30 July 2010

Kindle Launched in the UK

Eyebrows were raised by bibliophiles arriving on Amazon’s UK site yesterday.  Where had all the books gone?  Instead of the usual front page they were greeted with a possible vision of the future.  Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder had sent the readers of the UK a letter.  Not so much an ultimatum as an invitation. The Kindle had arrived in the UK. Or rather it will in late August.

Sales of digital books in the UK have been low since their inception.  Even last year the total sales of digital books accounted for less than one percent of the entire market, which is tiny if you compare it to the fact that in the UK out of five new books sold in the US, two will be hardbacks of the traditional variety.  The other three are all digital.

The Kindle has a few things going for it in the UK.  The most recent introduction to this marketplace was the iPad.  However, for most it proved to be too expensive, too big and way too heavy to be seriously considered as a reason to throw away a love affair with paper-based literature that goes back over a thousand years.  The Brits were not for turning.

However, the Kindle is cheaper.  Way cheaper.  Also it is lighter – it doesn’t even weigh as much as your average paperback.  Plus there are no distractions.  With the iPad there was the internet and those pesky applications to deal with – with Kindle it is just black text on a white background.  The simple aesthetics of the beast may well appeal to British readers.  With no distractions it will enable readers to do just – and simply – that.

Is there anything else that Kindle has to attract the till now firmly traditional readers the the United Kingdom?  Anything to raise a smile upon the face of the ardent bibliophile? With access to a million titles free, gratis – for nothing, plus another four hundred thousand available to download (very easily) from the store the Kindle certainly offers the biggest bookshop in the world (probably). Plus its anti-glare screen makes it look like you are reading off a clean piece of card - its as close look to paper as you are likely to get on a screen.

There are downsides, of course, not least for the publishing houses which are being pressed for cheaper ‘product’ and are not in a situation to develop and introduce their own readers.  On the other hand, if it increases the demand for literature can it be that bad.  Of course, knowing the British they will have a (potentially luddite) trick up their collective sleeve.

Additional Image Credits
Image Credt Flickr User GoxunuReviews - Girl Reading