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What impact did Oprah have on Kindle?

Still no hard sales numbers but judging from my own family, the talk show host's endorsement could be an important turning point for Kindle.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
Annette Mata watches a recording of Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Amazon's Kindle. Greg Sandoval/CNET Networks

LOS ANGELES--I'm guessing that Oprah Winfrey helped boost Kindle sales over the weekend after giving a glowing review of the device on her TV show Friday. I'll also give odds that her endorsement pays off big for Amazon in the future.

On Friday, Winfrey, a daytime TV fixture for decades and one of the richest women in the world, dedicated a significant part of her TV show to recommending the Kindle, Amazon.com's digital-book reader. An ebullient Winfrey called the e-reader "life changing" and her "new favorite device."

Winfrey's recommendations of book titles during the mid-1990s could send sales into the stratosphere, but I wrote Friday that Winfrey's ratings have slid the past year and it was unclear how much impact her endorsement would have on Kindle sales. Amazon declined to comment. I don't expect to learn much as the company is typically tight-lipped about this kind of data.

Regardless, Winfrey's blessing could prove to be a turning point for the Kindle if it helps to spark buzz among women with disposable income who read a lot and otherwise wouldn't have heard about the device. According to some experts, women control or influence 83 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb by guessing that if they like the device, many could end up buying the e-readers for their children. Our economy is tanking and money could be tight for a long time but I'm thinking one area consumers won't skimp on is their children's education.

What has me thinking that Winfrey remains a taste maker is a chat with Annette Mata, the wife of my cousin Robert, on Sunday night. She casually told me she bought the Kindle after watching Winfrey's broadcast on Friday. She's only one person, but check out who she is.

Mata is a 42-year-old college graduate who grew up in New York and is an occasional viewer of Winfrey's show. She has two children, is a stay-at-home mom, and reads about five books a month. Annette's husband, Robert, is the costumer for actor Will Smith, so while he and his wife would never consider themselves rich, they are well off. What Annette is not is a techie. The only other gadget she owns is an iPhone.

Early last week, she went to shop at Amazon and saw the ad featuring a video clip of Winfrey endorsing the Kindle. She said that Winfrey was so excited about the device that it made her curious. Mata made sure to watch the show.

"Her passion for reading is similar to mine," Mata said. "I thought this would be a great gadget to take with me anywhere; on an airplane, waiting in car pool. I can read The Los Angeles Times and all my books and do it with one little gadget."

The best part was that Amazon was offering a $50 discount to people who keyed in the code OprahWinfrey. "I paid $309 for it," Mata said. "I think it's a brilliant idea."

I'll try to get Amazon to provide some insight to how Kindle sales did over the weekend. If you have any info or anecdotes, please share.