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Originally published May 25, 2010 at 6:36 PM | Page modified May 25, 2010 at 7:01 PM

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Bezos boasts of Kindle's edge with serious readers

Jeff Bezos says Amazon's Kindle can compete with Apple's iPad by focusing on die-hard readers, just as heavy-duty cameras remain relevant despite the spread of camera phones.

Seattle Times business reporter

If the new Apple iPad is for multitaskers, then Amazon.com's Kindle is for die-hard readers, and that's OK with Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.

Speaking at Amazon's annual shareholder meeting Tuesday in downtown Seattle, Bezos acknowledged nine out of 10 households don't necessarily do a lot of serious reading.

Still, he said the Kindle can compete with the iPad by focusing on die-hard readers, just as heavy-duty cameras remain relevant despite the spread of camera phones.

Serious readers "are going to want a purpose-built device because it's an important activity to them," Bezos told nearly 100 people at the Seattle Art Museum. "The Kindle is all about reading."

He noted that the Kindle, with its black-and-white screen based on e-ink technology, has a longer battery life, weighs less and is easier to read in sunlight than full-color, video-capable LCD devices such as the iPad.

Bezos gave a low-key, 10-minute presentation, then answered questions for a half-hour. In response to one question, Bezos said a color screen for the Kindle is "still some ways out."

Adding color to e-ink displays is "technically very difficult," he said, though "very, very easy" with an LCD screen. "There are several things in the laboratory, but they're not quite ready for prime-time production."

As usual, Amazon did not disclose Kindle sales figures and said only that customers have bought "millions" since the device was introduced in late 2007. It has two Kindle versions — one with a 6-inch screen for $259 and another with a 9.7-inch display for $489.

By comparison, Apple said it sold more than 1 million iPads in the first month after its April 3 release. The iPad, which lets users read books, store photos and browse the Internet, costs $499 and up.

Bezos also praised other aspects of Amazon's business besides the Kindle, including its third-party sellers program, which now accounts for about 30 percent of all unit sales, and Amazon Web Services, which provides Web hosting and data-storage services to other companies.

Amazon's Web services division is part of a group that had $188 million in revenue in the first quarter, while Amazon's retail operations brought in nearly $7 billion. "It has the potential to be as big as our retail business," Bezos said.

Additionally, Amazon Fresh, an online grocery-delivery venture that began in Seattle in 2007, remains a local experiment.

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"We're still trying to figure out how to make it work," he said. "We certainly won't expand it unless we feel like we know how to make it work."

Shares of Amazon closed up $2.74, or 2.2 percent, Tuesday to $124.86. The stock has traded between $74.55 and $151.09 in the past 52 weeks.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com. Information from The Associated Press was included in this story.

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