October 26, 2008

Oprah Endorses Kindle E-book Reader

Amazon.com's Kindle just got a big boost on Friday when the $359 e-book reader received a rousing endorsement by popular media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Calling the Kindle her "favorite new gadget," Winfrey's endorsement was hinted at during a 24-second video advertisement displayed on Amazon's homepage.   The ad, which was shown directly above a Kindle promotion, directed viewers to Winfrey's show by saying she would be announcing  a "life-changing" device on her show.

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was on hand during Winfrey's show as she endorsed the Kindle by calling it the "wave of the future."

Although the device is pricy, Winfrey said she viewed it as an environmentally friendly investment.

"I know it's expensive in these times, but it's not frivolous because it will pay for itself," she said, according to a report in Information Week.

"The books are much cheaper, and you're saving paper," she said, referring to price of $9.99 or less that Amazon charges for all Kindle books.

Some of the books on Oprah's Kindle include The Audacity Of Hope by Barack Obama, Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones by Suzanne Somers, The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Forever War by Dexter Filkins and Crack The Fat-Loss Code: Outsmart Your Metabolism And Conquer The Diet Plateau by Wendy Chant.

An endorsement by the media superstar is widely coveted by many consumer-product companies. Winfrey's bookclub alone has catapulted many authors to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. And a recent University of Michigan study estimates that Winfrey's presidential endorsement of Senator Barack Obama would add 1 million votes to the Democratic nominee's final tally of votes.

Winfrey's Kindle endorsement could also provide more than just a boost in sales, and might propel the device from a niche product to a mainstream consumer staple.

Both the Kindle and its chief rival Sony Reader are capable of storing thousands of books, magazines, newspapers and other electronic documents. The devices,  both roughly the size of a slim paperback book, use the same display technology from E Ink, which displays crisp readable text even in sunlight. 

A key difference between the two devices is in the way in which books are purchased. For the Sony Reader, content must be purchased on a PC and then transferred to the Reader through a direct-wired connection. However, the Kindle comes equipped with  a cellular connection, offered at no additional charge, that allows users to purchase and download books directly from Amazon.  The Kindle also costs about $40 less than Sony's Reader.