Online merchant Amazon.com Inc. is hoping to "kindle" interest in the still nascent market of e-books by introducing its own reader with free wireless connectivity, the aptly named Kindle. Monday's long-anticipated announcement comes as e-books remain a sliver of overall book sales, partly because they lack the comfort and intimacy of bound paper. Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said the online retailer spent three years developing the Kindle reader, which the company is selling online for $399. Pricing for the actual e-books will vary, but best sellers and new released are expected to go for $9.99 each.
According to Bezos, Amazon designed Kindle with the e-book's strengths in mind: it is thinner than most paperbacks and weighs 10.3 ounces, yet it can hold some 200 books, along with newspapers, magazines and an entire dictionary. Readers can buy and download books directly to the Kindle - without a PC - through Sprint Nextel Corp.'s high-speed EV-DO cellular network without fees or contract commitments. Kindle users can turn off wireless connectivity when they are on airplanes - though they also must shut off the device during takeoff and landing, prime reading time for some. Taking a page from Sony's playbook, the Kindle screen attempts to imitate the look of paper and has no backlight to reduce battery use and eyestrain, just like Sony's own e-book reader.