Putting the Kindle in Historical Perspective

By Neal Comment

remember-the-segway.jpg“The problem with the American public is that they have short memories,” an anonymous reader writes in this morning. “When I think of [Amazon.com]’s support of Kindle, I am reminded of the Segway. Remember that? It was going to change the world in remarkable ways that no one could fathom. Amazon sold Segways online and Bezos took a personal interest in the company. No one would walk anymore, entire cities would change, but nothing happened at all. It was all hype and Segway became a niche product.” (According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission filing, maybe 23,500 units were sold between 2002 and 2006.)

“The same thing will happen with Kindle because most people are not going to spend 400 dollars on it. Most readers do not want to spend 25 dollars on a book, so why would they spend many times that for a device that reads books?”

Setting aside the argument that you can (in theory) do quite well marketing expensive products to a select audience—because it’s clear from the rhetoric that isn’t the direction Amazon’s taking—now I can’t help but worry that the Kindle is going to knock readers out of their seats when the batteries run low.