Len Edgerly’s Kindle Nation Daily Live Blog Coverage

of the Amazon.com Press Conference in NYC

September 27-28, 2011

(Ed. Note: We're very pleased and excited to announce that we've arranged for podcaster extraordinaire Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles to live-blog Amazon's 10 a.m. Wednesday press conferenceannouncing the new Kindle Tablet, a.k.a. the Kindle Fire, for Kindle Nation readers at http://bit.ly/LEN-LIVE-FROM-NY-ON-KTAB. Len promises to start posting as he travels to New York via Amtrak later today, and the action will really heat up shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, which is when we expect Jeff Bezos to take the stage at Stage 37 in New York. -S.W.)

 

Please refresh your screen every five minutes or so during the press conference, and please feel free to share this link to the liveblog:  http://bit.ly/LEN-LIVE-FROM-NY-ON-KTAB

A big thank you to Len from all of us at Kindle Nation for an incredible job live from New York! Please make sure to catch this week’s episode of THE KINDLE CHRONICLES as Len’s multimedia show continues.....

And now, here is your pre-order link for the $199 Kindle Fire! 

Ships Nov. 15

Or get the Kindle Touch for $99 or $139 - ships Nov. 21
Ships Nov. 21
Or the $79 base model e-Ink Kindle

Ships Nov. 21

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

12:17 pm (Len)

As the crowd thinned out, I had a chance to visit with two of the Amazon execs whom I’ve interviewed for the podcast, Jay Marine and Russ Grandinetti.  Jay said the K3 is still available, at a reduced price of $99 for WiFi only, so there will still be a physical-keyboard option for those who want it. It’s clear from watching the demos that if you are a reader who does any sort of note-taking or searching for terms, you will want one of the two Touch Kindles instead of the $79 unit, which is now named simply Kindle. You’d drive yourself crazy trying to enter more than a word or two on the virtual keyboard that pops up when you press the keyboard button on the new Kindle.

That said, I know there are plenty of Kindle users, my wife Darlene included, who never touch the keyboard on the existing Kindle models. So for them, the $79  Kindle is going to be fine, and when you hold it in your hand you’ll be delighted at its feathery feel.  

I asked Russ Grandinetti if Google Plus might be added as an option for sharing Kindle notes and highlights.  He paused and formed his answer carefully, saying they are always interested in new ways for Kindle users to share about what they’re reading. I’m sure Amazon is watching the astounding growth of G+ as closely as anyone, so it makes sense Russ might be working on adding it to Twitter and Facebook as a destination for notes and highlights from your Kindle.

I’m very pleased with the emphasis the E Ink platform received here at the press conference, and I’m impressed with the Fire. But I have to admit to a vague sadness at the way the Kindle now begins a phase of two such different devices.  Yes, it’s a family with a fair amount of overlap in the reading area.  But it’s as if the family up till today all spoke one language, English for example, and all of a sudden the latest child arrived speaking French.  

Jay Marine said Amazon expects people to have one of each, and the pricing certainly makes that more possible than anyone would have predicted.  But before the invention of Fire, the Kindlesphere was a bookish place that attracted a bookish clan of people who love to read so much they were willing to try a new way to do so.  With this brash newcomer, the Kindlesphere now embraces all that I liked to withdraw from when I went to curl up with my E Ink Kindle.  It’s really no different than having the Kindle for iPad app available on the iPad, I suppose.  But that’s an Apple device, so it resides in a different realm of my brands geography.  This new Fire thing calls itself a Kindle, and so the word “Kindle” just changed.  

Even amidst the fine and well-earned hoopla of this launch, I find myself nostalgic for a simpler era.  Is it possible to miss the smell of E Ink?  Even an early adopter sometimes needs to pause to catch his breath before moving ahead to the next great thing.

I thought if I lingered long enough I might have a moment to thank Jeff Bezos in person, but I’m sure he’s left the building. Time for me to move on, too. I’ll catch the Amtrak Acela back to Boston at 3:03 from Penn Station.  

Thanks again, Steve, for partnering with me for this live blog from Manhattan. Onward!

11:35 a.m. (Len)

I’ve been checking out the demonstration areas for the new Kindles, and I took time out to preorder a Fire, the $79 WiFi Kindle and the Kindle Touch 3G.

