It was summer and Len Edgerly was staying at a cottage in Maine when got his hands on his first Kindle. Because the device had sold out so quickly, it was nearly a year after Amazon released the popular digital reader in November. “I remember looking out at the ocean,” Edgerly said. “You know these times when your life sort of changes; when something gets into your heart. This is the thing I was born to do.”
The thing he is referring to is producing The Kindle Chronicles, a popular podcast dedicated to the device. The show draws thousands of regular listeners and recently aired its 700th episode. Along the way, Edgerly, who is 72, has interviewed famous literary figures and top Amazon executives. His guests have included former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; novelist Margaret Atwood; writer and comedian Baratunde Thurston; and John Ashbery, a well-known 20th-century American poet. “I had no plan when I started; I wasn’t going to become an Amazon fanboy,” Edgerly says. “I just loved this thing.”
Amazon engineers delivered a new Kindle this fall: Kindle Scribe. It’s the first version of the e-reader on which you can write. Kevin Keith, vice president of Amazon devices, gave Edgerly a preview of the new Kindle during an episode of Edgerly’s podcast, and the host says he can’t wait to try it out. Kindle Scribe was released on November 30 (availability varies by region), and while the writing feature brings an entirely new element to Kindle, the device delivers the same immersive, distraction-free experience every Kindle has for the past 15 years.
What Amazon and Edgerly have in common—a love of stories
This consistent reading experience is a big part of what makes Kindle special. Shortly before the original Kindle shipped in 2007, Bezos told Harvard Business Review that “it helps to base your strategy on things that won’t change. When I’m talking with people outside the company, there’s a question that comes up very commonly: “What’s going to change in the next five to 10 years?” But I very rarely get asked, ‘What’s not going to change in the next five to 10 years?’” Bezos added, “All the energy you invest in these things today will still be paying you dividends 10 years from now.”
Kindle—a device designed to disappear in readers’ hands and allow stories to take over—was the perfect vessel for this ethos. “One thing that seems to be very, very fundamental is that we like narrative, we like stories,” Bezos told Edgerly during their first podcast together.
Pursuing a love of language
A love for stories and writing manifested itself early in Edgerly’s life. He started keeping a journal as a young boy in New England, writing in his blue diary whether he had eggs or pancakes for breakfast.
In college, Edgerly joined the Harvard Crimson as a reporter. After graduation, he started writing for The [Woonsocket] Call, a small newspaper in Rhode Island. Next, he followed advice from his father to get an MBA from Harvard Business School. Edgerly wanted to gain skills to support his dream of becoming a publisher. His dream took him to a newspaper in Wyoming and then to Colorado.
After he retired, Edgerly decided to once again pursue his love of language. He enrolled at Bennington College where he studied poetry and writing. And as a reader of poetry, the Kindle is Edgerly’s favorite vessel. “It somehow just makes you feel closer to the words, to the mind of the writer.”
Writers in his pocket
Edgerly is now telling his stories using technology. And one of those stories is the story of the Kindle community, which plays a big part in his podcast. “Kindle is this device that really brings all of these writers together, here is this community of writers that you can put into your pocket,” he says. “I knew I wanted to interview one person on each show. I would ask them ‘What's on your Kindle? What are you reading?’”
The first person he interviewed was Thurston, a fellow Harvard graduate. He invited him on the show after seeing a picture of Thurston with his Kindle on the subway in New York. “Almost 15 years ago, he was saying, if they do this right, there'll be something that he called ‘social reading.’” Edgerly said. Today, customers can share Kindle notes and highlights with their friends and their impressions of what they read on Goodreads, a community of book lovers.
So far, Edgerly has interviewed nearly 50 Amazon employees, and Jeff Bezos was one of his favorite guests. “He seemed like a world-class listener,” Edgerly recalls. “It ended up feeling more like a conversation than something that was as formal as what I'd done as a newspaper reporter. He just seemed so confident that the world was a wonderful place and that amazing things could be done.”
Edgerly said he wants to keep The Kindle Chronicles going until the year 2044 (at least). He will be 94 then. “My father is going strong at 95, so it seems like a reasonable goal," he said. “It might also be the year I upload my 1,000th episode.”