A Newer, Cheaper Kindle...But With Commercials

By Tracey E. Schelmetic April 12, 2011

Do you want a Kindle but are feeling a little pinched right now? Thinking you'd better save the cost of the e-reader in case you need that $139 to buy a tank of gas? Amazon may help to ease your pain...as long as you don't mind watching commercials.

Amazon.com Inc. has announced that it will be dropping the price on its WiFi-only Kindle e-reader, but the change comes with a trade-off: on-screen ads, reports the Associated Press.

The new “Kindle with Special Offers” (they're always “special,” aren't they?) will retail for $114 — $25 less than the $139 WiFi-only model. It will include advertisements on the bottom of the device's home page and on its screen savers. Seattle-based Amazon will start shipping the newest Kindle on May 3, and it will also be sold in Target and Best Buy stores on that date.

It's not the first time Amazon has slashed prices on its Kindle e-reader. When the device was first introduced in 2007, it sold for $399. This will, however, be the first time the company is cutting prices while including ads on the device. Amazon consistently remains mum about the number of Kindles it has sold.

Kindle director Jay Marine said in an interview Tuesday that the release of a cheaper, ad-studded Kindle is Amazon's way of getting the device into the hands of more people. But it also shows Amazon is getting more aggressive in its efforts to lure consumers tempted by competing e-readers and bombarded by ads for Apple Inc.'s latest iPad and a growing number of competing tablet computers.

Some potential buyers may be turned off by the idea of having ads on an e-reader, but Marine thinks that serving up a number of money-saving offers will be appealing.

“We think customers are going to love it,” he said.

The advertisers sponsoring screen savers at launch will be General Motors Co.'s Buick car brand, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Olay cosmetics brand and payments processor Visa Inc. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will advertise the Amazon.com Reward Visa Card.

And other than the addition of ads, the latest Kindle is identical to the current one that uses Wi-Fi to wirelessly download books (a more expensive model uses 3G for wireless content delivery). It has a grayscale “electronic ink” screen that measures 6 inches at the diagonal, a battery that lasts for three weeks with Wi-Fi on, and enough space to store 3,500 books.

In a demo of the device, a screen saver showed a deal where customers would pay $10 for a $20 gift card to Amazon. If a user is interested in that deal, they can click to have details of the offer emailed to them. A much smaller ad shown across the bottom of the Kindle's home screen — the screen that shows you the content stored on the e-reader — was less obtrusive, but still clearly an advertisement. The ads will change frequently, Marine said, and there will not be any ads in Kindle books.

“It was very important that we didn't interfere with the reading experience,” he said.

Users will be able to log on to their Kindle account on Amazon.com and adjust preferences about the types of screen savers they'd like to see.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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