Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Yet Another Shortsighted Kindle Perspective

The media never seems to tire of these articles. The latest one is from Liz Gunnison and I came across it here on Wired's site. If you trust in what she has to say, Amazon is wasting their time on this Kindle initiative. In fact, she closes the article by saying, "designing the game-changing e-reader, it seems, is more like designing the game-changing harpsichord than the iPod."

Ah, the ever-present iPod reference. I continue to tip my hat to Steve Jobs & Co. for the incredible work they've done with the iPod platform (including iPods, iPhones, iTunes, etc.) As I've said before, Jobs has converted Apple from a computer company into an enormously successful consumer brand. That's pretty hard to do. Just ask Microsoft. I'm sure they'd love to pull off the same trick.

But back to the iPod comparison... Yes, the iPod and Kindle are not on the same scales when it comes to unit sales. It's not even close. But does that mean the Kindle will never be a huge success?

Anyone who was around in the '70's and '80's probably remembers the dawn of the VCR. The first one I saw was in the late '70's at my high school. They were big, bulky and incredibly expensive, but worth the investment for a school. Shortly thereafter the prices came down to the sub-$1,000 level. That's when I noticed a neighbor or two splurging on them for home use. I bought my first VCR in 1983 for $500. Five hundred bucks! I'd hate to see what that works out to in today's dollars after adjusting for inflation.

It seems like 1983 or 1984 was when VCRs really started to take off, even in the $300-$500 price range. But that was at least 3 or 4 years after they were first available to the general public. I don't know how many hundreds of millions have been sold since, but I'll bet everyone would agree that the platform was a huge hit (desipte the fact that it's given way to DVDs and DVRs).

My point? I think the Kindle is likely to follow the VCR adoption curve. Early adopters have jumped aboard and 240,000 units to date, if that number is valid, isn't anything to be ashamed of. But that's for a $350 device, similar to the days of $1,000 VCRs. I can't wait to see how this market evolves when Amazon introduces new devices at more mass market pricing levels. In the mean time, let's enjoy the VHS vs. Beta debate (Amazon vs. Sony) and look forward to the day when millions of these are in use around the globe.


Jo said...

You've pretty much sold me on the idea that I would love to have a Kindle.

In perfect agreement with your article, the sticking point is the price. I don't HAVE $350 in this economy. If it came down to less than $100, they'd probably sell one to me.

As far as the iPod/Kindle debate goes, I have hearing problems. Then, in June, I had a bad sinus/throat/ear infection with bronchitis. My right ear clogged up to the point that it is hearing NOTHING, and it still hasn't unclogged.

If you gave me a choice between a free Kindle or a free iPod, it wouldn't even take me a second to decide. The Kindle would win, hands down.

As the baby boomers get older and start to have trouble hearing, the Kindle/iPod ratio may tip the other way (if the price comes down).

Kristen said...

I read that article on Wired, and I have to say I felt kind of insulted when the author sarcastically said "Gee, reading books and magazines was prohibitively difficult before, but now that there's a $359 electronic reader available, I'm going to start!"

Because I have a disability, holding, lifting, storing, even browsing books in the store is difficult! When I saw the Kindle, I knew it was a bit pricey, but I made it a high priority to get one.

Sure I'm not in the majority, but aging baby boomers, people with low vision, etc may decide that the Kindle does indeed make reading easier.

Chris Moran said...

I sense a growing iApple decent across the net and I'm liking it. iConsume owners always need to pipe in about how their device does everything - I'm waiting for the "wipes your butt" jailbreak.

I have grown to want some devices that just do one or two things well and some that I can make do a lot. An ereader should be good with books. The kindle is GREAT. The added "experimental" features are awesome (and the wireless is amazing) and helped me choose to get it, but I'm not sure they were end-all-be-all features (except for the wireless book downloading).

I paid the original $399, so I didn't get the price break (missed by less than a week - for price guarantee purposes) and think even $350 is too much, but I had birthday money and did some design work to make up the difference to pay for it. $100 seems way too low, but I bet getting it to $199 would do some magic. Now... if only they'd upgrade the FIRMWARE for a few customizable features and "fixes", most current complaints would just disappear.

Mimi said...

The problem I had with the article was that basically, the author is focusing on a different demographic. Kindles are aimed primarily at reading adults, tho I think with the advent of more text books being offered, students may just climb on board. Get that... readers buy Kindles. So no, Kindles won't suddenly turn gamers and the oblivious into readers. This device is not for them.

Like Chris, I paid $399 for mine, missing out the price break by about a week. Damn. But, I also own an iPod... and use it to listen to books and music. There are times, while traveling, for instance, when listening is better, but at others, reading. Yes, I know I can listen to books on the Kindle, but I have several dozens on my iPod along with thousands of songs, podcasts and photos, etc, and the Kindle is not practical as a library, because of memory limitations. Maybe that will eventually change if there's a Kindle 2.0 one day.

Since I bought my Kindle, I read more than ever. I'd cut back on reading because of groaning, overstuffed book shelves and a local library that always seemed to be "out" of the current books of interest.

David Meerman Scott said...

Hey Joe,

Like this new blog. Hey, my Wiley book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" has consistently been in the top 200 Kindle book sales since around the time that Kindle was released. Does anyone have any visibility into what that translates into from a sales perspective (number of downloads)?

Take care, David

Joe Wikert said...

Hi David. I'm not aware of any formula to convert Amazon ranking to number of Kindle sales/downloads. The actual sales number should show up on your royalty statement though.