Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rewarding Early Adopters

Here's a great idea posted on the Kindle forum earlier today. The suggestion is to reward (and encourage more) early adopters of the Kindle by giving them a credit towards any next-generation Kindle purchase. It's like the loyalty programs offered by some of the (mostly domestic) auto manufacturers: "You own a 2005 Red Barchetta (great Rush tune, btw) and want to trade it in on a 2008 one? Great. In addition to all the other rebates we're offering, you also qualify for the Barchetta loyalty discount of $1,000."

Kindle 1.0 will have to be supported long after Kindle 2.0 arrives. In fact, could you imagine being told at some point that your Kindle 1.0 device isn't supported any longer?! Now that would cause a ruckus!

So since Kindle 1.0 will be viable for many years, what's the harm in Amazon buying back a bunch of them as owners upgrade to 2.0? They could easily sell them to new Kindle customers, albeit for something much less than the $399 charged for new units today. And what a great way to reward the customers you value most, your early adopters? They're the ones out there showing off their new purchase and you can bet they're evangelizing your product to their friends.

Apple has never done something like this, as far as I know. Jeff Bezos, why not use this opportunity to set a new standard in customer loyalty and rewards?...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Excellent Questions from "The Motley Fool"

The Motley Fool offered up some comments on Amazon's first quarter results (see story here). Here's the Kindle-related piece that stands out most to me:

The lack of Kindle data is perhaps the most troubling, because this is where Amazon is riding on the hardware side, too. Owners and potential buyers are flying blind here. Is this a dud? Is this a hit? Is an updated Kindle on the way to clear up the original model's shortcomings? Is a price cut looming? It may be in Amazon's best interest to keep mum on those last two points until it's ready to take action, but I can't be the only one waiting on the sidelines to see the Kindle either evolve or earn its iPhone price tag.
Yes indeed...the silence is a bit deafening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kindle Book Conversion: One Author's Story

Francis Hamit is the author of The Shenandoah Spy, a book he recently converted so that it could be sold for the Kindle. He sent me an e-mail about her experience and some of the pitfalls he encountered. I figured others would want to hear the details, particularly self-published authors who are considering the same conversion process. He graciously agreed to do a short blog interview and here's what he had to say:

JW: What kind of files did you use for the interior process and what sort of problems did you run into with those formats?

FH: We tried the PDF we used for the print version. The front page border separated into another page that was otherwise blank; just a big rectangle. The logo disappeared entirely. Amazon does not like other people's logos in their space. We couldn't get either the border or the logo into HTML and the interior map had to be made into a GIF before it would appear. It was a dispute about this logo and some concerns about quality that led us to cancel the CreateSpace edition despite the higher potential revenues.

JW: How about the cover? Did you have any challenges on that front?

FH: Again, Amazon was very top-down about it. The file had to be converted to RGB. The original image simply did not come up at all, Our designer, George Mattingly had no trouble doing it, but it added another cost to the process.

JW: What are the most valuable lessons you learned in this process?

FH: Amazon reserves the right to set the retail price, Regardless of your suggested retail price they pay 35% of that. If you set the price higher, you get paid more. Do not try to compete on price. You have no control over it anyway. Set the retail price that will pay you fairly for the copies sold, at least equivalent to what you make on your printed editions.

Also, looking for what else had been loaded up the same day I found that Amazon is adding about a hundred public domains works a day to the Kindle catalog and charging the minimum of 99 cents each. It's a brilliant move on their part, but you're competing with Charles Dickers, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, among many others and the fees are pure profit for them . It's a bonanza for the casual reader who carries a Kindle . New authors are at a disadvantage since we are priced the same as best sellers. Load away, but don't expect much in sales until your print editions catch fire.

JW: What advice do you have for other authors who are considering porting their content over to the Kindle format?

FH: Go tot their preferred format, even if you have to pay to have it converted. It saves time and aggravation. Use type for your logo on Kindle editions.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kindle is Focus of Bezos Shareholder Letter

This year's Amazon shareholder letter from CEO Jeff Bezos focuses on the Kindle. I love the phrase he uses several times in the letter, "information snacking":

They’ve (electronic devices) shifted us more toward information snacking, and I would argue toward shorter attention spans.

If our tools make information snacking easier, we’ll shift more toward information snacking and away from long-form reading.

We hope Kindle and its successors may gradually and incrementally move us over years into a world with longer spans of attention, providing a counterbalance to the recent proliferation of info-snacking tools.
Actually, if it's well designed, I'd like to think future versions of the Kindle will be the solution for both long-form reading and information snacking.

I just started reading The Last Lecture on my Blackberry (via Mobipocket). I always have my Blackberry with me, so I'll read it in time slices throughout the day. In this situation I'm forcing the info-snacking Blackberry to serve as more of a long-form reading device. Not ideal, but certainly an adequate solution for a 224-page book.

