Amazon has summoned the NY press and blogger corp to the W Hotel on Union Square to watch Jeff Bezos unveil it electronic book reader, the Kindle. We’ll see if there is anything left to learn. Peter Ha from CrunchGear is sitting right next to me bloggingand taking pics (can you say overkill?). Here we go:
9:41 AM: Jeff Bezos takes the stage: Shows a tablet, then some papyrus, then a codex, a picture of Gutenberg (“invented mass production of books,” thanks jeff). He made 180 copies of his most famous book, the Gutenberg bible.
Bezos: “This is a 500 year old technology. We forget it is a technology. As readers we don’t think about this often. You print books 16 pages at a time or 32 pages at a time, that collection is called a signature that gets folded, the edged get abraded. the printing press has definitely gotten a lot more sophisticated since Gutenberg’s time. Gutenberg would still recognize a modern-day book.”
“Why are books the last bastion of analog. they have stubbornly resisted digitization.The book is so highly evolved and suited to its tasks that it is hard to displace. the key feature of a book is that it disappears when you read it. All of us readers know that flow state when we read,we don’t think about the glue, the paper, the stitching, allof that goes away. All that remains is the author’s world, and we flow right into that.”
9:47 AM: “I am a reader. My parents had a tough time punishing me as a child because I was quite content to stay in in my room.”
“The question is can you improve on something as highly evolved and well suited to its task as the book? And how? It has to disappear. it has to get out of the way. Another thing, we knew we would never out-book the book. We would have to take the technology and do things the book could never do.”
“In the early days of Amazon, I was asked, how will you do virtual book signings. We never figured it out because you cannot duplicate the retail book store, you can be inspired by them. We do other things, we have customer reviews, customers who bought this also bought that. Things you cannot do in a physical book store.”
9:51: Shows the Kindle. 10.3 ounces, less than a paperback, and thinner too. Three years in the making.
“We studied how people hold books. You change your posture and grip on the book. It is one of the things that keeps you from getting fatigued and stay in that author’s world.”
9:53: “How do you get content on the book? Traditional answer would be a PC. We did not think that was a good answer. We decided there would be no PC, no software to install.”
“Instead of shopping on your PC, you shop on the device. The content is delivered seamlessly to the device. Normally you would do Wi-Fi. but you have to find a hotspot. We did not like this technology. decided to use EVDO. As soon as I tell you we are using EVDO that should cause a second set of concerns, because everybody knows there has to be a data plan and a monthly bill. We didn’t like that either. So we built Amazon WhisperNet. it is built on top of Sprint’s EVDO network, but we insulate you from all of those things. there is no data plan, no multi-year contract, no monthly bill. We take care of all that in the background, so you can just read.” [Sounds like an MVNO for EVDO, but Amazon pays the freight. How much is that going to cost Amazon?]
“We have 90,000 books you can buy right from the device. And these are the books people want to read. Included on are 101 of 112 New York Times best sellers. And guess what, they are all $9.99. And guess what? they all get delivered wirelessly in less than minute. You can also get newspapers delivered to the device: New York times, Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News. Magazines. And blogs. This is not an RSS feed. this is the full content of the post pushed to your device. (Boing Boing, the Onion, Huffington Post, TechCrunch). Updated throughout the day.” [He stresses that this is not just the headlines and an excerpt, but he ignores blogs that publish their full content in their feeds. Is anyone really going to pay for a blog that they can get on the Web for free?].
“every Kindle comes with a customized e-mail address. You attach your personal docs, and they are delivered to the device, can do this with docs, Jpegs. A resident dictionary one very device [Oxford American Dictionary that is 10 pounds in print]. Another thing a book cannot be is a full set of encyclopedias. We all know the best encyclopedia today is Wikipedia. If you printed it you would need four miles of shelves. because this si a wireless device, you can access Wikipedia from this device.”
“So what do you get with this device? The most advanced EVDO radio in the world, the most advanced reading display technology. on sale right now for $399.”
10:04: Rolls a video.
10:15 AM: Bezos is doing a demo. Shows his magazines and blogs (hey, how did TechCrunch get on there?). Shows how you can change the font size. There is a little scroll wheel on the bottom right, can click on this “select wheel” to underline, add highlights, look up words in the dictionary, you select a line and it gives you the definition of every single word in that line. Shows the store. It is all black-and-white, can browse books, magazines, newspapers, blogs. there is a Kindle Daily Post, and “recommended for you.” Shows you National best seller lists from teh New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post [what about Amazon?]. Also can see Amazon reviews. and details you would see at the Amazon store. Clicks buy. [Interesting, my EVDO got disconnected as he was downloading—coincidence?].
“We archive your book server side on Amazon.com.. If you lose them you can download them again for no cost.”
“The most important thing about Kindle is that it does indeed disappear so you can enter the author’s world.”