Commentary

Bezos Down On Google Book Settlement

Jeff Bezos of AmazonAdd Jeff Bezos to critics lining up against the settlement between Google and book authors and publishers. Without delving into the subject, he suggested the agreement warrants further review. "We have strong opinions about that which we are not going to share," said Bezos, being interviewed Monday by Wired's Steven Levy. "That settlement in our opinion is being revisited and needs to be revisited."

Opponents of the settlement, which would give Google the right to digitize millions of out-of-print books, say it would hurt competition for digital books. The Justice Department is now investigating the antitrust implications of the settlement.

"It doesn't seem right that you should do something-kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyrights," said Bezos, speaking at Wired's "Disruptive by Design" conference at New York's Morgan Library. Certainly, the Amazon.com founder and CEO wouldn't want anything to impede the company's efforts to offer a growing catalog of digital books through the Kindle and the new, large-screen Kindle DX.

advertisement

advertisement

With 300,000 e-books now in stock, sales via the Kindle already make up 35% of the total where both a physical and online version are available. "Internally, we were startled and astonished by that," said Bezos.

Asked about possible sticker shock for the Kindle-the DX goes for $489 and the smaller model, $359-Bezos maintained it was actually "an unbelievably low price" for a device with a sophisticated computer inside, large screen and 3G radio.

He explained that Amazon had considered different pricing models for the Kindle, more akin to cell phone strategies, where the cost of the device is subsidized but the customer pay monthly fees for a data plan. "So far the market has responded well to our approach," he said.

Still, isn't it a lot to pay for a device that only does one thing? "Reading is an important enough activity that it deserves a purpose-built device," reasoned Bezos. "It's a myth that multi-purpose devices are always better."

Of course, Apple could make compelling argument that you can get the Kindle app for your new iPhone 3GS along with access to 50,000 other apps, iTunes, messaging, video, a touchscreen keyboard, and a phone, among other things, for just $199. (Not including the two-year contract and monthly data plan.)

One thing for sure, Bezos isn't going back to old-fashioned books. "I'm grumpy when I'm forced to read a physical book," he complained.

Next story loading loading..