Amazon seeks more paths for sales with new Kindle

May 06, 2009 By RACHEL METZ , AP Technology Writer
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle DX at a news conference Wednesday, May 6, 2009 in New York. The Kindle DX has a larger 9.7 inch screen than its predecessor, the Kindle 2, and can be ordered for $489 for delivery this summer. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(AP) -- Amazon.com Inc. hopes a bigger version of its Kindle electronic reading device can be a hit, even if it's more expensive, and the company is aiming it in part at college students who are eager to save money on their textbooks.

Since the Kindle debuted in 2007, it has jazzed many users and technophiles, but electronic readers from Amazon and rivals such as Sony Corp. are still in an early stage. Amazon has not disclosed Kindle sales figures, and the publishing industry has said e-books account for less than 1 percent of book sales.

Now, by offering the larger, $489 version of the Kindle and the smaller $359 Kindle 2, Amazon will try to open more avenues for digital versions of books - and other kinds of content. The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post plan pilot programs in which they will offer the new Kindle at a discount to some readers who sign up for subscriptions to read the news on the device.

In an interview, Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said that because the newest Kindle has a 9.7-inch screen, it will be better suited than the 6-inch regular Kindle at showing "complex layouts" in everything from cookbooks to travel guides.

"Things like those that have a lot of layout, structure, look really good on a big screen," he said on the sidelines of a press event Wednesday at Pace University in New York.

The Kindle already had features that could aid textbook reading, like the ability to highlight and bookmark passages. Users could tap the Kindle's typewriter-layout keyboard to look up words and annotate text. But in addition to a larger screen, the new version also offers more data storage - room for 3,500 books instead of 1,500 on the Kindle 2.

Three - Pearson PLC, Cengage Learning and John Wiley & Sons Inc. - have agreed to sell books on the device. Collectively, they publish 60 percent of all higher-education textbooks, Bezos said.

At least six universities have agreed to run Kindle pilots in the fall - Pace, Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. The schools will work with publishers to make sure books assigned for courses are available in the Kindle format, and some colleges might subsidize the devices for their students.

Case Western President Barbara Snyder said her school will be looking to see whether the device changes how students take notes, study and communicate with each other and their professors. Using the Kindle DX "opens a new world of educational opportunity," she said.

For students, the biggest advantage could be the lower cost of electronic textbooks. Reading material on the Kindle is consistently less expensive than printed versions, with new releases of mass-market books typically costing $10, for example.

A 2005 Government Accountability Office report said the average cost is $900 per year for students at four-year public colleges, though the textbook industry argues the figure is closer to $625. Typically the prices are high because publishers are trying to capture as many sales as possible in the first year of release, before students can buy used versions.

Though Amazon currently sells physical textbooks, Bezos believes electronic versions will eventually dominate. "It just makes so much sense," he said.

Whether portable, electronic versions of newspapers make sense will remain to be seen. But publishers that have struggled to get people to pay for digital versions of news stories in Web browsers are exploring the Kindle and similar devices.

"Ultimately, this is about providing our readers with what they want and need," said New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who joined Bezos on stage for the event.

When the Kindle 2 was unveiled, NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin predicted that for e-book readers to reach broader audiences, the price would have to come down - something he didn't expect to happen until must-haves like textbooks became available for the devices. Since the Kindle DX actually costs quite a bit more than the Kindle 2, "it makes sense to explore ... other forms of distribution, such as subsidization by newspapers," Rubin said.

Bezos said another potential improvement in the - a color screen - is being explored but "many years away from commercial readiness."

"The electronic paper display we're using now, that was in the lab for 13 years," he said.

Amazon shares dropped 92 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $80.98 in afternoon trading.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Microsoft reports strong sales of XBox One

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amazon unveils large-screen Kindle DX

May 06, 2009

Online retail giant Amazon.com unveiled a large-screen version of its popular Kindle electronic reader on Wednesday designed for newspapers, magazines and textbooks.

Amazon expected to lift wraps on large-screen Kindle

May 04, 2009

Amazon.com is widely expected to lift the wraps on a new large-screen Kindle device this week, which could be the first in a line of electronic reading devices geared toward newspapers and textbooks.

Amazon.com buys Stanza e-book app maker Lexcycle

Apr 28, 2009

(AP) -- Kindle e-book retailer Amazon.com Inc. has purchased Lexcycle, a year-old company that makes the iPhone e-book application Stanza, in a move that ratchets up Amazon's presence in the electronic book market.

Recommended for you

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Apr 17, 2014

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...