November 19, 2007
A few brief thoughts upon the announcement of Amazon's Kindle ebook reader:
- Given that even my most skeptical friends have literally been desperate for ebooks for years now, there's definitely demand for such a device -- the question is whether all the pieces are in place, and whether regular people agree with us geeks.
- The choice of EVDO over wifi is very telling. I travel a lot, so I'm keenly aware of exactly how far wifi has to go to become really ubiquitous. And even the many places that wifi is available are tangled up an a complicated set of different payment and access schemes. Bundling access through an EVDO network that "feels" free is one of the most interesting parts of the announcement. Odd that they branded the network as "Whispernet", unless of course they plan to use it for other things in the future.
- I don't think they should be charging for blogs that are distributed to Kindle users. Obviously, I have a dog in this fight, since I've wanted a dedicated blog reading-device for years, but I don't even think it's got the potential to be a great business for blog publishers. Having blog content be free would be the perfect gateway drug to Kindle usage.
- I was really unsettled by the specificity of Robert Scoble's April Fool's joke about such a device, since it ended up being very accurate. On the other hand, I know that there are bloggers who've known about the Kindle, in one form or another, for a year or so.
- The 10-minute video extolling the Kindle featuring Jeff Bezos and a dozen best-selling authors is perhaps the most visible evidence of just how much Amazon dominates the book distribution industry.
- The videos promoting Kindle also show that, though he might not have Steve Jobs' showmanship, Bezos seems to be perhaps the most articulate CEO of any of the big technology companies when it comes to explaining the benefits of his own products.
- They should kick-start the market by giving these out as free Wikipedia devices to schools. One per classroom.
- Distributing books through Whispernet and controlling their sale dodges a lot of the more obvious blowback that they'd get about DRM and monopolistic sales channels if they'd have chosen to use a desktop app like the iTunes store does. Smart, or lucky?
- Does the fact that books or other content have to be converted to MOBI format mean that they're eliminating the potential for Long Tail revenues from Kindle users? They say they've got 100 out of 112 best-sellers supported already, but isn't the killer app the books that aren't NY Times best-sellers?
- A five-thousand word cover story in Newsweek entitled "The Future of Reading"? That's perhaps the most impressive PR coup for a hardware device that I've ever seen. The story is pretty good, but even the iPhone wasn't greeted with that kind of reception. ("The Future of Talking"?)
- I love reading on my iPod Touch, and indeed, it's a better reading device than it is an iPod. It's a little too small to really curl up with, as one does with a book, but when I showed it to an acquaintance in the book publishing industry a few weeks ago, she understood how I could say it was a lot closer to the "right" ebook experience than anything that's been foisted on us in the past. It'll be interesting to see if Kindle continues that trend.
Update: D'oh! I forgot two of the main points I wanted to make:
- I should be able to get a Kindle client for my laptop, and then if I buy a book every other week, I get free EVDO access. Maybe I'd have to pay for a card, but Whispernet is a great service.
- Amazon Prime members should get a Kindle for free. Make that program actually offer some tangible benefits to members. And again, free Whispernet for Prime members would be killer.