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As the Kindle Turns Five, Amazon Girds for a New Fight

Once a weapon against book retailers, its e-reader now battles Apple and Google
As the Kindle Turns Five, Amazon Girds for a New Fight
Photo illustration by 731; Kindles: Bloomberg(3); Hat: Image Source/Getty Images; Bezos: Victoria Bonn-Meuser/DPA/Zumapress

On Nov. 19, 2007, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos appeared before a group of journalists and publishing executives at the W Hotel in Lower Manhattan to introduce something completely unexpected from a company known at the time as an online retailer: an electronic reading device. Oddly shaped, with a sluggish black-and-white screen and a jumble of angular buttons, the original Kindle resembled the unholy spawn of a calculator and a BlackBerry. Despite its peculiar design, the Kindle was easy to use and allowed owners to download a book quickly from Amazon’s vast catalog without connecting to a PC. That, it turned out, was the magic trick that transformed not only an industry but Amazon’s image in the eyes of the world.

Photograph by David McNew/Getty Images