Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet just $199, sorry Apple

Kindle FireAmazon Kindle Fire is here. But first, some pleasant surprises.

This morning in New York City, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, was full of good news to accompany his long anticipated announcement. Months ago he told us to “stay tuned,” and we did. Bezos didn’t disappoint.

To begin the day, Bezos revealed the Kindle Touch (gee, that name sounds familiar). Wearing a sports coat and jeans, Bezos began by speaking of the original Kindle, “We set out to reinvent the book .” In a move paying homage to the device that began it all, Bezos announced its predecessor, the Kindle Touch, a pure reader that still uses e-ink and is about the same size and weight of earlier models. The main difference is the touch screen and the price of just $99. Yeah, less than a Benjamin. The Kindle Touch has a new feature called X-Ray, which gives context by providing Wikipedia info without the need to go into a browser.

kindle touchThen he revelaed the Kindle Touch 3G, which as you may have guessed, is the same as the Touch with the added feature of wireless mobility to download books anywhere. The 3G will cost $149. Both devices offer free service and Wi-Fi, no contract, no fees. The devices can be ordered today but shipping begins on November 21st.

Next Bezos revealed the most basic Kindle at the lowest price ever, a $79 bare-bones Kindle that’s 18% smaller than the current version with just four buttons and everything a pure reading device needs: e-ink display, built-in Wi-Fi, Whispersync, Amazon Cloud storage. This model starts shipping today.

And then came the big moment, the one building for many months… ta-dah, the Kindle Fire! Bezos unveiled the 7-inch display, dual-core processor that weighs 14.6 ounces. “And it has all the content,” he said. It’s Android-based, of course (poke at Apple). Storage for the Kindle Fire tablet is cloud-based, no backups of data is not needed. Bezos added, “That model (another poke at the iPad) that you are responsible for backing up your own content is a broken model. The most recently used items, no matter what the content is, will be stored in a task bar/carousel interface.” At a price well below cost, the Kindle Fire will retail for only $199 (the iPad starts at $499.) “We’re delivering premium products at non-premium prices,” Bezos said. Shipping begins on Nov. 15 and orders can be made now.

Bezos then Shelby Matthews and Devan Matthews Christmas 2009introduced another surprise, Amazon Silk, which is a new browser for the Fire. The browser now lives partially on Amazon’s servers. The idea is to improve mobile browsing, which Bezos admitted is challenging to display. This announcement raised many eyebrows in the press, because if Amazon Silk can make browsing web pages a faster experience, everyone will get excited about that, even some Apple users.

There will be three very happy ladies opening presents by the Christmas tree in our house this year. Thankfully, my wallet should still be feeling fat, at least from the gifts bought by a certain retailer. Thanks, Amazon.

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Amazon Tablet 7-inch Coyote Released Sept 28th, Hollywood Coming Soon

Amazon tablet Jeff BezosIt’s official after months of speculation. Amazon just announced on Wednesday, September 28th the release of its first tablet, a 7-inch iPad and Nook competitor nicknamed Coyote that will… hey wait, today is just Sept. 23rd. The thing on Wednesday is merely a press conference where select members of the media were invited with no other details given, so nobody really knows what it will be for.

Alright, so it’s highly speculative the rumors are all true, thanks to conspicuous leaks coming from… Amazon? The 7-inch tablet will run a forked version of Android OS and connect to Amazon’s ebooks, TV, music, movies, app store and everything else available in their galaxy of cyberspace. It’s priced below cost so Amazon makes up the difference and more on future services and products.

Will it really be priced at $249 or less? Seems likely, since the Nook Color is priced at $249 with updates coming soon. $249 is also half the price of the iPad at $499, another nice round figure for shoppers doing math in their heads.

Will the 10″ tablet be nicknamed Hollywood and be priced far less than the iPad and come out well before Christmas? Uh, probably yes, unless Amazon’s rumor mill isn’t working properly to line up shoppers in anticipation. My guess is the rumor mill works perfectly fine.

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Amazon Tablet just $249? Let’s Hope

Amazon tabletAmazon Tablet for just $249? That’s the recent rumor from tech analyst, Tim Bajarin (and others), who also predicts the device might cost Amazon as much as $300 to produce and sell.

Why take a $51 loss on an electronic device? Easy, to make it back plus a lot more over the following months on Amazon products and services. Simultaneously it could knock many out of a crowded tablet market: Acer, Coby, Samsung, HP, Motorola, Asus, Toshiba, Blackberry, Dell and more. Amazon’s device will be much less than those of competitors, many of which don’t have the infrastructure for content distribution and sales of books, music, video, cloud storage and everything within its Android App store. Bajarin says, “…over a two-year period, a person with an Amazon tablet might buy or rent 15 movies, stream or download 50 songs, buy 18 books, and pay $5 a month for cloud storage from Amazon. Then let’s say they also purchase five items through the tablet’s Amazon store… let’s throw in some advertising in this mix as well… Amazon would make back that lost $51 within six months and reap a profit of anywhere from 10 to 30 percent on the tablet over the last 18 months of the device’s accounting period.”

Many figure Amazon to be the only major player poised to take on Apple’s iPad as king of the tablet market (not to mention Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color which also happens to sell for $249). Due to Apple brand loyalty and its own ecosystem of extra services/products, my guess is a pair of kings would be just fine with Amazon as would saving face with customers who are on the fence or even recently jumped ship to B & N. Other rumors include the tablets may come in familiar 7 inch (code named-Coyote) and 10 inch (Hollywood) sizes. While the rumors abound, CEO Jeff Bezos has refrained from any public announcement other than telling us in May to “stay tuned.” Common sense see this happening well before Christmas if it’s a 2011 release. September? October? Inquiring minds want to know.

