Kindle 2 Arrives, and So Do Rivals
By Geoffrey A. Fowler
The second generation of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader started shipping Monday – one day early to ensure Amazon meets a promised February 24 launch, the company said.
And there appears to be plenty more where that came from. The gadget is “in stock” on the Amazon Web site, for now, despite being the site’s top seller in electronics since it was introduced on February 9. That’s a big improvement from the supply problems that plagued the first generation of the device, which sold out soon after being unveiled in 2007 and was also out of stock for most of last year’s holiday shopping season.
Amazon won’t say how many Kindle 2 devices are shipping today, or how many Kindles have sold overall. In a statement, Amazon vice president Ian Freed said, “The response from customers to Kindle 2 has been tremendous.” (Enthusiasts can watch Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos talking about the device tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.)
Yet already a new service from a major bookseller, calling itself a “Kindle Killer,” is hoping to steal some of Kindle’s thunder. On Thursday, Canadian bookseller Indigo Books & Music is planning to launch Shortcovers, an e-book reading and buying program that works on devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, and in the coming months on other smartphone systems including Symbian and Windows, as well as on other gadgets such as the Palm Pre.
“We think the ability to use your existing device is definitely going to be a convenient aspect to the service, especially for a consumer that isn’t an avid reader,” said Michael Serbinis, the executive vice president of Shortcovers in an interview with this blog. Shortcovers says it will also distinguish itself with features that allow users to read the first chapter of books for free, as well as buy just single chapters of a book at a time. That could be helpful, for example, if you want just the chapter on one city in one of those chunky travel guides.
The service is clearly targeted at a younger, more attention-deficit afflicted reader, coming with the ability to share comments, create tags, and even Twitter while you read. “People are reading differently than they would with a print edition of a book. They are reading in shorter bursts, with higher frequency,” said Serbinis. “One eye is busy reading while the other eye is looking for authority, and context and relevance.”
Amazon spokesman Craig Berman said his company is also working on making Kindle books available on cellphones, but doesn’t have any details to share. Moreover, Amazon maintains there’s still plenty of need for a gadget that’s dedicated to plain old reading. “We also know that lots of people, especially people who love to read, want a purpose built-reading device, for the same reason you have a cell phone and a digital camera—you want a dedicated device for the things you love,” he said.