Amazon unveils slimmer Kindle reader

February 11, 2009 - 0:0

The world's largest Web retailer, which began as an online seller of physical books, has steadily beefed up its digital offerings -- with the Kindle drawing the most attention.

“Our vision is every book ever printed, in every language -- all available in less than 60 seconds,” said Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, speaking to an audience of about 300 at New York City's Morgan Library.
But the company gave no international roll-out plan and did not disclose how many Kindle 1 units were sold, nor how many of the new versions will be available for preorder.
The company may not want to push the Kindle too quickly so it can preserve a much higher revenue base from printed books and avoid direct competition with widely popular multimedia devices like Apple Inc's iPhone, analysts say.
Unlike the iPhone which plays music and videos, Amazon says the Kindle is primarily meant to be a reading device.
Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay said the new Kindle was an improvement, but its price showed Amazon was not moving aggressively to bring it to the masses.
“Really we don't see them as having taken the device to the next level,” he said. “We think it's an incremental step of improvements. They're advancing very conservatively.”
The device is a tiny part of Amazon's web retail business, but attracts out-sized interest from investors and analysts as a potential source of new growth.
“It's still little threat to Apple's iPhone and iPod touch, or future Apple Internet tablets; or so-called netbooks -- inexpensive, lightweight laptops from PC makers like Dell and Acer,” wrote Dan Frommer on
While the previous Kindle could store more than 200 titles, the new version holds more than 1,500 and includes a feature that reads text aloud to users, Amazon said. Also on Monday, Amazon said Stephen King, the best-selling author of horror stories, will release a novella, “Ur,” exclusively on Kindle.
Customers awaiting their first versions on back-order will be automatically upgraded to the new Kindle, Amazon said.
First launched by the Seattle-based company in November 2007, the Kindle allows users to read books and newspapers wirelessly on a device weighing less than a typical paperback.
It took sales from Sony Corp, whose Sony Reader beat Amazon to market, and Amazon touted its existing ties with book publishers. Most bestsellers cost $9.99 on the Kindle and newspapers and blogs are also available.
The latest model of the Sony Reader retails for $399 and holds about 350 digital books. Its non-wireless device -- a wireless version is in the works -- has a touchscreen, unlike Amazon, allows sharing with PCs, highlighting and annotating.
Some 100,000 titles are available through Sony's eBook store, and Sony allows users to check out books from public libraries and read them on the device.
Kindle users had criticized its clunky design and complained about the placement of its buttons, lack of backlighting, slow page turns and high price.