Why Did Amazon Launch the Kindle, and Which is More Important, the Chicken or the Egg?

I’m having some fun today putting the finishing touches on the FAQ appendix for the book, and in the process I’ve finally gotten around to transcribing this remarkable brief exchange between Chris Anderson and Jeff Bezos at the 2008 Book Expo America. You can check my transcription and listen to the entire podcast here, but in my view it is this exchange which states most clearly that the primary importance of the Kindle for Amazon lies in four things: (1) it jumpstarts significant electronic book sales; (2) it positions the books in the Kindle store as the primary source of e-reader content; (3) it sets the bar higher than it had previously been set for form factor, feature set, and delivery mode for electronic books; and (4) it gives Amazon a seat at the head of the table in shaping this area of book commerce going forward.

Q. “In Asia, [there are] cell phone serials, cell phone comics, cell phone mangas, etc. I guess, first question, what have you learned from the mobile reading experience in Asia? Secondly, does that in itself put the Kindle in competition with the cell phone down the line as cell phones have better screens, etc.”

–Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail

A. “Maybe the hardware device, yes, but not necessarily the Kindle books. The Kindle books, maybe they should be available on every device. We created Kindle because we’ve been selling e-Books for 10 years, but we needed an electron microscope to find the sales. And so, three years ago we said, ‘Look, what we need to do is create a perfect, integrated, streamlined customer experience all the way through, so we’ll build the device, we’ll build the back-end servers, we’ll digitize the content ourselves if we need to. Whatever it takes, we’re going to build a great customer experience, to get that thing started. If we can get other devices to also be able to buy Kindle books, through other devices, that’s great.’”

–Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

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