Amazon launches wireless book reader "Kindle"
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amazon.com <AMZN.O>, the world's largest Web retailer, said on Monday it will begin selling an electronic book reader with wireless access, the latest attempt to build consumer interest in portable reading devices.
Although the market for e-books is limited, and competing devices have yet to catch on, one analyst said Amazon's book reader could eventually evolve into one that is able to capture all of the company's many offerings.
The battery-operated Amazon Kindle will sell for $399 and let users download books, newspapers and blogs over a wireless connection. It can carry about 200 books downloaded from Amazon.com at about $10 each for new releases.
Wireless access, based on the cellphone broadband technology EVDO, is built into the 10-ounce, thin white device. Downloading content does not require a computer and takes less than a minute for a full-length book, the company said.
"The question is, can you improve upon something as highly evolved and well-suited to its task as the book? And if so, how?," Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said at a press conference in New York.
The device's screen is not back-lit and uses electronic ink to mimic paper. The competing Sony Reader from Sony Corp <6758.T> uses similar technology but does not include wireless access.
In a note to customers on the company's Web site, http://www.amazon.com, Bezos wrote: "The book lover in me often has asked the nerd in me: 'Is there a way to get the emotions and experiences I love from books, but combined with the possibilities of advanced technology?"'
Seattle-based Amazon began as an online bookseller but has since grown into the world's largest Web retailer and second-most-popular e-commerce site behind eBay Inc <EBAY.O>, selling everything from scooters to diamonds to groceries.
In recent years it has beefed up its spending on technology; but pull-backs in spending in the past year and resulting improved profits have caused Amazon's share price to nearly double since January.
KINDLE THE TROJAN HORSE?
In a research note, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Scott Devitt said the device "has the capacity to recreate the e-book business, as well as several other long-term options."
"With time, we believe Amazon Kindle could be Amazon.com's Trojan Horse into a complete 'always on' connection to all Amazon offerings," Devitt wrote.
Amazon already allows consumers to download videos through its Amazon Unbox service, as well as music through its recently-launched Amazon MP3 store -- measures designed to ensure consumer loyalty and get a foothold into the nascent digital arena.
The Kindle service will also offer subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and blogs for a monthly fee. Subscriptions to newspapers such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal will range from $5.99 to $14.99. Magazine subscriptions will range from $1.25 to $3.49 per month.
Amazon will offer subscriptions to blogs at a cost of about 99 cents.
Amazon said it currently offers more than 90,000 books. Downloading and reading the first chapters of most books is free.
Amazon shares were up 0.7 percent, or 56 cents, to $79.16 in early afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage)
(Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Brian Moss)