Amazon Aiming to Kindle Textbook Market?

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Amazon.com‘s Kindle electronic reader set out to redefine—well, really, define—a mass market for electronic books. And while sales of the Kindle device have reportedly been decent, for the most part the Kindle hasn’t blown away the consumer marketplace: plenty of folks are taking a wait-and-see attitude to see how the electronic book market develops and whether Amazon.com can really create an ecosystem around delivering electronic texts and information to proprietary portable readers.

According to a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Amazon.com is eyeing the college textbook market, with McAdams Write Ragen analyst Tim Bueneman writing in an email message "There are already several new, improved versions of the Kindle in the works," and that Amazon.com sees an opportunity to market the Kindle to college students. Bueneman noted that he expects to see an improved Kindle interface in future versions.

Earlier media reports have Amazon working on at least two new version of the Kindle, one an update of the current model and a larger version about the size of an 8.5- by 11-inch piece of paper. No launch dates or pricing has been offered for new Kindle models, but speculation has them launching in 2009. Amazon has already missed the best window of opportunity to move a textbook-specific version of the Kindle to college students this year, and the company doesn’t seem to be targeting the end-of-year holiday season either.

A Kindle targeting the college textbook market could be especially appealing: students routinely spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars a semester on textbooks, which they often resell once their classes are complete. Even if a newer, larger Kindle were more expensive than the current $359 model, if the textbooks were substantially cheaper than the printed editions, Amazon could have a winner on its hands, and do well by textbook publishers, who are increasingly wary of textbooks being scanned cover-to-cover and being distributed via the Internet. Certainly not every textbook is suitable for conversion to the Kindle—and the Kindle may well have to offer more memory and new features to accommodate a heap of large textbooks—but the appeal of hauling a single device to the library rather than a handtruck of texts is undeniable.

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