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Amazon's Bezos has lofty ambitions for Kindle

CEO reveals to Newsweek that the e-tailer's upcoming e-reader will operate on a wireless system called Whispernet and download a book in less than a minute. CEO Jeff Bezos believes the Kindle will be to reading what the iPod was to music, according to report published Sunday in the online edition of Newsweek magazine.

In what appears to be the Bezos' first interview about the company's upcoming electronic reader, Amazon's chief told the magazine that the Kindle can store up to 200 books and connect to the Web with the help of a system called Whispernet. Amazon, a company that has become synonymous with buying books online, will also offer Kindle owners a selection of more than 88,000 digital books at launch time, according to Newsweek.

Last week, CNET reported that Bezos will unveil the Kindle at a media event in New York on Monday. An industry source said that the device will retail for $399 and receive automatic downloads from major newspapers, magazines and other publications. The source also said that Kindle features e-mail.

The e-mail service enables owners to receive word documents or PDF files that can be stored in the device's library just like a book, Newsweek reported. But what makes the handheld truly unique is that it downloads books off the Web--and it can do that "in less than a minute," Bezos told the magazine.

E-readers used to confine e-book buyers to wherever their computers were located. Digital books had to be first downloaded to a PC and then synced to an e-reader. Amazon is freeing them to buy wherever they can connect to the Web and this could lead to more impulse purchases.

Amazon is banking a lot on the e-reader. The retailer held up the release for more than a year in an attempt to deliver a superior product than predecessors, a source told CNET Previous attempts to convince the public to switch to digital books have largely failed.

To help spur demand, Amazon is pricing Kindle editions of New York Times best sellers as well as new releases for $9.99. Price is important because in the past, e-books have often cost the same as the paper kind and that stifled demand.

Newsweek offered few details about the Whispernet system, but did say that its based on the EVDO. A source told CNET that Sprint will provide the EVDO access.

EVDO will enable Kindle owners to hook up to the Web via a cellular network. That means way more coverage than having to look for a Wi-Fi hotspot.