Amazon's e-Book Reader Set For Gala Debut

The online retailer is expected to reveal its new e-book reader in high style.
Posted November 17, 2007

Kenneth Corbin

Amazon is expected to release its long-awaited e-book reading device Monday at a gala event in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Amazon's "Kindle" device could help the historically sluggish digital-book trade deliver on the promises analysts have been making since the late 1990s, touting e-books as a breakthrough technology.

Amazon would not make anyone available to confirm the announcement, but the W Hotel in the Union Square neighborhood in Manhattan confirmed that Amazon is hosting a major event on Monday. The Amazon employee coordinating the event did not return calls for comment.

In advance of the launch, Amazon began including "Kindle" links on the product pages of many of its titles that users will click on to purchase e-books for the new device.

The Kindle device will connect users to Amazon's e-book store through a built-in Wi-Fi connection, and will likely retail for $399, according to reports.

Amazon has not worked with the industry association for standardization in digital publishing to incorporate the .epub standard into the reported Kindle e-book reader, according to Michael Smith, executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), formerly known as the Open eBook Forum.

Smith told that the IDPF would reach out to Amazon to encourage it to adopt the .epub standard, as other companies have with their own products.

"Adobe's completely adopted our .epub standard," Smith said, adding that "Sony's announced plans to implement .epub."

Mobipocket, a unit of Amazon, has worked with the IDPF in developing its e-book reader.

The standardization process began through a collaborative industry effort funded by companies like Microsoft and Palm. Using the .epub XML format, publishers can make their digital publications available on a variety of devices using different software applications.

With no help from Kindle, the e-book industry has shown some signs of growth in recent years.

Sales of trade e-books are projected to reach $30 million this year, according to the IDPF. In 2006, e-book sales reached $20 million, nearly doubling from the year before.

The IDPF believes that more customers would purchase e-books if a wider selection of titles were available and if pricing became more competitive with print.

Sony recently released the second version of its own reader. In September, Borders Group announced an expansion of its exclusive partnership with Sony to distribute titles through the Digital Book Reader.

Borders also announced that it would launch a co-branded version of Sony's online-book store.

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