Bon Voyage! Huge demand for Kindle Voyage $200 e-readers as first edition sells out in days

The death of the e-reader amid an avalanche of tablets has been predicted for some time now but the new generation of e-readers seems to be doing just fine, with the first production run of the Amazon Voyage not only selling out within a few days in the US but also looking set to be a rare hardware moneyspinner for Amazon.

The first Voyages will be sent out on October 21 but Amazon says the ‘popular demand’  means orders placed now on for the device will ship a month later during the week of November 23. This date is for the device ordered with Amazon’s ‘special offers”, which means promotions pushed to your Kindle, while those who want it without the ‘special offers’ will have to wait until the week of December 7.

The company has also placed a limit of two Voyages per customer, which is the first time I can remember that Amazon has set a limit of this sort. We might see an early wave of Voyages for sale on eBay from people who have snapped up early orders for multiples.

After the flop of the Kindle Phone, a success with the Voyage would provide a welcome boost for Amazon financially as it is one of the few devices the company has ever offered that has a substantial profit margin.

$240 million boost for Amazon

Investment analyst Paulo Santos, of Think Finance, writing on Seeking Alpha, reckons the Voyage, which is priced relatively highly for an e-reader, will net Amazon around $60 per device.

He believes a realistic sales figure for the Voyage for its first year could be 3-4 million units, which would bring in $180 million to $240 million for Amazon’s coffers.

The Voyage was making a strong showing in Amazon’s list of best-sellers in Electronics, with the $199 version with ‘special offers’ and wi-fi-only placed sixth early this week while the $219 wi-fi-only version without ‘special offers’ was placed 12th.

The Paperwhite was still the most popular-selling Kindle in third place while pre-orders for the new keenly priced ($99) Kindle HD6 put it in 14th spot, with the present incarnation of the Kindle HDX 7-inch tablet in 15th place.

The look of paper

The Voyage perhaps points to the future of e-readers as it is designed to replicate as far as possible the experience of reading a book on paper.

Early hands-on previews are full of praise for the Voyage, which is reckoned to be the best Kindle yet. It’s certainly not cheap for an e-reader at $199 for the lowest wi-fi option and $260 for wi-fi plus free 3G.

But the price doesn’t seem to be putting off customers and the device certainly has a quality specification. It’s the thinnest Kindle ever, with a 300ppi six-inch display and 4Gb of storage. The micro-etched glass screen is claimed to eliminate glare, feel like paper to the touch, and read like a printed page.

The death knell has been tolled for e-readers, with commentators saying the boom in tablet sales would mean the end of the devices, but the Voyage success, plus the recent highly acclaimed launch of Kobo’s Aura H20, surely point to the fact that there is a devoted fan base for high-res, low-weight monochrome devices focused firmly on ebooks and able to run for weeks without recharging.

There is an intriguing aspect tucked away in the literature for the Voyage, which says ‘Kindle Voyage has an experimental web browser based on WebKit.’ Now, I’m not a big fan of the Silk browser which runs on my Kindle Fire at the moment, but I’m sure it isn’t experimental – temperamental, yes, and very prone to crashing – but not experimental, so I look forward to see what’s going on in this area when the Voyage appears, although, being a black and white device, it isn’t really designed for sophisticated browsing.

The Voyage is still available in the UK for delivery from November 4.

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