Amazon.com's third-generation Kindle has temporarily sold out, according to the online retailer, with orders apparently expected to ship on or before Sept. 4. Amazon is currently battling Barnes & Noble, Apple and other e-reader manufacturers for e-reader market share.
Amazon.com's Kindle may be in fierce competition against the Apple iPad and
other e-readers, but that apparently hasn't dampened consumer enthusiasm for
the latest version of the device: Amazon now lists the Kindle as "temporarily
sold out," with orders expected to ship "on or before September 4th."
The cheaper Kindle WiFi, which lacks a 3G connection for downloading books
also sold out. The larger-screen Kindle DX remains in stock, however.
Amazon announced its third-generation Kindle e-reader July 28, in a bid to
leapfrog both the iPad and e-readers such as Barnes & Noble's Nook, which
have squeezed a market that Amazon once comfortably dominated, at least with
regard to mindshare. The newest Kindle features a 6-inch e-ink screen with 50
percent better contrast, a body that's 21 percent smaller and 15 percent
lighter, and an advertised battery life of up to one month.
In a bid to make the Kindle more appealing as a personal-document device-and
to presumably counter smaller e-reader manufacturers planning devices for that
market segment-Amazon also added support for password-protected PDFs, Wikipedia
access and dictionary lookup to the device.
The Kindle retails for $189, and the Kindle WiFi for $139. Both were
originally scheduled to ship Aug. 27.
Since early 2009, when some analysts dismissed them as largely a niche
product, e-readers have managed to grow in both features and popularity. After
months of tit-for-tat software upgrades, which saw the introduction of
Android-based games for the Nook and social-networking integration for the
Kindle, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble took their cold war to a new level
with radical price cuts. On June 21, the Nook's cost dropped to $189; not to be
outdone, Amazon lowered the Kindle's price tag to $189 that same afternoon.
Barnes & Noble also introduced a WiFi-only version of the Nook for $149,
Amazon's new Kindle WiFi undercuts by $10.
Despite the back-and-forth between the two companies, their biggest
competitive threat may have arrived in the form of the Apple iPad, which
includes an e-reader application.
"Last night, Apple stated it has shipped 3.27 [million] iPads since the
April product launch, surpassing our estimate for an installed base of [around
3 million] Amazon Kindles to date despite supply constraints," Marianne
Wolk, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote in a co-authored July
21 analyst report. "As [Apple's] supply constraints ease, Apple iPad
shipments should ramp and it could ship as many as 12 to 15 [million] iPads in
2010-a compelling base for publishers to consider."
Although Amazon has argued that the Kindle's e-ink screen offers a better
reading experience and battery life than backlit screens such as the iPad and
traditional desktops, it has nonetheless been aggressive in pushing its Kindle
e-reader application for the iPad, PCs and a plethora of mobile devices.
On Aug. 2, Connecticut
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced an investigation of book
publishers, Apple and Amazon over "agreements ... that may block competitors
from offering cheaper e-book prices." Should that investigation gain
momentum, it could add yet another wrinkle to what has already become a very
complex competitive arena.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.