Amazon.com is shipping its latest-generation Kindle to customers Aug. 25, two days ahead of the previously announced release date. In the month since its unveiling, according to the online retailer, the new device is on pace to outsell its predecessors.
Although Amazon habitually refuses to offer shipment data related to its e-reader franchise, if those sales numbers prove authentic, it would suggest the Kindle is holding its own against the combined threat of the Apple iPad and other e-readers saturating the market. Amazon's U.S. Kindle Store now holds more than 670,000 e-books, with roughly a third of those added in the past seven months.
Amazon announced the third-generation Kindle July 28, revealing a device with a higher-contrast e-ink screen, longer battery life, Wikipedia access, support for password-protected PDFs and a more lightweight body. The Kindle retails for $189, while a WiFi-only version costs $139. Within days of that announcement, Amazon posted a "temporarily sold out" on the Kindle page.
The Kindle WiFi's sticker price undercuts that of Barnes & Noble's Nook WiFi by $10, yet another move in the long-running price war between the two booksellers. On June 21, hours after Barnes & Noble dropped the cost of its original Nook to $189, Amazon matched that price for the Kindle.
A few days after the new Kindle's debut, two downloadable puzzle games appeared in the Kindle Store. That seemed an attempt to match the Nook's selection of Android-based games, and the latest in the rivals' efforts to load more software applications onto their respective devices. In January, Amazon announced a Kindle SDK (software development kit) for developers to create games and applications for the platform, and deliver them via Amazon Whispernet; the Nook's newer software features include "Read In Store," which allows the device's users to browse the retailer's e-library for free inside any Barnes & Noble location.
Despite those battles for mind- and market-share within the e-reader segment, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble may face their biggest threat 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."