December 6, 2007

Amazon Launches Kindle

If you thought the humble book was safe from the digital revolution, think again. Amazon.com last month launched their much-anticipated e-Book reader called Kindle (US$399). The Kindle device, in development for three years weighs just under 300 grams and introduces what Amazon are classifying as a 'convenient, portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines and newspapers.'

While the Kindle isn't the first mass e-Reader product on the market, it is the first to operate without the be tethered to a computer. Kindle relies on the Sprint Evdo network to gain access to the Web, and importantly Amazon.com where you'll buy most of the content for your Kindle. Amazon have partnered with major US publishers and have over 90,000 books available, including 100 of the current 112 New York Times bestsellers. Amazon have also partnered with top international newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Time and Forbes, and have also made 250 top blogs available under a subscription model as well.

To simulate a book-like experience, Kindle uses technology called Electronic Paper Display (EPD), which according to eInk 'possess a paper-like high contrast appearance, ultra-low power consumption, and a thin, light form, giving viewers the experience of reading from paper, while having the power of up-datable information.

Content for the Kindle is reasonably priced with bestsellers and new releases starting at $9.99, while other books can be more or less expensive. Books that are purchased come with proprietary Amazon DRM and can't be shared between Kindle users or printed. The files can however be backed up. All Kindle users are assigned an email address, where for a small fee they can transfer their own files (Word and picture files) to their Kindle, and the Kindle can hold approximately 200 titles internally with SD card support for expansion.

While books are well suited to the reading experience I'll bet that the Kindle is the start of a transition from paper form to electronic. It might take thirty years, but you can bet that eventually physical paper will be superseded by something digital, just like stone tablets and papyrus gave way to paper.