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Amazon's Kindle Sells Out

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Thanks to Oprah, no more e-readers until February 2009.

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Blame Oprah.

Or thank her - it all depends on whether you're buying or selling Amazon.com's (AMZN) Kindle e-book reader.

The online retailer thought it had enough of the gizmos in stock for the Christmas season, but Ms. Winfrey flexed her marketing muscle on her nationally televised show by proclaiming the e-book reader her "favorite new gadget." That created a stampede of buyers. The device is now out of stock, and a new supply won't arrive until February, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Yawns greeted the Kindle when it was introduced last year. The device is expensive -- now $359, but $399 last year -- and skeptics asked whether there was any need for such a device. After all, who needs an e-book reader when you can tuck a paperback book in your pocket?

The Association of American Publishers, a trade group, says e-book sales for the first 9 months of 2008 increased about 55%, to $36.2 million. The growth rate catches attention in the slow-growth publishing industry.

Kindle allows users to store and carry dozens of books at once, making it immensely popular with travelers. The new Kindle has a 6-inch diagonal display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution, and weighs 10.3 ounces. It's 7.5 inches high, 5.3 inches wide and weighs 10.3 ounces. Amazon says the display technology creates an image as sharp as black ink on a white page.

Nearly all new releases and bestsellers are available on Kindle, but most books are still available only in print. Amazon offers about 200,000 titles for downloading, though that number is sure to grow - especially when a $20 hardcover book can be downloaded for about $10.

So far, Kindle is outpacing Sony's (SNE) Reader. Sony now offers about 57,000 titles and plans to have about 100,000 available by the end of the year.

That must be a shock to the folks who popularized the VCR and changed the way millions of people watch movies. Historians trying to noodle this one out will almost certainly point to the influence of Oprah Winfrey, the queen of marketing, and her enthusiasm for Amazon's Kindle.
No postions in stocks mentioned.
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