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Monday, November 19, 2007

News: Amazon debuts digital book reader

Kindle book reader, Amazon
The device is on sale now from the Amazon store

Online retailer Amazon has unveiled an own-brand wireless electronic book reader called Kindle.

The paperback-sized device is on sale immediately in the US for $399 (£195). It can store up to 200 books in its onboard memory.

Kindle does not need a PC to be loaded with books, blogs or papers - instead content arrives via wireless.

Amazon said 90,000 books, including bestsellers priced at $9.99, were available for Kindle at launch.

New addition

"We've been working on Kindle for more than three years," said Amazon boss Jeff Bezos in a statement.

"Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands -- to get out of the way -- so you can enjoy your reading," he said.

Content is delivered to the device via the EVDO wireless network - this could limit the gadget's overseas appeal as the technology is not widely used outside North America.

Owners of a Kindle do not have to pay to use this wireless network, Amazon pays the access costs and only charges for any content downloaded to the reader.

This does mean that any Kindle owner could be paying to read many blogs and papers they could read for free online.

A subscription to the New York Times costs $13.99 per month on Kindle. A popular blog, such as BoingBoing will cost $1.99 per month for Kindle owners. homepage, Amazon
Amazon changed its homepage to promote Kindle
Owners sending files they already own to their Kindle will incur a ten cent charge.

Amazon said it took less than a minute to download a book via this network to the Kindle. Newspapers, blogs and magazines that owners have subscribed to are automatically updated on the gadget.

The memory can be boosted by using SD cards but Amazon will keep back up copies of any and every book purchased for Kindle so they can always be re-loaded on the device.

It has a low power digital ink screen and can last 30 hours between recharges.

Those buying a Kindle gets an associated e-mail address so if that person is sent Word documents or PDF files, these are converted for reading on the device.

The keyboard on the device lets people annotate and make notes on documents and send messages.

The Kindle also has buttons that link it directly to the Oxford American Dictionary and Wikipedia.

Amazon is not the first company to produce an e-book reader. Many other companies have tried similar devices but all have failed to win over large numbers of customers.

In early November, Sony released the second version of its Reader that also sports a digital ink screen. The first version of the Reader was criticised because of the restrictive digital rights management system it used.

Also this month, Epson Seiko showed off a prototype e-reader only three millimetres thick. There are no announcements about when, or if, that gadget will go on sale.

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