Amazon Kindle Goes Global, Wireless


Steal this e-reader: Amazon’s new Kindle is going global.

Introduced late Tuesday, the new Kindle will be available for the first time in over 100 countries, with the capacity to download books and periodicals on AT&T and international partner wireless networks.

Through the Kindle store, consumers worldwide will have a choice of 200,000 titles, and US consumers a choice of 350,000 titles, from publishers Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet, Penguin, Bloomsbury and Hachette. Expected to ship October 19, the international version will retail for $279, while the US versions pricetag will drop $40, to $259.

Consumer interest is expected to build this holiday season. CNET reports that Forrester Research recently upped their 2009 sales forecast for US e-readers to 3 million units, from earlier targets of 2 million, with about 60% market share for Kindle and 35% for Sony’s Reader.[more]

According to Bloomberg, e-book sales have begun to outpace traditional book sales, with digital sales doubling in the first half of the year to $61.2 million — boosting total book sales 1.8%. Amazon’s share of the e-book sales marketplace is marginal, as Barnes & Noble launched their own “device agnostic” e-book application this summer. With Amazon’s efforts to create a device-agnostic application stalled, it has launched an application for the iPhone and iPod touch and is currently developing other apps.

Forrester sees price as a barrier to e-reader adoption. Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps estimates that Amazon needs to lower the Kindle’s price point by $50, to $249, to compete with Sony’s Reader at $199. Perhaps the $40 decrease will do the trick?

Identical in design to its predecessor, the new Kindle is a disappointment to critics who were hoping Amazon would introduce a touch screen and build up its web applications. Valleywag called Amazon “a modern day Don Quixote” for not expanding the Kindle beyond its e-book origins to fend off challenges for market share from Apple’s forthcoming “Tablet.”

But though Apple’s loyalists assume the Tablet will overshadow the e-reader market, Kindle maintains a brand-identity edge. The Kindle appeals by catering to consumers’ priorities, not by creating the “killer app.”  Amazon is showing prudence in not trying to preempt Apple with an iPhone-like touch screen or unnecessary web-based applications that add weight and decrease visibility, battery life and portability.

Amazon’s Kindle is better recognized than other e-readers, and is nearly synonymous with the product. This allows Kindle to maintain strong appeal for consumers looking for an electronic book reader, not a net book or tablet PC. To remain competitive, however, it will have to continue to lower prices, offer more titles, and rush a multi-platform application for mobile devices to market.