Amazon launches Kindle e-book reader

Amazon.com launches Kindle, an e-book reader.

Amazon.com has unveiled its portable e-book reader, which allows people to wirelessly download books, blogs, newspapers and magazines, the company announced Monday.

The Kindle e-book reader is about the size of a paperback book, weighing 10.3 ounces (292 grams), and its screen is designed to look like real paper, allowing users to read in direct sunlight, the company said in a news release. More than 90,000 books are available in the Kindle store, including 101 of the 112 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases.

Books cost US$9.99 unless marked otherwise, Amazon.com said. Kindle is available starting Monday for US$399.

Amazon.com has been working on the e-book reader for three years, Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, said in a statement. "Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands -- to get out of the way -- so you can enjoy your reading," Bezos added. "We also wanted to go beyond the physical book. Kindle is wireless, so whether you're lying in bed or riding a train, you can think of a book, and have it in less than 60 seconds."

Kindle uses an EVDO (Evolution Data only) wireless network, Amazon Whispernet, to download books. Users won't need to find Wi-Fi hotspots or synch their Kindles with computers, Amazon.com said. Books can generally be downloaded in less than a minute, and several magazines, newspapers and blogs are automatically delivered to subscribers.

Subscribers pay no monthly wireless network fees and sign no service contracts; the cost of the network is included in the cost of books, Amazon.com said.

Kindle uses a high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, creating a black-and-white screen designed to be as easy to read as printed paper, Amazon.com said. The screen works using ink, but displays the ink particles electronically. It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlight, designed to eliminate the glare associated with electronic displays such as computer monitors or PDA (personal digital assistant) screens.

Among the magazines and newspapers available are the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly, Time and Fortune. The Kindle Store also includes top newspapers from France, Germany and Ireland, including Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine and the Irish Times. Subscriptions are auto-delivered wirelessly to Kindle overnight so that the latest edition is waiting for customers when they wake up.

Monthly Kindle newspaper subscriptions are US$5.99 to US$14.99 per month, and Kindle magazines are US$1.25 to US$3.49 per month. All magazines and newspapers include a free two-week trial.

The Kindle store also has more than 300 blogs on topics including Internet and technology, culture, humor, and politics. Among the blogs available are Slashdot, The Onion, The Huffington Post and ESPN posts. Blogs are updated throughout the day. Wireless delivery of blogs costs as little as US$0.99 each per month and includes a free two-week trial.

The Kindle device's built-in memory stores more than 200 titles, and hundreds more with an optional SD memory card. Amazon.com backs up a copy of every book purchased, so that customers can make room for new titles on their Kindle.

Kindle also has built-in access to The New Oxford American Dictionary, which contains over 250,000 entries and definitions, and to Wikipedia.org, and its collection of over 2 million articles.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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