Although Bezos hopes we'll all develop longer attention spans, I think that's highly unlikely. In fact, my bet is that future versions of the Kindle will have more and more info-snacking capabilities built-in. I just can't see any device having a major impact on reading patterns and info-gathering tendencies, unless that device is simply encouraging even more info-snacking.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Will the Kindle Be a $1 Billion Business?

Amazon Director John Doerr apparently thinks so. That, and a few other tidbits are included in this BusinessWeek article. For example, this excerpt shows that CEO Jeff Bezos is willing to bet the farm on the Kindle initiative:

I remember one meeting where one of our executives said to me, "So how much are you prepared to spend on Kindle, anyway?" I looked at him and said, "How much do we have?"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New eInk Touchscreen Technology Due in August?

The iLiad supports this feature but the Kindle doesn't. I'm talking about the ability to annotate documents by writing on the screen. According to this InfoWorld article there's a new eInk read/write display technology being shown at the Display 2008 conference in Tokyo this week. It's a step up from the iLiad's display and should be available in August.

Wouldn't it be cool if Amazon would use this as an opportunity to rev the Kindle, reducing the price on the current model and the offering a more expensive unit that features this new display technology?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Feedbooks Kindle Download Guide

According to their website, "Feedbooks is a universal e-paper platform compatible with all e-paper devices where you can download thousands of free e-books, publish and share your own content, and create customized newspapers from RSS feeds and widgets." The Feedbooks Kindle link is here, where you'll find The Kindle Download Guide, a set of links to all the various Kindle-friendly (fre)e-books Feedbooks has to offer.

Feedbook also provides the same content for other platforms including Sony, Cybook, iRex and Smartphones/PDAs. They also have a blog, but I wish they'd update it more regularly...

Friday, April 11, 2008

The "Other" Kindle Home Page

Here's a fairly new site you need to bookmark immediately: It's called A Kindle Home Page and it's an all-in-one resource center for add-on's, free content, blogs, news and an assortment of other great links. The site is brought to you by Stephen Windwalker, author of the popular How to Use the Amazon Kindle for Email and Other Cool Tricks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Lost Kindle Saga

What a bummer. Blogger Jim Lyons writes here about losing his Kindle a few weeks ago. I felt bad for the guy, then I wondered...

Why can't Amazon help him track this down? I'm not asking them to hire a detective and find the darned thing, but how useful is a stolen/lost Kindle? Amazon knows the serial number and who bought that particular device. Shouldn't there be a way to alert Amazon when you lose it so that they can prevent anyone from ordering more books for it? Then the device becomes nothing more than a paperweight, useless to the person who stole/found it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Technology Review Covers the Kindle

If you're still on the fence about the Kindle and want a quick overview to see what all the hype is about, take a couple of minutes and watch this video from Technology Review magazine. Although it hits all the highlights, you can tell these guys don't do video for a living. Zooming in every so often to show what's on the screen would help improve the viewing experience...

I also have to admit an odd fascination with the size and shape of the reviewer's thumbs; it didn't help matters that his left one has some sort of enormous bandage on it. I hope this guy isn't dreaming of being a professional hand model one day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Will Amazon Ever Collect This Sort of Data?

As I read this press release earlier today I got to thinking... This company, Smart's Publishing, is just leveraging the technology and tracking recipient reading habits to better serve their customers. Pretty straightforward stuff and highly useful information for the newsletter publishers using the service.

We don't think too much about the footprints we create when opening and reading e-newsletters, but what if similar tracking features found their way onto your e-book reader? Would you care?

My sense is that most consumers feel their book-reading habits should be considered private. Of course, if you're buying your books through an online vendor or using a member discount card at a brick-and-mortar, well, your habits are already being tracked.

I'm talking about something much more granular than this though. For example, would publishers like to know what percentage of customers typically only get about 20 pages into an e-book before giving up and never reading the rest? Would reference book publishers like to know what topics tend to be the most viewed or what terms are most frequently searched for? Could these patterns have value? Absolutely.

Perhaps that's another pricing model that will find its way into the e-book world: You could pay one price for privacy where your activity isn't being tracked or a lower price if you're willing to let the vendor capture your habits and potentially sell the resulting data.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Kindle Ruins a Subway Pastime

If the Kindle really takes off it's likely to affect a favorite time-waster on subways and buses everywhere: Speculating more about fellow riders by the cover of the book they're reading, or so says this article in The New York Times.

And oh, here's a little April Fools fun for Kindle owners everywhere... This story from gadget website T3 talks about a forthcoming Kindle rival called "The Good E-Book", a device that "removes all unsuitable content" on the fly. Enjoy!