Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has revealed the company is selling its Kindle tablets at cost, as it gets set to start selling the Paperwhite and Fire HD in the UK within weeks.
Theand Kindle Paperwhite e-readers will go on sale in European countries, including the UK, on 25 October, and pre-orders are open now. The devices are already , and will make it out in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France in time for the holiday season.
Amazon will also roll out its Lending Library in the countries for the first time, allowing Amazon Prime subscribers to borrow from a collection of 200,000 books for free.
The Paperwhite comes in Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi-plus-3G variants, priced at £109 and £169 respectively, while the seven-inch Kindle Fire HD tablet costs £169 for the 16GB version and £209 for the 32GB version. Customers get £10 off those Kindle Fire HD prices if they agree to see advertising on the device.
According to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, the company is not making a profit on the devices themselves.
"We sell the hardware at our cost, so it's break-even on the hardware," Bezos told the BBC on Thursday. "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices. After you buy a Kindle Fire HD you may use it to buy books, games, movies and so on. So that continuing relationship with the customer is where we hope to make money over time."
In the case of the Kindle Fire line, Amazon uses a forked version of Android that does away Google's Play Store and brings in Amazon's own storefront. With its e-readers, Amazon also makes it easy for customers to buy books at any time.
The Kindle Fire HD is a direct competitor to Google's Nexus 7 tablet, which is itself intended very much as a conduit to media sales. The similarly-priced devices both have a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution, although Amazon's tablet gives more storage for the price (the Nexus 7 comes in 8GB and 16GB versions), and Google's tablet is lighter (at 340g versus 396g) and more powerful (using a quad-core rather than dual-core processor).
The touch-controlled Kindle Paperwhite is a significant step up from earlier iterations of the device, as the screen comes with built-in illumination. Amazon is also making great play of the screen's high contrast and resolution, which is supposed to offer a more paper-like experience than the cheaper Kindles.
Then again, those entry-level, non-illuminated and non-touch Kindles are much cheaper, as they only cost £69.