086 – Electronic book selling – 1995

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If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends.
If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.  Jeff Bezos

Cadabra Inc was founded in 1994 becoming Amazon.com a year later.   Its founder was Jeff Bezos who earned a BSc in computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Princeton.  He worked with financial and trading services in New York, but then travelled to Seattle with his plan for Amazon ‘in development’.

He launched it as a book-selling site; he believed traditional booksellers would never be able to equal the range that Amazon could achieve online.  The company acquired the UK online bookseller Bookpages.co.uk and renamed it Amazon UK in October 1998.

A broad series of services evolved to maintain customers’ attention – gift certificates and wish lists, product reviews and listings, travel and photo processing…  Amazon became the USA’s top online retailer.

2007 – Amazon’s Kindle 1 eReader used Linux software and the Sprint network to download e-books, magazines, newspapers and blogs, creating a whole new market in eBooks.  88,000 titles were offered at the Kindle 1 launch; 65% of revenues went to Amazon and 35% split between author/publisher.

February 2009 – Kindle 2 offered sixteen shades of grey and increased memory.  It used PDF files and could synchronise the user’s eReading across different readers.  3G connectivity was introduced on a new international version of the Kindle with Amazon Whispernet; wi-fi was still offered as an option.

June 2009 – Kindle DX was the first to offer e-Ink Pearl Imaging technology, offering a crisper larger screen.   ‘Kindle for PC’ enabled downloading of eBooks for reading on a PC. 

July 2010 – sales of eBooks on Kindle was exceeding Amazon’s sales of hardbacks – by a ratio of 140:100 – some 650,000 eBooks were available for download.

August 2010 – with a slightly smaller case, keener pricing and more memory, Kindle 3 became its fastest selling model.  Apple launched the iPad and Amazon had to flip its profit-sharing model so that 70% of the revenue went to the author/publisher.  Stieg Larsson was the first author, albeit posthumously, to sell a million books on Kindle; James Patterson was the second.

The Kindle Fire was launched in September 2011.  Jeff Bezos stated, ‘Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we’ve been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single fully-integrated service for customers.  We are going to sell millions of these.’

e-Ink Corporation was founded in 1997 to advance the work of Joseph Jacobson, MIT Media Lab professor in charge of the Molecular Machines research group, in developing electrophoretic displays.  It later partnered Philips to develop the technology further.

Initially it worked in grayscale images.  The technology uses low power and consists of millions of microcapsules, each the diameter of a human hair.  These microcapsules contain positively-charged white capsules and negatively-charged black capsules in a clear fluid.

When a charge is applied at the surface of the screen it attracts its opposite charge to create a point of white or black.  By applying the opposite charge to the rear it also attracts away the other colour.

2010 A second-generation of a higher contrast e-ink system called e-Ink Pearl Imaging was available with 50% improvement in contrast.  But by November 2010 the e-Ink Triton could display sixteen shades of grey and thousands of colours. 

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