First Impressions:

The Kindle Fire does not have a gold band around it. That was some kind of illusion created by the lighting onstage when Jeff held it up. But it’s a handsome unit, sleek and black and thin. I wasn’t able to drive one myself, but the guy doing the demo made it clear that the User Interface is drop-dead simple, enabling you to move among your various media content quickly and without confusion.  In each area of your content, a button to buy some more is close at hand. By watching the response time to the demonstrator’s finger touches, it seems to me the Fire is noticeably faster than the poor Nook Color.  It may also be brighter in the color quality.

On the E Ink side, I am very impressed with the new X-Ray feature, which provides a whole new way to navigate through your book or other reading.  It’s almost like what it was like to ruffle the pages of a paper book. You see these bar graphs showing the occurance of, say, a character’s name all through the book, and you can touch anywhere on the bar graph to go there.

One thing I’ll miss is the ability to highlight a word or phrase and then press the space bar to, in effect, copy it for use in a search in Wikipedia, Google or the dictionary.  There does not seem to be an ability to do that on the touch devices. I’ll try the non-touch Kindle $79 now, to see how that works.  There is a lull at the E Ink demo table, so I’m making my move.

I asked if Jeff Bezos might have a couple of minutes free to chat, and was told that he’s pretty booked, somewhere off the main room here at Stage 37.

10:59 am (Steve)

Amazon’s video about Amazon Silk web browser at http://amazonsilk.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/introducing-amazon-silk/

Len10:48 a.m. (Len)

Why they called it Amazon Silk - the strong thread linking your Fire to the cloud.  The proof will be in the speed of the pudding. Will this browser really be faster than, say, what I see of the Web from my iPhone?  If so, this is a big deal.  Can an Amazon phone be far behind?

Jeff holds the Fire up as he summarizes the features, leading up to the money quote.  It’s gorgeous.

It’s $199.  “This is unbelievable value.”  If this were an Apple show, there would have been oohs and ahs. Instead, silence, and lots of clicking of cameras.

Fire ad begins with a shot of moveable tyype, nice nod to Guttenberg.

“These are premium products at non-premium prices.” He suggests we preorder today.

The Kindle Fire does not say “Kindle” on it, as the E Ink screen devices do.

That’s it. Off to the devices....

10:41 am (Len)

Amazon.com web page from 15 years ago looks very quaint.  63 times bigger today - 630 kb compared with 10 kb.  Shows CNN web page, very data intensive. It’s difficult for mobile devices to display all this rapidly.

(Photo credit: Engadget)

Is there some way to make mobile web browsing faster with Amazon EC 2?  

Amazon Silk - a split browser that lives partially on Fire and partially on EC2.

The Amazon geeks who are telling the Silk story are earnest, smart, articulate and have that Bezos-style of gee-whiz humility.  Quite a different presence than Apple spokesmen, whom I also enjoy.  

10:36 am (Len)

No physical buttons at all that I can see in the image on screen. The interface reminds me of the iBooks UI, like a bookshelf that has carousel on the shelves. Very easy to navigate. We’re a long way from anything that looks like Android.  It’s an interface my 82-year-old mother could love.

We’re wathcing X-Men on the Fire, magnified to room size on the screen. So, yes, it looks awesome.

“Let’s listen to some music.”   There’s Adele again, whose song was playing when we walked in. Nice voice, singing “Rolling in the Deep.” You can leave the music on while you switch to books.  He opens The Help, which looks fine on the bright screen.  You can pull down a menu to pause the music while you’re reading. Smart integration.

Now we’re playing Fruit Ninja. “I will have to admit I find this uncomfortably therapeutic.”

10:29 am (Len)

I’ll begin a new segment here, as Jeff turns to the tablet. He’s touting Amazon Prime, so you know it’s going to be a big part of the new device.

I confess I’m having trouble shifting to the lead-up to the tablet. My mind is still on the new E Ink Kindles.  Jeff is laying out all the services that will be involved: Amazon web services, prime, MP3, appstore, instant video.  

We asked ourselves, “Is there some way we can bring all these things together into a remarkable product offering that customers would love?”

Ta da!

It’s called Kindle Fire. It has a sexy gold border, black shiny margin. I can’t tell from here what it weighs - ok, he announces 14.6 ounces.  That’s slightly less than Nook Color, which weighs 15 ⅜ ounces.

