Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jeff Bezos' Vision for the Kindle

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love Publishers Marketplace.

Last year, Michael Cader added a new feature: Publishers Marketplace TV. Two weeks ago Book Expo America (BEA) took place in New York. Yesterday, Publishers Marketplace added video of the BEA sessions. This evening I watched several of the videos. Among the ones I watched was a talk Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, gave on the Kindle.

Bezos began by pointing out that the book has been around for 500 years. He said something that hasn't changed in five hundred years is not easily improved upon. When the Amazon staff started to work on the Kindle 3.5 years ago, their goal was to capture the essential element of the physical book, which is that it disappears in your hands. The medium disappears and allows the message to become the important thing.

He then pointed out the main features of the Kindle:
  • It's lightweight, only 10.3 ounces
  • It's inked pages prevent eye strain; it's easy on the eyes
  • It's readable in sunlight
  • It is low-power consuming. It won't keep running out of batteries, and it doesn't get warm the way a laptop does
  • It isn't a self-important device. It won't beep at you

Bezos admits that the Kindle can't "outbook the book." But it does have special features of its own:

  • It has a resident dictionary so a reader can easily check on unfamiliar words
  • It permits a reader to make margin notes and to underline passages
  • It allows a reader to change fonts at will--to enlarge the print when necessary

But the feature that Bezos is most proud of is the fact that the built-in wireless capacity permits readers to purchase and download a book from Amazon's store within 60 seconds. Readers can also purchase access to newspapers, magazines and blogs. Or to email personal documents to the Kindle to be read at the reader's convenience.

Bezos is confident that the message overtakes the medium with the Kindle.

The Kindle price was recently lowered from $399 to $359.

Bezos assured the audience that people who purchase the Kindle continue to purchase physical books as well.

He was encouraged by the fact that, in only six months on the market, Kindle and the e-books now accounts for 6% of all books sold on Amazon.

When it was launched Kindle had access to 90,000 books; today Kindle has access to 125,000 books, including 100 of the 112 New York bestsellers.

Bezos' vision is to have every book ever printed in any language available on the Kindle within sixty seconds.

An ambitious goal for an ambitious man.

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