Tag - kindle

Amazon Kindle is killing it (specifically, Google)

The Kindle is absolutely killing it. Amazon doesn’t release sales numbers, but the whisper number in Taiwan is 4 million Kindles over the last three months of 2011.

That pales beside Apple’s almost 19 million units of iPad, but it’s the biggest number for Android tablets. And that’s a huge problem for Google.

Android, for Google, is about freedom
Android is the trojan horse that Google gives away to device manufacturers and carriers which was designed to ensure that their customers and users would be more tightly (even if virtually) connected to Google … glued tighter via digital services that generate income flow long term than the atoms & molecules that hoover cash up front.

So Android was supposed to guarantee Google’s freedom of access to users. Freedom from those device manufacturers and operating system vendors who might step between Google and users and try to sever the connection … such as making Bing the default search engine in IE. Or Siri replacing 95% of users’ need to search Google on their iPhones. Without users, there are no advertisers. Without advertisers, Google has no cash. And, as the old saying goes: no margin, no mission.

(Google’s freedom, of course, is distinct from users’ freedom. But by and large, Google has not been very evil about its efforts.)

New boss, same as the old boss
But now the Google trojan horse has a virus. A virus that infiltrated the Android dummy and took it over.

That virus is Amazon, who is using the structure and foundation of Android, but has divorced it entirely from it’s Google services roots. Unplug from Google (music, search, mail, apps, ads); plug in to Amazon (music, books, TV, products, movies, etc. etc. etc.).

Open source is … well … open
The reason Amazon is able to do this is the same reason Android grew so quickly in the first place: open source. Android never would have grown the way it did without three factors:

  1. It’s open source, so anyone can get the code, change the code, and re-release the code
  2. It improved rapidly after Google saw Apple reveal what a modern mobile OS should be
  3. It got big just as Apple was unleashing massive change in the mobile landscape, Microsoft/Nokia/BlackBerry all abysmally failed to respond with any even marginally capable riposte, and the carriers were desperate to compete with iPhone

But the biggest reason was number 1: free, baby, free.

It’s hard to compete with free. Free X beats marginally better X+1 … and Windows Mobile, Symbian, and BB OS were all very definitively unfree. Even better, Android quickly got better than tired old WinMo, complicated Symbian, and limited BB OS. Then it was free and good, even free and better. Irresistable!

(Of course, Android is no longer free. Due to patent encumbrances, Microsoft probably makes more money off Android right now than Google does, at least in the short term. Apple probably will start making money by licensing patents to Android device manufacturers as well. But still: it’s better, and it remains cheap.)

Hewers of wood & drawers of water
Now that Google has so kindly provided a great almost-free platform for small mobile devices, including tablets, Amazon is capitalizing on it by hijacking the result for its own use. Google won’t make a penny on any Kindle shipped, because:

  1. Amazon glue has replaced the Google glue
  2. Amazon even replaced the Google app store with an Amazon app store

Rock & roll, baby! This is how you win: turn your opponent’s strength into your strength. It’s very Sun Tzu of Jeff Bezos and company. And it’s turned Google’s hard work at creating a competitive moat of protection and offence into Amazon’s best weapon.

Nice to know you’re working for Amazon if you’re on Google’s Android development team, isn’t it? And due to the nature of open source software, that genie don’t go back into that box. Ever.

Thinking, thinking, thinking
If Kindle continues to be the default Android tablet by virtue of market choice, Google will be cut out of the market it created. And I don’t see how they can get that trojan horse turned around and properly supporting the company that built it.

The only option is continuing to innovate on Android – making it so awesome, and making the connection to Google services so essential – that users will demand the “real Android” experience they can only get from Google glue.

Almost every step on that path also sharpens Amazon’s sword.

Good luck, Google!

Kindle: more expensive than print?

Why would a digital version be more expensive than a print version?

I know Amazon does a ton of price experimentation. Buying from Amazon can be a little like reserving a seat on a plane: nobody has paid exactly the same price you did.

But a digital product should be cheaper than a paper product, you would think. After all, there’s no packaging, no storage, no shipping, no postage. Just the product itself: the words and ideas you paid to share.

So I was fairly surprised to see this:

The Kindle edition is $17.52, but the hardcover – hardcover – is $14.44. That’s $3 cheaper to get the actual dead tree version.

That’s odd, but it’s not the only oddity. The pricing is even more complex: the book is new from $13.00, but the Amazon price is $14.44? This is just weird.

Amazon is one of the smartest companies in the world. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. The question is: are they working so hard to scientifically optimize pricing for extracting maximum value from clients’ wallets that they’ve lost simplicity (and sense) in pricing?

Device ubiquity: this is why Amazon will win

You buy it in physical form from Amazon, they win. You buy it in physical form on Amazon from another retailer, they win. You buy it digitally on a Kindle, they win. You buy it digitally on Kindle on iPad, they win. You buy it digitally on a PC or Mac, they win:

Plug in whatever device you want … smartphone, PC, eReader … Amazon has it covered.

