Amazon pushes Kindle book reader, but will anyone buy it?

As expected, Amazon debuted its $399 Kindle book reader at a Monday press event in New York. But will it be enough to finally help electronic books take off?

The retailer is ready to make a big deal out of the product as well: a letter from CEO Jeff Bezos greeted users visiting the Amazon.com front page beginning Monday morning. He says that Kindle was born of his interest in electronic books, and how they could be improved.

"Our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands -- to get out of the way -- so you can enjoy your reading," Bezos wrote. Amazon engineers had been working on the device for three years.

Kindle supports content from 90,000 sources, including 101 of 112 current best sellers and releases. Electronic books from Amazon are slightly more expensive than a typical book at $9.99 USD.

Subscriptions are also available for newspapers both foreign and domestic, ranging in price from $5.99 to $14.99 USD per month. Magazines run between $1.25 and $3.49 per month. Blogs will also be available for wireless delivery with rates starting at 99 cents a month.

Publishers will be able to upload their own content to the Kindle book store for sale through Amazon's "Digital Text Platform."

What seems to be incorrect from the initial reports of the device is third-party format support. The Kindle is compatible Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files, however not the popular PDF format out of the box. Amazon will convert PDF files to the Kindle format if they are sent to the company via e-mail.

Like initial reports indicated, the device does have EV-DO wireless connectivity, which would allow it to sync over the air with Amazon's online store from any location. This connectivity would be free, Amazon said, although as the fees above show, the company is making up the difference in other ways.

Up to six Kindle devices can be tied to the same account, which means they can share purchased book content. All devices can read the same book simultaneously as well.

One of biggest attractions to competitor Sony's Reader device was its high-resolution and high-contrast screen, which made it easy to read from. The Kindle screen is not backlit, but it will reflect like much like a piece of paper. Amazon says this will help to eliminate eyestrain.

Not everybody's sold on the Kindle, however. Some have already called the device a flop, pointing to its high price and what seems to be a general lack of interest among consumers for digital books. The Sony Reader has largely failed to catch on despite quite a bit of marketing from the electronics company.

"A lot of the comments remind me what was said when another ground breaking product was launched and folks called it 'an incredibly poor over priced device,'" JupiterResearch senior analysts Michael Gartenberg said, referring to Apple's iPod. Still, there's no denying the interest in digital music by the time the iPod made its debut; the same cannot be said for e-books.

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