Amazon to Unveil the Kindle Fire Today: First Real Competitor to the iPad?

  • Amazon is expected to announce its long-awaited Android tablet this morning at a press event in New York City.
  • The 7-inch backlit Kindle Fire is expected to launch by the second week of November, just in time for the holidays. “The iPad has many challengers, but analysts say Amazon’s could be different — it has a chance to be more than a wannabe,” reports The New York Times.
  • Amazon built its own custom version of Android, has included a streaming video service, and will feature the Amazon MP3 service and the Kindle bookstore.
  • In related news from The Hollywood Reporter, major magazine publishers — including Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith — have signed deals to sell digital versions of their publications. One big holdout is Time Inc., but it’s being reported that a deal could be reached “hopefully by the end of the year.”
  • One publisher with an Amazon deal said: “You’ve got beauty and design with Apple, which we love. But with Amazon you have marketing, and ease of use. We’re very optimistic.”
  • Amazon’s terms seem to be similar to those offered by Apple. Publishers get 70 percent of Amazon sales while the retailer shares customer information with the publisher. But, the report notes that those numbers could fluctuate depending on the title and customer offer.
  • We’ll have more on this story following the press event…

Amazon Kindle Lending Program Adds New Dimension to Public Libraries

  • Amazon announced this week that it has launched a new lending library initiative, allowing Kindle users to “check out” e-books from registered library websites.
  • Users will be able to rent books on their Kindle from more than 11,000 participating public libraries across the country.
  • Readers will also be encouraged to take notes on the e-books they check out: “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book,” said Amazon in a statement.
  • The books are available on Kindle devices or through the Kindle app for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

The Rumors are True: First Look at the Amazon Kindle Tablet

  • Amazon is reportedly close to production on its long-rumored tablet device. TechCrunch provides a fascinating first-person report on the Android-based Kindle (but sorry, no pictures yet).
  • The device will initially feature a 7-inch color touchscreen with a 10-inch model coming next year. The interface is Amazon’s and the main screen resembles iTunes Cover Flow with a carousel of books, apps, movies. It is built on top of pre 2.2 Android. It will NOT be getting Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • It will be integrated with Amazon’s content store, which is one-click away. Apps will be available though Amazon’s Android App Store (and not Google’s Android Market). Additionally, the book reader is the Kindle app, the music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player and the movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. There is no camera.
  • The device is expected to include a free subscription to Amazon Prime, which will provide access to Amazon Instant Video.
  • TechCrunch anticipates an end of November launch at a cost of $250. There are many more details in the article…

Andrew Losowsky Examines Reading In Four Dimensions

  • Andrew Losowsky, books editor for The Huffington Post, has released “Reading in Four Dimensions” (available as a 99-cent Kindle Single) — a fascinating essay on the future of publishing and how the Internet has impacted the reading experience.
  • Many of us are publishing in new ways via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. Readers are interacting with these “works” in a kind of social reading environment, which changes the way stories are written and read.
  • Physical books will get better, but there will be fewer of them. Books do not change like Web entries that become features and can travel with you like a time machine that catalogues the thinking of that time.
  • The TechCrunch post includes a video interview with Losowsky that addresses key points from his essay, including “how print brings permanence to digital publishing, how the concept of ‘publishing’ has translated online and the value of paper books in our increasingly digital world.”

Amazon Sales on the Rise, but Expansion is Costly

  • Amazon announced this week that its revenue increased a staggering 51 percent to $9.9 billion in Q2, with significant help from the highly successful ad-supported Kindle (now the most popular version of the e-reader).
  • Amazon finance chief Tom Szkutak explains this marks the Seattle-based company’s best growth rate in 10 years.
  • However, the growth also comes at a cost; profit declined 8 percent as the world’s largest online retailer continued to invest in fulfillment centers and digital offerings. Additionally, operating expenses rose 54 percent.
  • Amazon also had 5,300 new hires in the quarter, giving the company a total of 43,200 employees, up from 28,300 a year ago.
  • Investors appear unruffled by Amazon’s infrastructure spending; stock rose 5.7 percent to $226.40 on Tuesday.

Insiders say Amazon Plans to Launch an iPad Rival

  • Amazon may be selling a tablet computer as early as October, report people familiar with the matter.
  • The new tablet is expected to feature a 9-inch screen and run on Android’s operating system (but will reportedly not include a camera). An Amazon-designed second tablet may be available next year.
  • Amazon is still expected to introduce two new Kindles in the third quarter.
  • With its own online retail operation, Amazon is well positioned to compete with Apple. Moreover, one analyst says Amazon can offer a cheaper alternative and make up the difference with movie, music and book sales.

Amazon Launches its New Ad-Supported Kindle

Amazon announced that its new ad-supported Kindle will launch April 27, nearly a week earlier than originally expected. The e-reader — dubbed Kindle with Special Offers — will ship for $114 through Amazon, Target and Best Buy (that’s $25 less than the Wi-Fi only version).

According to Amazon, the cost reduction is a result of the device being subsidized by advertising. Early sponsors include General Motors, Proctor & Gamble and Visa. “Special offers” will be made available directly to the new Kindle related to Amazon.com gift cards, audible books and products from the various Amazon stores.

The latest Kindle is 21 percent smaller and 17 percent lighter than its predecessor, but features the same 6-inch reading area. The company claims the device features the “most advanced E Ink Pearl display technology” and touts 50 percent improved screen contrast with crisper, darker fonts.

It’s worth noting that the ad-supported model is getting more press than the Kindle’s new specs. We’ve seen similar approaches with other devices and services in the past, with mixed results. It will be interesting to see how consumers respond.

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