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Friday, June 19, 2009

Jeff Bezos reveals some Kindle enhancements and comments on Google Book Search

On Monday, at Wired Magazine’s Disruptive by Design Conference, Jeff Bezos revealed some interesting information about the Kindle, its e-book store, as well as Amazon's opinion of Google Book Search. According to a posting on the Bits Blog, Amazon is planning to expand its reach by making Kindle books available for more mobile and computing devices. Currently, the books are only available via the Kindle device or the Kindle iPhone app. Bezos also implied that support for other reading formats will be added to the Kindle but did not elaborate on what that might include. In addition, Bezos explained the rational for the price of Kindles. He said that Amazon considered offering a lower upfront cost for the device with a subscription type commitment but prefers that the two sides of the business operate independently so that neither one is subsidizing the other. Bezos commented, “My opinion, and so far the market has responded to our approach, is very simple. Instead of driving the cogitative complexity of a two-year commitment, tell people, ‘This is the actual cost of the device.’” Bezos noted that if customers prefer a lower priced device with higher operating fees he will consider the approach.

According to another posting on The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Bezos said that of the 300,000 books that are available for the Kindle and in traditional format via Amazon.com, Kindle unit sales represent 35% of total Amazon book sales. Bezos commented, “Internally, we are startled and astonished by that statistic.” He went on to say, “I didn’t understand all of the failings of a physical book, because I’m inured to them. But you can’t turn the page with one hand. The book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment. They’re heavy. It’s had a great 500-year run. It’s an unbelievably successful technology. But it’s time to change.”

An article from CNET says that when asked about Google Book Search, Bezos commented, “We have strong opinions about that issue which I’m not going to share. But clearly, that settlement in our opinion needs to be revisited and it is being revisited.” He added, “There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn’t seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyright.” Google responded to Bezos’ comments via a posting on their Public Policy Blog that suggests that the comments were likely motivated by its Google Edition initiative. The new initiative will let publishers sell in-print e-books direct to consumers and therefore put Amazon in direct competition with Google for control of the e-book market. Note - Some sources have referred to this initiative as “Google Edition” but it is referred to as “Google Books” in the posting.

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