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Amazon’s Kindle: the iPod of spin

Jeff Bezos didn’t actually call Amazon’s (AMZN) new Kindle e-book reader the iPod of anything. The phrase was Steve Levy’s, who used it high up in his Newsweek cover story.

“Though Bezos is reluctant to make the comparison,” he wrote, “Amazon believes it has created the iPod of reading.” (link)

Never mind that book reading seems to be a dying art while the appetite for passive entertainment with a soundtrack grows unabated. Or that Apple (AAPL) has sold more than 100 million iPods, while total sales of e-book readers is probably about 100,000, according to today’s
Wall Street Journal
. Or that Sony (SNE), Philips, Xerox, Gemstar, iRex, and Barnes and Noble have all built e-readers that never quite caught on — at least not well enough to achieve iPod status.

Still, Levy’s phrase became the metaphor — or is it a simile? — that launched a hundred flattering headlines.

  • Wall Street Journal: “The iPod of eBook Readers?”
  • AppleInsider: “Amazon’s New Kindle Dubbed the iPod of Reading,”
  • Gizmodo: “Amazon Kindle Official details: $399, ‘Whispernet’ EV-DO, the ‘iPod of Reading’ “
  • Pocket-lint: “Amazon Unveils ‘the iPod of Reading’ “
  • Electronista: “Amazon Intros Kindle, the ‘iPod of Reading'”

And so on. A Google News search on “iPod of reading” turned up more than 580 stories this morning, many of them using the phrase, a few attributing it to Bezos.

More broadly, a Google search of “the iPod of” anything turns up more than 760,000 hits. You’ll find the iPod of phones, the iPod of printers, the iPod of cars, the iPod of the brain, the iPod of recovery, the iPod of integration, the iPod of for-pay Internet video, the iPod of the hotel industry, and yes, the iPod of spin.

The iPod, it seems, has become an all-purpose metaphor, short-hand that saves publicists, journalists, bloggers and everybody else the necessity of having to think too hard about what something actually is.

What is Kindle? You can see the specs on Amazon’s product page. But this is a case where watching a video may be more useful than reading about it (dying art, remember?). To see Amazon’s demo, click on the image below.