On the heels of a Newsweek cover story, Amazon.com announced its Kindle bookreader at a carefully choreographed press conference at the W Hotel in Union Square this morning. (Cool orange-red lights? Check. Bookshelf stocked with works the Kindle will replace? Yep. Columns invoking the history of the printed word? Certainly.)
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos started the presentation by showing slides of a message carved in a rock, a papyrus scroll, a codex and Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. “Books are a technology [that's 500-years-old],” Bezos said. “Gutenberg would recognize a modern day book.”
After the jump, the Kindle attempts to blow Gutenberg’s mind.
“The key feature of the book is that it disappears as you read it,” Bezos said. “[The Kindle] has to disappear.” To achieve this, Amazon.com’s designers used electronic paper technology and made the next page buttons run the entire length of the 10.3 oz. device. The screen’s a tad dark and the buttons too flimsy for my taste, but it seems perfect for reading on an airplane and Bezos promised the pages would be visible even in direct sunlight. For curling up in an overstuffed chair in my living room, however, I think I’ll stick with the printed version.
The Kindle runs on the EVDO cellular network and allows users to wirelessly download one of the over 90,000 books in less than a minute. Don DeLillo‘s Falling Man jumped onto my Kindle with little effort. There’s no charge for data plan or monthly fee (“We pay for all of that behind the scenes so you can just read,” Bezos said.) and it holds up to 200 books. You can subscribe to newspapers, magazines and 300+ blogs for a monthly cost of between $.99 and $14.99. The Oxford American English Dictionary and Wikipedia come included as well.
Amazon.com didn’t let Bezos stump alone. The presentation included a video featuring Michael Lewis, James Patterson, Toni Morrison, Daniel Handler and other famous authors praising the Kindle. The Moneyball author offered the most glowing tribute, sounding as if the gadget changed his life. Can we expect a Portfolio article about it soon?
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