Ripple of laughter as an image of an iOS sync cable appears.  No need to sync with a cable on the Fire.

I’m already liking the name Fire. When you see Jeff holding it, catching the spotlight on the gold and black, it looks hot!  I wish it were lighter, but 14.6 ounces isn’t bad.

10:09 am (Len)

Jeff wears funky black leather shoes, jeans, white shirt, gray sportscoat. He’s reciting the history of the Kindle, beginning with the unbelievers’ predictions that it would become Kindling.  It sounds like an obituary for the Kindle, actually, a summary of a life. But I know that’s not what he’s up to.  He’s setting the stage for “And now....”  It’s a remarkable story, and it has extra weight when the unassuming-looking guy from whose head it sprang is the one telling it.  

His eyes are glistening, as if this is such a personal story he can’t tell it coldly, like a CEO pitching investors.  It’s his story, along with countless others at Amazon.  Whispersync, Kindle Singles, sharing on Twitter and Facebook - all the improvements to the Kindle system.   Kindle is an end-to-end service and they have been inventing continuously.

And we have more invention.

“Here’s Kindle Touch.” Holds it up.  Infrared touch, no extra layer. A gray frame for it, lighter in color than the existing graphite K3.  

I’m so glad this event begins with the next Kindle, with another ode to the purpose-built device for reading.  No word yet of a tablet.  The place of honor for this show goes to the E Ink reinvention of long-form reading. The newcomer will have to wait its turn.

EasyReach redesigns the tap zones, so you can read left- or right-handed.  This is the kind of subtlety you can focus on in a dedicated device. He’s got that right.

We’ll have time at the demo stations afterward.  

Jeff shows The Remains of the Day, one of his favorite books.  When you reduce friction to looking up words, people do more of it.

I love the light gray color of the new Kindle, like gray flannel.

X-Ray lets you look at the “bones of the book” including characters.  You can look up an item, like the Versailles treaty.  It came up instantly, much faster than when you look up a full definition on the current Kindle.

They download a side file with the interesting info to the book.  You can see the characters and where they appear in the book.  This is fantastic, something predicted by my e-book friend Peter Meyers.  They port Shelfari info into the X-Ray vision, but here it’s MUCH more accessible.

He quotes those who say $99 would cause a frenzy!  Will this thing really cost that? “Something in their brain clicks” when someone sees a $99 price.  The money quote: “Let the fervor begin.”  $99, baby.

Kindle Touch 3G just like the other one, but has free 3G in addition to WiFi. Price? $149. Top of the line Kindle.

Ship Nov. 21. Can order today, but not yet.

Uh-oh. Not just two new Kindles.  Here comes a third... For those who don’t want touch.

$79 Kindle!  Under 6 ounces.  Smaller. Fit in back pocket, but don’t try that if you want to keep your screen intact.

I don’t see a keypad on the $79 Kindle. There is a five-way controller and two buttons on either side of it, at the bottom. Next and previous pages on the side.

You can order this today and it ships today.

And now the Special Offers Kindles?   Adding AmazonLocal now. Will these sell for $25 less?

He’s right about the Special Offers looking like attractive screensavers. I find they are pleasing to see and not intrusive.

Meet the family. Premium products and nonpremium prices

30 second spot shows that pretty girl and the guy. She just bought two Kindles. She won’t be alone.

Now, nearly a half-hour into the show, having totally surpassed all the fondest expectations of E Ink lovers, Jeff finally turns to the tablet.  Very satisfying sequence - begin with fairly breathtaking improvements in the E Ink line, and then move to the tablet.  He can call it anything he wants, I’ll buy it.  

10:02 am (Len)

Lights down, video on the screen. People touting the E Ink Kindle. Thank you for remembering the amazing device that brought us here!  “In the past two years that I’ve had my

9:57 am (Len) - Amazon’s House of Blue Lights

9:53 am (Steve) - This photo just posted by Engadget, calling the price at $199

9:47 am (Len)

And with the magic password, I am on WiFi from the front row with my MacBook Air fully charged. Scratch my previous comment about small turnout. This room is set up for several hundred, so others must have arrived via a different route than the tent on the sidewalk. No matter. We are bathed in a blue light that makes us look marvelous, and the sound system is playing “He Won’t Go” by Adele (thank you, Shazam app on my iPhone).

