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Amazon looks forward to a digital book era

08 October 2009

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Amazon e-reader device to be launched in over 100 countries later this month is set to popularise online book reading. Kindle, an international wireless technology will enable consumers to download any printed book onto a paperback-sized tablet.

Cupertino, Calif (Reuters): Amid all the hoopla and high expectations surrounding electronic readers like his Kindle, Inc Chief Executive Jeffrey Bezos insists his real aim is just to get people reading.

Image credits: JacobzinnOur/ Kindle

The former financial analyst, who began as a project in his garage, gets animated when he talks about his vision for the future of electronic books.

The founder of the world's largest online retailer, the company that began life as a humble Web bookseller and is now worth more that $19 billion, is counting on the Kindle going global and eating up market share.

Besides being the Amazon item most often bought for a gift, even before the holiday season, the e-reader device is launching in over 100 countries this month, a step Bezos says is part of a master plan to make every book ever printed available to consumers.

"That vision, literally every book ever printed, in print or out of print, that's a multi-decade vision. But it's achievable," Bezos said in an interview at one of Amazon's offices where the Kindle is developed.

"And how cool would that be?" he added, interrupting his own speech occasionally with booming guffaws.

Bezos said the Kindle was the company's best-selling item on its website so far in 2009 -- even ahead of the holidays.

"I have a lot of confidence that this Q4 is going to be a great holiday quarter for Kindle," he said.

The Kindle, which launched in 2007, has garnered out-sized attention on Wall Street even though sales numbers are not disclosed and contributions to profit have only been guessed at.

E-readers, where consumers read content that downloads digitally onto a paperback-sized tablet, have grown in popularity as more users access information online and traditional book retailers fall by the wayside.

"This is going to be a big industry and big industries usually have multiple winners"

Although analysts believe Amazon holds the top market share spot in e-readers followed by Sony Corp in second place, Bezos said the industry, now in its nascent stages, will balloon to accommodate multiple winners.

"This is going to be a big industry and big industries usually have multiple winners. That's what I think is going to happen here. There are going to be a multitude of companies who are successful here," Bezos said.

Asked whether Amazon had plans to add more bells and whistles to its Kindle, whether texting capabilities, email or the like, Bezos said no one device will dominate the market to become the sole unit that captures consumers' dollars.

The goal of the Kindle, he said, was to be the "best purpose-built reading device" on the market.

"Our job is to keep pushing on the technology to try to have it be as affordable as possible so as many people as possible can enjoy it"

"There's nothing wrong with general purpose devices," said Bezos, who mainly uses a Blackberry for its email function but has an iPhone as well. "The real answer is it's not an either-or."

"I love my Swiss Army knife but I'm also glad I have a set of steak knives for when I'm eating steak," he said. "I like my camera on my cellphone but I also like having a good camera for when I want to take good pictures."

Bezos said he did not know whether the price of e-readers would ever go down to a $99 threshold -- the figure sometimes cited by analysts as a price needed to spur mass adoption.

"Our job is to keep pushing on the technology to try to have it be as affordable as possible so as many people as possible can enjoy it," he said.

Source : Reuters

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