Amazon’s Kindle species has been reviled, revered and reviewed endlessly. Whether it’s commercially viable is the issue that has been getting on the minds of publishers, writers and media moguls, rather than its technical details. That’s unfortunate, because that’s as relevant to its future as a digital antenna installation is to a TV. The market isn’t overly receptive, and needs convincing.
The fact is that e-readers have been getting a pretty cold shoulder until now, and Amazon’s baby has been no exception. The new Kindle, however, seems to be making headway. That hasn’t been easy, in the face of a highly skeptical industry.
Amazon didn’t do itself any favors by first saying it was selling a lot of Kindles, then revising that slightly vague quantification into millions of units. Neither Wall Street nor the industry quite bought it. In July 2010, Amazon issued a comparative figure, saying it was selling 143 Kindle 2s for every 100 hardcover books in the second quarter of 2010. That’s quite a lot more impressive, but fails to answer the “how many” question as a number.
The market needs to be convinced that Kindle is a working global proposition before it’s likely to retool itself to Kindle specifications. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with e-readers as an idea, but a tablet which barely stacks up as much more than a calculator quality browser really isn’t that impressive as a product. The original Kindle staggered along commercially until it had to be replaced, and if the new reader is bigger better and faster, it’s still not exactly outside human experience.
The iPad, for example, is truly simple, but it’s also glitzy and highly functional. The Kindle 2 cannot be accused of glitz in any form. Functionality is basic, and no color? Uploading Word docs is hardly the last word in uber-chic, either. The fact is that Kindle 2 is selling despite these obvious shortcomings and rather primitive hardware issues.
One reason for this strangely tolerant level of acceptance is that Kindle 2 is getting picked up by real readers. The ability to ditch the huge weight and space of 1500 books is one of Kindle’s great strengths, as any herniated reader would agree. Many people are very happy to finally have all their precious books so accessible.
A market weak spot or several, however, remain. Kindle is an Amazon product, built to run Amazon products. A full “read anything” reader would blitz the market in seconds. For $360 USD, Amazon has a margin of vulnerability in several key points. The likely competitor in the e-reader stakes is Google, and their technical capacity isn’t the sort which should be underrated.
It’s unlikely that Google would lose a lot of sleep over marketing an e-reader which targets Kindle’s weak spots at a much lower price. Google has been putting a lot of effort into lining up publishers, and has a huge reach which few marketers could resist.
The fire may not have started quite yet, but things are definitely heating up.
This article has been written by Sachin of Cableiq.co.au. Images via Kindle website.