We sit in rows of white folding chairs, just like camp. I don’t see Jeff Bezos lurking off-stage yet. The Amazon staffers have blue lanyards and stand by with helpful expressions.

I’ll take this moment to thank Steve for inviting me to this live-blog joint venture with Kindle Nation Daily, and thanks to all the Kindle Chronicles listeners who are following along and posting feedback by Twitter and email.  I feel like an emissary from a whole community of passionate Kindle readers, and I’ll do my best to give you a lively account of what unfolds.

For now I’ll take a pause, listen to the music, and let this whole thing sink in a bit...

Thank you, Len! (SW)

9:46 am (Len) - Front row, baby!

9:43 am (Steve)

Wow. File this under we’ll see, but @sarahw  just retweeted BLOOMBERG that “the Kindle 'Fire' Tablet Will Cost $199.99.”

9:18 am (Len)

Something different. An Amazon WiFi on my iPhone but they haven't given us a password or id. We look like kids at Geek Camp, all wearing our orange  lanyards and toting toys.

I'm surprised there isn't a larger number of here. No more than 100, I'd guess. I

When you hand a professional your iPhone for a snapshot, you get better than  

average results. Who knew the thing had a flash? Thanks John Marshall of Sipa!

They just led us into a warm room with red velvet ripe line. Next stop: Show time!

9:14 am (Steve) - Snappy lanyard, Len!

in the tent, which is freezing with too much A/C but no one's complaining. At checkin we were issued nametags and bright orange lanyards. I'll be the fourth person in the door, trailing the Gizmodo trio. Nate the Great of The-Digital-reader.com is behind me. He doesn't expect an E Ink announcement today, either.

8:13 am (Len): Our Man in Manhattan (Photo credit: Brent Rose, Gizmodo)

I'm second in line for registration, behind Brent Rose from Gizmodo. We are at the doors of the big white tent, next to a two-story Amazon banner hanging from the Stage 37 building. Satellite dishes aim at the sky, and wires snake along the sidewalk. Brent says hi to Steve and opines that we'll only see a tablet today, no E Ink. I hope he's wrong. We'll know soon.

7:31 am (Steve)

Here at KND HQ we just loaded up the Kindle gift card with what we hope will be enough ($700?) to pull the trigger on two Kindle Fires, one for me and one for Linda Ronne of Parker, CO, who was the Grand Prize winner in KND’s first-ever Kindle Tablet sweepstakes back in June at https://www.facebook.com/KindleNation.

7:23 am (Len)

What I’m reading at the hotel while I while away the minutes before leaving to line up for registration at the press conference:

A good primer by Poynter on what journalists should be asking about the Kindle Fire.

A decent roundup of what’s rumored so far, from FoneHome.

Irony alert: Fortune releases a biography of Steve Jobs available only on Kindle, not iBooks.

That’s it for now.  I’m off in search of coffee...

6:30 a.m (Steve)

Good morning! It's KINDLE FIRE Day + our KND correspondent @lenedgerly has 1st foto of venue where #Amazon will announce new tablet! -S.W.

A big tent was already set up last night at about 9 p.m. outside the venue for today’s Amazon press conference, which begins at 10 a.m at Stage 37, 508 West 37th St., New York City.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

9:45 p.m., from the GEM Hotel, New York City (Len)

I just returned from a walk by the location for tomorrow’s Amazon.com press conference, and it looks as if a lot of folks will be working all night to prepare for the event. There is already a large, white tent set up on the sidewalk and part of the street. I didn’t venture inside, because an imposing fellow with STAFF on the back of his jacket stood between me and the open flaps.  I liked what I saw through the openings, though.  There were tables with coffee urns on them, tubs with soft drinks, and tall little round tables like you’d see at a nice cocktail reception.  I’m guessing this is where registration will begin at 9 a.m. The press conference itself starts at 10.

I just received an e-mail from the agency reminding me of the press conference, which was nice of them.  They told me to bring a photo ID and thanked me “for understanding that we cannot accommodate anyone who did not RSVP in advance.”  Got that.

And now to bed, hoping for a good night’s sleep with visions of sugar Kindles dancing in my head.  See you in the morning!

