Amazon.com introduced the Kindle 2, a new version of its popular e-book reader, on Monday in a blatant attempt to stand up to Google, and perhaps Apple, in the fast-growing business of e-books.
The announcement reinforces Amazon's bid to control the e-book market and the devices users use to read them.
Amazon hopes that the Kindle will become the iPod of the literary world, challenging printed books.
Perhaps most significantly, Amazon indicated that it would start selling e-books that can be read on mobile phones and other devices, although it did not specify when it will begin to do so or which devices will be compatible with its system.
The Kindle 2 includes several important improvements over its predecessor, which went on sale in 2007. Amazon noted that this new version has seven times more memory than the original, turns the pages faster and has a sharper screen.
It also features a new design with round keys and a small joystick-like controller, moving away from the previous design that some buyers had criticized as complicated. The device will hit the market on February 24. The price is still $ 359.
For $ 3.99, all Kindle users will be able to purchase a Stephen King short story that will be exclusive to the Kindle for a limited time.
"Our vision is that all books - all printed, in any language - are available in less than 60 seconds," said Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and president of Amazon.
Amazon also announced a new tool called Whispersync, which will allow readers to start a book on a Kindle and continue reading, at the same point in the text, from another Kindle or a mobile phone.
Analysts indicate that this move by Amazon is aimed at establishing itself as the dominant e-commerce platform for books, a position similar to that taken by Apple in the world of music with its iTunes store.
However, according to Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Interpret, a market research firm, “for the Kindle format to be truly successful, it will need to go beyond being a very expensive device with broad, but limited, attractiveness and be capable of to transfer its contents to other devices like the iPhone ”.
Amazon will have to face a serious challenge from Google, which has scanned some seven million books, many of them out of print. Last week, Google announced that it will soon start selling books from its publishing partners that can be read on mobile phones like Apple's iPhone and those running its Android operating system.
Apple poses another potential threat to Amazon's plans, as several companies have developed programs for reading e-books on the iPhone and iPod Touch, which have already been downloaded more than a million times.
However, Bezos pointed out that reading on these types of devices can be fine while waiting, for example, in a supermarket queue, but most people will prefer a specific device with a specialized screen for reading.
"If we intend to read for a couple of hours, with a mobile phone we will have problems with the battery, our eyes will get tired and the size of the screen will bother us," he said. "Reading is an important activity and deserves a device built specifically for that purpose."
Source: The New York Times