Friday, March 27, 2009

Kindle the Amazon fire

Kindle 2Go to know that my friend is getting the Kindle 2 so thought of catching up with her the same way we did some time ago for the iPhone

Friend: I’m so excited about the kindle 2

Me: Hows it? Just today morning as a part of our Friday Ideas session, our team was discussing about bringing digital experiences close to real world experiences and book reading was one of them. Someone wondered how was it to read a book using the Kindle.

Friend: Kindle 2 is a pretty neat device - I actually bought it for my husband. It's got a great design and lets you lose yourself in your reading. It's got free Sprint wireless connectivity built in, so it is fairly easy to order a book on Amazon and have it delivered to your Kindle in seconds. Kindle versions of books are a lot cheaper than the hardbacks I buy, often less than 1/4 of the price of a regular book. I do a lot of reading on my iPhone but the glare of the screen really hurts my eyes. Not so with the Kindle, the screen is very easy on your eyes, almost like reading a real book. The best part is you can adjust the size of the text, which is a great usability feature for older readers.

Me: What are your favorite features?

Friend: Text to speech version - You can get your Kindle 2 to read the text to you. I think this is pretty neat. I know that my husband loves this feature the most.

Play MP3s - You can upload your MP3s to the Kindle and listen to them - I expect you will be able to buy amazon mp3s directly from the Kindle in the near future but this is just me speculating

Built in dictionary - You can highlight any word and the have the inbuilt Oxford American dictionary tell you the meaning.

Bookmarks - you can bookmark several different books at once and the kindle will remember where you left off your reading.

Size - it is incredibly light and is as thin as a pencil - for someone who reads as much as I do and lugs a ton of books around, this is the best feature.

But I personally think that there are some missed opportunities in terms of other features that can create an ecosystem around the product.

Me: May be a full blown internet browser, an SDK to build third party Kindle apps :-) Btw I heard people saying that no one will buy Kindle as it’s now available as an iPhone app. What’s your take on this?

Twitter

Friend: Well iPhones/iPod touch do have a bigger market share than the Kindle. Both devices enable you to stay connected (through cell network and wifi) and both have a great existing ecosystem that is built around them.

The Kindle device is pricey and works well but from a business perspective, the device is not as important as the digital selection of books that is available. The Kindle is a means to an end. If you want to reach a wider audience for your ebooks, then you first start with your device, then target other device enabled customers, and once ebooks themselves gain traction, target the masses (PC users et al).

This strategy is consistent with Amazon's strategy of providing Earth's biggest selection. I think it's brilliant.

So the question really should not be "how many kindles will be sold after the iPhone kindle app is released?” Rather, how many more incremental ebooks can you sell by being device independent?

Apple and Google are also trying to tap into the digital book market but Amazon has existing relationships with publishers and will win in the long run.

Me: Oh. So you are saying Amazon's strategy is to sell more ebooks (makes sense) than focusing on selling and making kindle to be "the ultimate" device. Kindle would be just another device offered by Amazon along with iPods and iPhones on their catalogue. It’s just that Kindle is an in house brand and has special features to be a better reader than iPod. Am I right?

Friend: Absolutely. Amazon is first and foremost a retailer with a huge selection of digital content and a proprietary device. With the latter, they can make sure competitors do not lock them out of their devices.

Me: Great. Also got to know that Amazon gave in to the ridiculous Authors Guild claim to allow authors to block text-to-speech. This was one of your favorite features right?

Friend: That is hilarious. Too bad about the text to speech but that was husband’s favorite feature. My next favorite feature is downloading books in seconds on to my device, which the stupid iPhone Kindle app cannot replicate. I’m not too gung ho about the iPhone Kindle App. Kinda sucks if you ask me.

OK so that was some serious talk. Btw I have neither an iPhone nor a Kindle. I might go for an iPhone some time in the future when the prices come down but would never go for a Kindle. I actually like the device and its features but I’m not a voracious book reader. All my reading is confined to Google Reader which works well on an iPhone. I might get one for my wife provided Kindle allows non amazon ebooks to be loaded onto it. :-) After all we are Indians.
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