Friday, July 30, 2010

Amazon to launch Kindle store in the UK in August

29.07.10 | Philip Jones in The Bookseller

Amazon is to launch the Kindle store in the UK this summer and has unveiled a third generation Kindle, with two new devices priced at £149 and £109. The move sees the giant retailer ratchet up the battle over digital reading in the UK following the launch of Apple's iBookstore in the UK at the end of May and the expected launch of Google Editions in the summer.

Amazon said the store would open on 27th August, the same day that it will begin shipping the two new devices. The Kindle was launched internationally last October, but up until now book buyers have had to buy books in US dollars from, severely limiting the impact of the device in the UK. Amazon is promising to have 400,000 Kindle editions in the store at the "lowest prices", but it has not divulged what the cost of bestsellers will be in the UK--something that will be a key concern to British publishers. The company said: "No other e-bookstore in the UK offers this many books or bestsellers."

The two new devices promise Amazon’s "all-new electronic ink display with 50 percent better contrast for the clearest text and sharpest images" and faster page turning. The £109 device comes only with Wi-Fi for those who don't want free 3G wireless. The new Kindle has a 21% smaller body while still keeping the same 6-inch-size reading area. At 8.7 ounces (247 grams), the new devices are 15% lighter and still 1/3 of an inch thin. Amazon also promises that a single battery charge will now last up to one month.

"Kindle is the bestselling product on Amazon for two years running. We lowered the price to $189 and sales growth tripled. Now, we are excited to introduce a new generation Kindle that is smaller, lighter, and faster, with 50% better contrast. Readers are going to do a double take when they see Kindle's bright new screen and feel how remarkably light the smaller 8.7 ounce design feels in one hand," said Jeff Bezos, founder & c.e.o.. "At this price point, many people are going to buy multiple units for the home and family."

And from the other side of the Atlantic here is PublishersLunch on the same subject:

New Kindle Slims Are Everything iPad Isn't
Last night Amazon announced two new models of their Kindle ereader available for pre-order for delivery starting August 27, and with a new wi-fi only model to sell for a low, low $139 they are continuing to press the price competition as well. Still able to attract high-profile press from all over, Amazon ceo Jeff Bezos trumpets the less expensive model as a "mass market device," even as it follows the $149 wi-fi Nook and Borders/Kobo $149 plus $20 gift card reader. Amazon's new wireless model will still sell for $189. With the current model out of stock and not coming back, they will accrue pre-orders for the new generation device, according to company executive Russ Grandinetti.

Bezos's most quotable line from his press tour is this response to USA Today (expressed elsewhere in similar terms by Amazon vp Steve Kessel): "I predict we [Kindle] will surpass paperback sales sometime in the next nine to 12 months. Sometime after that, we'll surpass the combination of paperback and hardcover."

The new models both use the next version of eInk screen technology, as first featured in the new SuperKindle models, promising "50 percent better contrast." The latest versions seem designed to be what the iPad isn't--very slim, light, easy to hold in one hand, and lower-priced. And they mostly just read books. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A case redesign has made the body 21 percent smaller without sacrificing screen size. Having previewed an early model, they are indeed extra light in the hand and slim, now said to be just 8.7 ounces. The page-turning buttons have been further refined, as has a large rectangular navigational "rocker" device.

Other refinements include a battery the company says will last for one month on a single charge, more storage, a graphite case option, and "20 percent faster page turns."

...And the UK Gets a Native Kindle and eBookstore
At the same time that Amazon releases two new models of the Kindle ereader on August 27, the company will launch the machines in the UK, available for the first time for direct sale from Amazon UK in British sterling. Previously, UK customers could buy Kindles priced in dollars from Amazon's US site, incurring shipping charges and other fees.

That said, UK customers will still pay comparatively more for their devices based on current exchange rates, with the wireless Kindle priced at 149 pounds (roughly 230 dollars) and the new wi-fi only version selling for 109 pounds (or about 170 dollars). Wireless service is being provided by Vodafone.

The company is also launching a UK Kindle store that they say will feature over 400,000 books and 85 out of 100 Nielsen UK bestsellers. Since UK customers will be buying from a local ebookstore instead of purchasing files from Amazon's US site, they will now incur VAT on their ebook purchases. But company executive Russ Grandinetti says that local prices (in pounds) plus VAT will still offer good value, and should not mean that UK customers are paying any more than they did when buying dollar-priced ebooks from the US. The company dropped the overseas wireless delivery charges months ago.

The Bookseller adds that no publisher will be selling ebooks via Amazon UK on an agency basis--even those companies that are selling directly through Apple's UK iBookstore.

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