Oprah Kuddles the Kindle

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The power of Oprah Winfrey’s book recommendations is well-known: if the wildly popular talk show host and business magnate selects a title for her book club, the tome is virtually guaranteed bestseller status—even if some of the books she’s selected have led to their fair share of controversy. Oprah has decided to focus mostly on classic titles lately, but that doesn’t mean she’s turned her back on new developments: Oprah has blessed the Amazon Kindle as her “favorite new gadget”—and she’s offering her viewers a $50 discount on the device through November 1, 2008. Now, industry watchers are wondering if Oprah’s support will be enough to finally push electronic readers into the mainstream.

Winfrey describes her initial resistance to the idea of an electronic reader, but after trying the device described it as “life-changing” and “the wave of the future.” And, acknowledging its $359 price tag is a little steep, she pointed to the environmental impact of the purchase, since books for the Kindly cost $9.99 on Amazon.com, and don’t require any paper. “I know it’s expensive in these times, but it’s not frivolous because it will pay for itself,” she said on her show.

Historically, Winfrey’s endorsement of any product—particularly right before the holidays—has led to an enormous sales spike. If that holds true for the Kindle reader, it’s possible the tech industry will look back at Winfrey’s endorsement as the moment when electronic readers went from being a niche product for technically-savvy individuals to a mainstream product suitable for consumers.