This is smart, and this is the future: device ubiquity.

In other words, don’t force your customer to choose. Provide your product or service wherever your customer is. Make it simple, make it easy. And … go the extra step to ensure synchronicity within your ubiquity – so that, as Amazon enables, a user can start reading on Kindle on the iPad, and finish on their PC. Same place, same bookmarks, same notes.

Smart. Very smart.

Know Kno No

I can’t figure out what to make of the Kno.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an e-reader. But not like the iPad, not like the Kindle, and not like the myriad of competing Android-based tablets in the marketplace today.

The Kno is aimed straight at education, and is designed to replicate the physical experience of a book … while adding enhanced digital features. So is every other e-reading tablet, you might think. But not quite. When I say replicate, I mean replicate. As in size … lots of it.

The Kno is not one tablet but two. And it’s not 7″ or 10″ … it’s 14″. Times two.

That’s right … two 14″ tablets joined together that open like a book and aim to faithfully replicate the experience of cracking open a full-size textbook and reading it. Pixel-for-pixel.


Here’s the part that I seem to be terminally confused on: is this a good idea, or is this just slavishly adhering to an old paradigm? In other words … is this the best thing ever, a new revolution in digital technology, or is it just a better buggy whip in the day of the horseless carriage?

I’m not quite sure.

More screen space is always better. But the price … probably $1000, and the size, and the weight, and the probably battery life, and the probable slow user interface (small processor driving a huge screen) … make me think this is not a winner.

But it certainly is intriguing. As long as you don’t try to fit it in your pocket.

Making the Case for iPad E-Book Prices – NYTimes.com

On a typical hardcover, the publisher sets a suggested retail price. Let’s say it is $26. The bookseller will generally pay the publisher $13. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about $3.25 to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the publisher by booksellers.

For cover design, typesetting and copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title. Most of these costs will deline on a per-unit basis as a book sells more copies.

Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a 15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works out to $3.90. For big best-selling authors — and even occasionally first-time writers whose publishers have taken a risk — the author’s advance may be so large that the author effectively gets a higher slice of the gross revenue. Publishers generally assume they will write off a portion of many authors’ advances because they are not earned back in sales.

Without accounting for such write-offs, the publisher is left with $4.05, out of which it must pay overhead for editors, cover art designers, office space and electricity before taking a profit.

via Making the Case for iPad E-Book Prices – NYTimes.com.

New Macmillan Subsidiary, DynamicBooks, Redefines Interactive Textbooks for Higher Education

DynamicBooks, a new subsidiary of Macmillan, unveiled today a new digital publishing platform that allows instructors to freely customize and modify some of today’s most respected textbooks. Using the DynamicBooks’ editing tools, instructors can tailor world-class content to suit their classroom needs by editing existing content or adding new text or media assets. Once instructors “publish” their custom book, their students can choose to purchase either a fully featured digital text or a printed version of the new book.

DynamicBooks was created in close partnership with Ingram Content Group Inc. and utilizes Ingram’s successful VitalSource Bookshelf platform and Lightning Source print-on-demand capability.

via New Macmillan Subsidiary, DynamicBooks, Redefines Interactive Textbooks for Higher Education – Yahoo! Finance.

Here's Why Apple Will Beat Amazon In The Battle For The E-Textbook Market

We made calls to universities that have been evaluating various e-readers and e-book formats and found that most expect to partner with Apple’s iPad in its e-reader initiatives.

This is because:

* Apple already has a massive infrastructure built to promote and distribute its products to universities and it will take time for its competitors to replicate that.

* Amazon and Sony have improved their devices in recent releases but universities are still not satisfied.

* The iPad appears to solve the portability issues and lack of features many universities have cited for not embracing Amazon and Sony readers.

via Here’s Why Apple Will Beat Amazon In The Battle For The E-Textbook Market.

Kindle vs. iPad: Far from over

The day after Apple’s big iPad debut, Amazon reported stellar fourth-quarter results that included a 42% increase in sales and net income up a whopping 71%. Although Kindle and eBook sales still account for only a small segment of revenue — predicted to be about 5% in 2010 according to most analysts — its success continues to be a highlight.

In Amazon’s earnings release, Bezos threw a spotlight on the “millions of people” who own the e-Reader, adding, “When we have both editions, we sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books.”

via Kindle vs. iPad: Far from over – Fortune Brainstorm Tech.

Amazon quietly lets publishers remove DRM from Kindle ebooks » Nieman Journalism Lab

Without a formal announcement, Amazon.com has started allowing authors to publish their ebooks for the Kindle without digital rights management (DRM), the technology that limits how consumers can use the ebooks they’ve bought.

The change appears to have gone in effect around Jan. 15, when a few Kindle publishers spotted changes in Amazon’s Digital Text Platform. A new option gave publishers the choice to “not enable digital rights management.” A science-fiction author named Joseph Rhea appears to have been the first to notice the change. On Jan. 15, Amazon announced an expansion of its Digital Text Platform to non-U.S. authors, but made no mention of DRM changes.

via Amazon quietly lets publishers remove DRM from Kindle ebooks » Nieman Journalism Lab.