3:56 pm, from Kindle Nation Headquarters

Just posted on Kindle Nation: Great Expectations and Kindle Fire: What to Look Forward to with Wednesday’s Kindle Tablet Press Conference http://bit.ly/KINDLE-FIRE-1

The GEM Hotel, New York City

3:55 p.m.

It’s muggy in the city this afternoon, but I’m settling in to a fine little room just a few blocks from Stage 37, where the press conference will take place tomorrow.  

Aboard Amtrak Acela Express 2163

noon

As the Acela zooms through the woods of Rhode Island, providing an occasional glimpse of the sea, I want to turn to what we think we know about what Amazon is going to announce tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Stage 37 in New York City.

Of course there will be a tablet, the one that TechCrunch’s MG Siegler held in his very own hands and has since learned its name, the Kindle Fire.  Kindle Chronicles listeners may remember that Forrester Research’s James McQuivey had a code name for the tablet he predicted Amazon should create, way back in February of 2010. The name was, uh, the Kindle Flame. So there’s a backstory to tell some day about that one.

I like Flame better than Fire, but what I’m really hot for is some action on the E Ink side of the house. Siegler suggested that wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, but there is new intel out this morning that I was delighted to see at Andrys Basten’s Kindle World.  Via AppleInsider, she relayed a report that there will be not one, but two new Kindle E Ink devices announced - one with a touch screen and one with fewer features, like no audio, for the magic price of $99.  These babies have even cooler code names than the Flame. The new touch Kindle is codenamed Whitney, and the bare-bones model is Tequila, according to AppleInsider’s post.

This makes a lot of sense to me, because I couldn’t figure out how Jeff Bezos was going to spend an entire press conference extolling a new tablet device that reads books and plays movies and plays music and runs all the apps in Amazon’s Android app store.  Wasn’t he the one whose voice quivered with passion whenever he talked about a device purpose-built for reading?  That seemed like a pretty tough pivot to make, and the only way out of it would have been, as I saw someone suggest, to announce tomorrow that Amazon is dropping the K3 with special offers price to $99.

But there’s no need to give an inch on the importance of the dedicated E Ink readers if Amazon tomorrow announces two brand new devices for that line.  That would show they still believe they created something wonderful for the minority of Americans who read more than a book a year. For that group, and I’m pretty much a member, it’s nice there will be a new tablet, but we’re not really expecting to switch our reading of books from E Ink to a color LCD screen.  I know there are many serious readers who are just fine with LCD screens, like my friend from the U.K., Eolake Stobblehouse.  A lot of this comes down to a matter of taste and aesthetics.  

In any event,  I hope AppleInsider is right on this and that tomorrow morning I’ll have a chance to get my hands on two new E Ink Kindles as well as the Torch, I mean Fire -- oh, whatever.  They can call it Baboon Breath if they want, and it will still probably sell out in the first six hours it’s available.

The Acela has slowed down a bit, perhaps to give us a better view of a lovely harbor filled with white boats and a forest of masts on water calm as glass.  The woman next to me is eating a big salad out of a plastic bowl and looking at a paper Atlas with a map of the U.S. All’s quiet here in the Quiet Car, except for the tapping of a totally wired Kindle enthusiast riding the rails to a big dose of What’s Next.

11:15 a.m.

That's an on-time departure as the train wends its way carefully through a maze of tracks and overhead electric wires. I simply can't imagine a better way to travel. If we arrive on time, I'll be at Penn Station by 2:45 p.m. I plan to host a Google Plus hangout once I reach the GEM Hotel, so if you'd like to participate, please send me an email at PodChronicles AT GMail.com and I'll add you to my TKC Hangout circle. If you are not on G+ yet, let me know, and I'll send you an invite.

 

11:05 a.m.

At Boston's South Station, I just took my seat on the quiet car, where passengers are asked to please refrain from loud talking or using cell phones. Sounds good to me. Most of the car is empty, so I've spread my gear on the aisle seat. " Your seat is now a hot spot," a decal on the window says, and sure enough, I'm surfing just fine on the iPad 2.

I read a post by Andrys Basten with word that two new E Ink devices will be announced tomorrow at the Amazon press conference, along with the tablet . That's VERY good news for those of us intrigued by the new color tablet but devoted to our E Ink readers.