Amazon's Kindle May Go Back To School

The company could be aiming its e-reader at colleges and universities to get a chunk of the $5.5 billion textbook market, according to a McAdams Wright Ragen analyst.
College students may soon be using a revamped Amazon Kindle to study for classes, as an analyst said the company is eyeing the textbook market for its next-generation e-book reader.

After a meeting with Amazon executives, McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Tim Bueneman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Amazon sees a big opportunity in marketing the Kindle to college kids, and it's working on updated version of the e-reader to accommodate this.

"There are several new, improved versions of the Kindle in the works," Bueneman wrote. "We guess the new version will have improved interface operating controls. This has been an issue with some buyers."

Launched with much fanfare last November, the Kindle is an e-book reader that can wirelessly download books, newspapers, and other digital content from Amazon. The device has a 6-inch diagonal electronic paper display, and it uses a high-speed EV-DO cellular broadband network to let users download new content without having to connect to a computer.

The Kindle, which retails for $359, has been widely regarded as a success, but Amazon has not released any sales figures. Recently, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney estimated the company will sell 378,000 units this year, and a report from Web site TechCrunch recently said Amazon has already shipped 240,000 units since launch.

A move into the education arena has the potential to significantly boost those sales figures, as the college textbook market is about a $5.5 billion market annually in the United States alone. But college students probably wouldn't adopt a Kindle until there was a way to make annotations on the text, as well as clearly view things like graphs, charts, and photographs on a high-definition display.

Representatives from Amazon remain tight-lipped about any updates to the Kindle.

"I wouldn't jump to any conclusions -- we have not made any announcements on future devices and we do not disclose Kindle unit sales. Anything you've read about our future plans should be considered rumor and speculation," wrote Drew Herdener, senior PR manager, Amazon, in an e-mail to InformationWeek.

Along the lines of e-readers and mobile devices, InformationWeek recently rated the six top technologies for mobile offices and two others your company may want to avoid. Download the report here (registration required).