Finally: my thoughts on the Amazon Kindle

kindleI’ve owned and been reading from a Kindle for a couple of weeks now. A number of people have been asking when I’ll post some thoughts on it … so here goes.

What I didn’t like

  • I won’t be curling up with it
    I stare at a screen 10-12 hours a day, sometimes more. That might be the 3.5″ screen of my iPhone, the 23″ plus 13″ screens of my laptop and external monitor, or the 42″ screen of my TV (this one is a little rare lately!).

    Surprise, surprise … in my downtime (which means: recreational reading) I don’t want to stare at a screen.

  • It’s just not as good a reading experience as a book
    The Kindle is definitely a gadget … and it doesn’t feel like a book. And, it doesn’t read like a book.

    I’m a fast reader, and I find I need to turn the pages so often that it gets annoying. A page on Kindle at a decent but not tiny resolution is not very many words, meaning that I’m flipping more than once a minute. Each time there’s a little hesitation/interruption in my reading process, my state, my flow. Each time, it’s annoying.

  • I don’t like the positioning of the buttons
    The buttons are oddly placed. If you want to hold it widescreen, you can’t reach the Next Page button without effort (a couple of times a second, remember). The big buttons on the left and the right are BOTH for Next Page … whereas intuitively the left side might be Last Page and the right page might be Next Page. The small button above the next page is Prev Page on the left and Home on the right … another inconsistency.

    And don’t get me started the on the “5-way button” that is masquerading as a mouse.

  • The keyboard hates humans
    Writing notes on the Kindle – page notes, footnotes etc. – is a masochistic exercise. The keyboard is easily the worst I’ve ever used. Painful! Slow! Annoying!

  • I just want to touch it NOW
    Sorry, world. iPhone has spoiled me rotten and now when I can’t use touch on a small screen it gets extremely annoying. Several times I found myself touching the screen trying to do something quickly and easily … only to find that the device was, after all, dumb and unresponsive.

  • Books not on Kindle
    Having a Kindle makes you want to buy books on Kindle … or at least acquire them. And when you have the capability of getting books INSTANTLY on Kindle, you want to. So when books are not available in Kindle format … even books by people who should be clueful enough like Seth Godin … it gets annoying. Having to get it shipped and having to wait a half a week for the physical object suddenly seems intolerable.

    In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of books that are in the public domain which sellers of e-readers who don’t make their money selling books make it easy for you to access. Not Kindle. It’s hard to get free books from, say, Google or Project Gutenberg on your Kindle. You need to download third-party software, install it, find books, and then transfer them over to your Kindle via USB.

What I did like

  • Immediacy
    Obviously, getting a hot new book right away (read, in a couple of minutes) is a wonderful, excellent, exciting feature. This is perhaps the best feature of the Kindle.

  • Small, thin, and portable
    The Kindle – I got the smaller, 6″ version – is so thin and light you won’t know you’re carrying it around. It’s easy to just slip in a bag and run. I could even fit it in my jeans’ back pocket (but I don’t recommend sitting down!)

  • Business/trade books
    While I didn’t like the Kindle for relaxation and recreational reading, I found it just fine for books that I’m reading for information: business books, books about technology, etc. etc. I would typically dive into a book for 5-15 minutes, and then get back to whatever I was doing.

    For this kind of reading – Twitter-style, you might say – I think the Kindle works fine.

  • Battery life
    As long as you turn it completely off – important caveat: sleeping is not off – the battery lasts a loooong time. This is great … you don’t have to take the charger along on a week-long trip. Just throw the Kindle in the bag and go.

. . .
. . .

Overall, I think I’ll stick primarily to paper books for now when I want to read for fun. For business/trade books, I’ll probably switch just due to convenience, price, and availability.

Interestingly, I recently played with a Nook in a Barnes & Noble and actually liked it better. David Pogue savaged the Nook in the NY Times, but I liked the feel better, felt there were a few more words on the screen, and really liked the touchscreen feature. It’s not perfect, but I think they may have a winner in the 2.0 version.

After a few more months of using the Kindle, I’ll probably update these thoughts.

Amazon's Kindle winning battle, but Adobe poised to win e-book war

A total of 30 e-book readers rely on Adobe software, including Barnes & Noble’s just-debuted, already-delayed Nook and Sony’s popular Sony Readers, according to Nick Bogaty, senior business development manager for digital publishing at Adobe.

Both PDF and ePub are open industry standards, though the optional encryption and DRM provided by Adobe’s Content Server and enforced by the Adobe Reader are not.

Adobe may balk at the comparison, but its role in the e-book market is similar to the one Microsoft Corp. plays in the PC market: It’ a builder of a semi-open ecosystem of partners to whom it sells publishing tools.

In this analogy, Amazon.com is like Apple: successful, but secretive, with a reliance on proprietary formats like the Kindle’s native AZW that creates customer hassle and lock-in.

via Amazon’s Kindle winning battle, but Adobe poised to win e-book war.