On November 19, 2007, exactly five years ago today, Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com announced the release of the original Amazon Kindle. Ugly, awkward to hold, but incredibly innovative, the Kindle captured the imaginations of hardcore readers and tech gurus alike. It sold out in just five and a half hours after Amazon started taking orders, and it wouldn’t be readily available again until April 2008.
Early adopters (those enamored enough that they were willing to shell out the original cost of $399) mostly praised the Kindle’s eReading experience, stoking the flames of public interest. Amazon had created an “iPod for readers,” helping the book fully enter the popular digital age. People who never considered themselves avid readers before the Kindle were now hooked.
From that moment on, the Kindle became a huge seller for Amazon.com, and eReading assimilated itself into the everyday lives of millions of people around the globe.
I remember the massive publicity that surrounded the original Kindle release. Suddenly, it was on the front page of every tech blog, and everyone in the consumer technology field was talking about it. A highly visible Newsweek article declared that the Kindle was “The Future of Reading.” Jeff Bezos made prominent appearances on the Martha Stewart Show and Charlie Rose.
Remember, Bezos originally had to sell both the idea of eBooks and eReaders as a natural way to read. As he commented to Charlie Rose, Amazon.com had been selling eBooks for many years before Kindle, “but nobody had been buying them.” In order for the Kindle to be truly successful, eBooks also had to go big, much bigger than they had gone before. Bezos had to alter the perception of eBooks; they had to evolve from being a novelty file format that people showed to their friends on PDAs into a serious media alternative. There was no populist wave of eReading excitement for the Kindle to ride in on. Amazon.com would have to create the conditions for its own success.
Well, five years later, the Amazon Kindle lives on and is more popular than ever (according to Amazon of course). Almost every iteration (I will not count the Kindle Touch as a major improvement) has brought readers closer to the books they love in new and more advanced ways. Fonts improve, text looks better, and the reading experience becomes more convenient.
Despite some claims that tablets will eventually replace them, eReaders are here to stay. The educational and literary community has embraced them, and publishers are coming around.
The original Kindle order page is still up at Amazon.com. If you scroll down a bit you will find all of the old promotional videos that came out after the release, including the full Charlie Rose and Martha Stewart interviews, plus another promo interview segment explaining the Kindle’s development. These videos still work and are very interesting to view in retrospect. So if you are yearning for some Kindle 1 nostalgia after reading this post, feel free to indulge.
The Kindle has made me a better reader, a better writer, a better student, and a better thinker.
What has the Kindle done for you?