Bezos On Kindle: 'We Would Love To Have Color'And Every Book Ever

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
Just before D6, Rafat and Iboth Kindle userswere talking about books on our respective reading lists and how many of them, particularly new non-fiction, couldn't be downloaded to the device.  It reminded me of a recent conversation during a plane delay at LaGuardia, when the person next to me pulled out a Kindle and said his only complaint was the inability to get some of the titles he wants. Yes, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) now has 125,000 titles in its Kindle catalog but it will need more than that to achieve critical mass. As it happens, I had the chance to go straight to the source during a chat with Kindle evangelist Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon, following his appearance at D6.

With 125,000 titles available for Kindle, I keep running into titles I can't get and I wonder ... "The vision for Kindle is every book ever in print in any languageall available in less than 60 seconds. That's the vision. To really literally get every bookthat's in print, out of print, every languagethat's going to takes us years of work. We want to make it possible for you to have instant reading access to any book that's ever been created. Visions take a long time to achieve. It's a bold vision but I think it's a really cool vision and we're excited about it."

How do we get from 125,000 to 250,000 to 300,000? How do you make those baby steps? "We had 90,000 at launch and that was just six months ago. Now we have 125,000 so you can see we've made huge progressto go up 35,000 titles in just six months is huge.

What does it take from your end with the publishers? Well, they want to do it. It's just there are logistics involved. Sometimes there are rights issues they have to research with the author. Sometimes they need to digitize the book. We can help with that and we do. We have a self-service platform called the Digital Text Platform, where publishers can come do this all by themselves. We also help, work with them. It's just more a matter of chipping away at it month after month."

Are you getting any pushback from publishers at all, or authors about royalties, about concerns over what they get out of it? No, not really. They want to do it. It's just work." (The NYT's coverage of BookExpo, where Bezos also spoke in recent days, suggests more ambivalence by publishers, who note that Amazon sells most of its Kindle books below the price it pays wholesale. They fear a power play when Kindle becomes more popular. But at the same event, Simon & Schuster said it will more than double its e-book titles by converting another 5,000 this year.)

Martha Stewart got up at Bear Stearns and talked about using a Kindle but her own magazines won't work on it. "I think that's true for photo (heavy books) ... If you look at coffee-table books, for example, it's not the right medium for a coffee table book. That's okay. It may not be the right medium for a glossy magazine. That's ok."

Is color something you want to see eventually? "We would love to have color but electronic ink doesn't do color."

Photo courtesy of Asa Mathat at AllThingsD

By Staci D. Kramer