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 anywhere, is 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, which 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.