kindle was an important device. The world’s first web-connected e-reader, backed by the biggest online bookshop in the world. But the Kindle 2 is what we’ve all been waiting for.
Streamlined hardware, beefed up software, and better web connections than ever before. Read on to see why the Kindle 2 will change the world.
Even Amazon boss Jeff Bezos admits e-books are a tricky thing to sell. At the launch of the Kindle 2 yesterday, he explained that “our tools have changed us” and thanks to the internet, there is now a hunger for blog posts, news stories and what he calls “short form” reading.
However, the technology to download “long form” books wherever we are is beginning to fight that trend, and Bezos says e-books are ripe to become the next big thing.
“”We’ve been selling e-books for years, and guess what,” he told a packed audience, “it didn’t work… until fourteen months ago.”
Now Bezos says 10% of Amazon’s e-book sales go directly to Kindle owners. “They’re not all tech savvy,” he says. “They’re grandparents, parents, kids, travelers”. That sounds like a wide demographic, and one with plenty of cash to spend.
While the likes of Apple, Creative and even Microsoft are battling over music and movies on the move, Amazon is quietly answering literary prayers with an altogether different form of portable entertainment.
Newspapers and magazines are getting in on the act too, seeing the Kindle’s web connection as the great white hope of print publishing.
At the Kindle 2 launch, Bezos showed testimonies from real life owners. One let slip that “my local newspaper stopped delivering… and I can download it on my Kindle.” Extra functionality, or a stealth attack and one of Amazon’s least recognised power-plays? It already has the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and USA Today sending morning newspapers direct to Kindles all over America. They download automatically for their owners to read in the morning, and line the publisher’s pockets too.
Magazines are also on board, with Forbes, Time and Fortune all serving digital copies, wirelessly.
And if you were ever in any doubt over the financial viability of e-readers, the figures should convince you: CitiGroup analyst Mark Mahaney has estimated Amazon sold between 189,000 and 378,000 Kindle readers since the original was launched. At $360 each, that’s no mean feat. It means Amazon has generated at least $68 million in revenue from hardware alone. And the new version is an even better deal.
It’s faster too, with the e-ink screen refreshing 20% faster than the original, but of course, hardware is only half the story.
Amazon has shown there’s an appetite for e-books, e-newspapers and e-magazines. What nobody expected is quite how huge that appetite would be.
Last year Bezos revealed 6% of all its book sales were in electronic form, and says it expects to generate $2.5 billion each year from e-book sales by 2012.
Are others keeping up? In their own way, yes. Sony’s Reader packs many of the features of the Kindle, but lacks the 3G connection that would let it monetise e-book sales, newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
With that in mind, perhaps the biggest threat to the Kindle 2 is the proliferation of e-reading software for mobile phones. But, without an e-ink screen, they’re a poor substitute and an uncomfortable reading experience, even if they can download books on the go.
In short, Amazon has a rare opportunity in the tech market: the right hardware, backed by the right services, and positioned at the right time to completely dominate a rapidly expanding market.
Can Amazon keep all those digital ducks in a row for much longer? It wouldn’t hurt if the Kindle 2 was rolled out to other countries, making it the defacto e-reader worldwide. But then we would say that, being in the UK.
The company claims that, in time, that’s exactly what will happen. Whether Amazon can make it happen quickly enough, remains to be seen.