That and numerous other interesting facts are available in this NYRB article about the iPad and the future of publishing, wherein it is noted that Mr. Steve Jobs ate a little humble pie when he decided to get in on ebooks. After all, this was the same Jobs who declared not so long ago when the Kindle came out:
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the US read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
The article also discusses the other e-reader of note, Barnes & Noble’s Nook:
When the Nook was announced, tech pundits wondered aloud if it would be a “Kindle killer.” It wasn’t, because, while it generally improves on Amazon’s model by, for example, being easier to navigate, it’s basically the same thing—a small, lightweight, pocketable, durable, black-and-white book reader. Both are simple to operate. Both allow access to hundreds of thousands of titles, the Kindle through Amazon’s extensive bookstore, the Nook through Barnes and Noble’s. While I prefer the Nook because it connects to the Internet through both Wi-Fi and 3G, unlike the Kindle, which has only 3G connectivity and is not operable without being tethered to a computer to retrieve books in certain geographic regions (like mine) with poor access to 3G, the reading experience is indistinguishable.
And then, of course, there is the bit about Amazon trying like crazy to build market share for the Kindle:
Somehow, maybe by focus group, maybe by luck, Amazon determined that the ideal price point was $9.99 and made that the sticker price for most of its titles, despite hardback prices that were often more than twice that, despite losing money on them, and despite many publishers’ belief that cheap e-books were going to cut into their bread-and-butter retail sales. For better or worse, there was a catnip quality to the $9.99 book, much the way there was for the 99-cent song. By May 2009, Kindle downloads accounted for 35 percent of Amazon’s book sales when there was a Kindle edition available, as the folks over at Apple were well aware, since a lot of those sales were coming through the Kindle app, not the Kindle itself.
My guess is that Amazon is currently working on a supercharged version of the Kindle, able to seriously compete with the iPad in terms of things like Web browsing and accessories. That’s my guess, although I hope it’s not, since I actually prefer e-readers with less connectivity, not more. As the article notes:
And, perhaps most crucially, even though the move is on to add Web browsing, so far electronic book readers reduce the temptation to check e-mail or the baseball score or stock prices or headlines or Twitter or all of the above every few minutes, allowing a reader to do what readers typically like to do most: get lost in the pages of a book. That the pages are not made of paper, that the ink is made from electrical charges, does not matter.