This lowest price possible strategy reminds me of something many Indie authors are doing to sell ebooks. They give away the first book in a series for free, then sell the sequels for 99 cents or $2.99. By taking an initial loss on the freebie, they gamble that future sales will come in bunches. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out, others times they sell millions of ebooks. Smart business, if you have a great product.

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Amazon Tablet? Is It Really Coming?

Amazon tablet AndroidMuch speculation has been made the past few months on whether, or when, Amazon will introduce a tablet to enter the market and potentially rival Apple’s iPad. According to unnamed sources at Taiwan’s Digi Times, Amazon says over one million tablets will be shipped in the third quarter of 2011 making Amazon second only to Apple in terms of volume. Wow, really? Hasn’t that time period already ended?

Amazon hasn’t made an official announcement though a comment from CEO Jeff Bezos telling people to “stay tuned” seems to indicate either commitment to the project or blatant deception. Bezos has also mentioned that the new tablet will in no way replace the Kindle, which would continue to be offered as the best pure-reading device.

While the iPad is clearly the front runner in the tablet industry, Amazon will be joining a slightly crowded field with Acer, Dell, HP, Motorola and Samsung just to name a few. The field is already too large for everyone IMHO, and Apple’s dominance/customer loyalty makes one wonder how much of a dent the new Amazon Android tablet could make.

Additionally, Jeff Bezos probably never thought Amazon would be playing catch up with Barnes&Noble, but the brick and mortar company has seen great initial success with its Nook e-ink touch screen reader and Nook Color touch screen, both of which have been winning review competitions with organizations like Consumer Reports and CNET.

Has Amazon delayed too long? Perhaps, perhaps not. The internet power already has a few things going that could help it immensely in a tablet debut. These points come to mind:

1. Amazon customers have a loyalty that matches Apple’s. Some claim to buy everything beyond groceries and gas from the online megastore, and that Amazon’s customer support is second to none.

2. Amazon isn’t new to this game. In fact, just the opposite is true as their R&D for handheld wireless has been around for years. Incorporating the touch screen and adding some functionality in the form of powerful hardware to their existing device doesn’t sound like much of a stretch.

3. Amazon already has its own digital content stores for video, MP3 music, App Store for Android, Cloud Player for Android, and (obviously) ebooks. The infrastructure is in place for unparalleled advertising and promotion. If any tablet maker would have a head start coming out into a crowded field, it would be Amazon.

4. Price. Because Amazon’s main business is online sales for just about anything, they can afford to sell the Kindle (and a tablet), incredibly cheap. This is something that sets Amazon apart from the other Apple competitors. It’s conceivable to reduce tablet price by including them with a monthly subscription to other Amazon products and services. When thinking of the possibilities, pricing could get interesting here.

Just recently a Motorola Xoom was my latest gadget expense. Should I have waited another fiscal quarter on Jeff Bezos to explain if he was just kidding around or not? I do love my Xoom, but I certainly would have taken a hard look at an Amazon tablet before doing anything.

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Format Docs for E-books

Article first published as Format Docs for Ebooks on Technorati.

Amazon Kindle format ebooksThere are two main ways writers sell ebooks: one is to have a pdf for download from their site and the other is via big retailers like Amazon. Selling from your own sites is predominantly with pdfs. (You can offer epub and mobi formats, but pdfs will be the huge majority of the downloads.) Most people know how to accomplish the first task, selling from their sites, but often get stymied when it comes to formatting for the big retailers. That’s a problem because that’s where the real potential for sales exist.

Fortunately, self-publishing this way is entirely free and it’s really not hard to format an e-book. In fact, it’s loads easier than formatting a printed book’s interior. A common misconception is that you must make the conversion to epub or mobi before uploading. Not true. If you work in MS Word, for example, the retailers will make the conversion as long as your document is properly prepared.

Remember that you’re dealing with small devices that come in different sizes, from large tablets like an iPad down to cell phone screens. The rule of thumb is to keep things simple so conversions to multiple devices should be as smooth as possible. Here’s a brief list to keep in mind:

  • Page numbers are obsolete for ebooks. If you have page numbers in the footer of your document, get rid of them. In general, both headers and footers should be removed.
  • Also not needed are tabs for indents. Use global indents consistently all the way through. MS Word has a useful show-hide feature that displays these things.
  • If you have a Table of Contents, use the bookmark feature to hyperlink to each chapter for reader ease of navigation.
  • Don’t use drop caps for the first letter in a chapter. A larger font size and/or bold works better.
  • Never use multiple paragraph returns to create breaks (e.g. for different chapters). Use page breaks instead.
  • Keep the font size at 12 or within a normal range like 11 to 14. In my experience, conversions work best at 12.
  • Use common fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, Courier. Most devices have the option to choose font anyway so let the reader decide.
  • Keep images under 4 inches. Those tiny screens can’t handle big images.
  • Amazon Kindle (kdpamazon) and Barnes&Noble (Pubit) have Preview screens that show how your upload will look before publishing. Go through it and make alterations if needed.

For those who still need more details, there’s a free Style Guide written by Mark Coker of Smashwords that thoroughly explains all of these tips and more. If you decide in the end that you’re just not the do-it-yourself type for this project, there are plenty of professionals to help at reasonable rates. Then, of course, you’ll just need a front cover image to sell ebooks, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

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