The Kindle is everywhere. In the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, Amazon boasted that they were selling over a million per week. The e-commerce giant has been “introducing” them on their homepage for so long that I’m beginning to wonder when might be a polite time to interject that we’ve already met. As I write this piece, my Amazon homepage introduces the Kindle Family: the Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G. Other customers are apparently also looking at the Kindle Keyboard 3G with Free 3G + Wi-Fi, the Kindle with Wi-Fi and 6″ E Ink Display, and Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Crème. Something for everyone, then.
Amazon was founded as a bookseller, but it became more successful than any of its competitors because it removed something previously thought of as crucial to bookselling, which was the bookshop. Instead they posted your book directly from their warehouse, which you could then open like a little present in the comfort of your own home.
For Amazon’s next trick, they removed an element which many regarded as a defining feature of the book, namely the codex itself. With ebook technology available but no one else willing to invest in developing the market, Amazon was like a (very businesslike and non-violent) wolf among sheep. Both heavy investment in the technology of their own-brand Kindle device and its unbeatable retail price gave them a de facto monopoly, particularly in Britain, where the competitive Nook isn’t being sold.