Every time I say anything about Amazon's Kindle I seen to attract hate mail from people who seem to be in an unhealthy relationship with their ebook reader (oddly enough, a few years ago I used to get the same kind of hate mail when I'd wonder why people spent hundreds of dollars on an iPod ...).
Every time I say anything about Amazon's Kindle I seen to attract hate mail from people who seem to be in an unhealthy relationship with their ebook reader (oddly enough, a few years ago I used to get the same kind of hate mail when I'd wonder why people spent hundreds of dollars on an iPod ...). Well, each to his or her own I guess. But what's surprised me about the coverage of Amazon's launch of the Kindle 2 is how people seem to what it to be all things to everyone - it should be an iPhone app, it should be software, it should be open source, it should use WiFi rather than Whispersync, it should be bigger, it should be smaller, it should be cheaper, it shouldn't exist at all ...
Here's the deal with the Kindle - it is what it is.
What's interesting abut the Kindle is that it's a stand-alone niche product, something that in the world of consumer electronics is rare. Sure, there are other ebook readers out there, but none do what the Kindle does. When it comes to ebook readers that hook up with an online content delivery platform, the Kindle is without equal, and to be honest I don't see any competition to it on the horizon. Sure, the $359 price tag is going to be too much for many people (especially in a recession) but since Amazon seems to want to keep supply low in order to create artificial demand, it doesn't matter.
It's also important to bear in mind that Amazon also doesn't seem to be following the old "razors and blades" format where the money is in the blades (in this case, the books). Given the high price point of the Kindle Amazon is clearly making money from both (the "razors and blades" analogy really doesn't work for the Kindle because the high price tag of the razor in this case, combined with the fact that there are no alternatives, creates far greater brand loyalty).
Another point that's well worth bearing in mind when talking about the Kindle is that when it comes to content, Kindle is far from being ready for prime time. 230,000 ebooks might sound like a lot, but in a area as diverse as reading, it's a drop in the ocean. To be ready for prime time, Amazon would need on had millions of titles.
Then there's the DRM. A device that's as locked up as the Kindle relies on selling to the greater fool. Just before the Holidays I received an email from a reader who had Kindle that took one too many trips to the ground and was dead. This person had a few hundred bucks of content locked up in the Kindle and had decided to buy a replacement Kindle ... problem was there was no stock. With no option to view Kindle content on any other device, owners of a device that's taken a bite of the dirt sandwich either have to choose between abandoning their investment in the platform, or buying a new Kindle.
Sure, the Kindle is an interesting device, but existing in an ecosystem where it has no competition its evolution is going to be slow and its journey to becoming a mass-market device far from guaranteed.