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The Kindle Gets Launched!

Posted by Q on December 13, 2007

Finally! after months of idle speculation of the ugly device in picture, Amazon has finally revealed the whole deal behind the Kindle package and needless to add, the canning has started.

MobileRead’s Bob Russell marks it off as the worst thing that could happen to ebooks, while the Techdirt Insider community feels that overpriced content is only leading kindle to the road of failure. Teleread hasn’t really waded into the debate yet, except for some grumblings about the clear snub to .epub (and, accept it guys, you are obsessed over the Tower of eBabel). And, while we get an onslaught of marketing videos on the Amazon Site, another to be launched e-ink device (Cybook) languishes in an insipid YouTube video and my own Sony Reader..well, did you know that there is a version 505 out there ?

Anyway, back to the topic under discussion! While the tech community is less than enthused over this new package, i am extremely happy at the way Amazon has put across a very amazing business model.

first up, a list of things the Kindle is providing: Boing Boing & Wikipedia cover almost all of it, but in short simple terms:

  1. Yes, except for PDF & secure mobi, all the ebooks that you currently own can be transferred & read for free on the Kindle
  2. No, there is no way to convert those $ 9.99 azw beauties into a format of your choice and to be read on another device/PC…yet! (Bad Amazon!)
  3. Yes, it does audio and audiobook enthusiasts; the milli-ens of them would be pretty happy to hear (hehe) that they can transfer their own files to the device themselves.
  4. No, they havent hacked the free EV-DO internet to work for laptops yet 😉

ok! the last one was mostly in jest. But seriously, some good thinking on part of the Amazon gang.

Now, i say the device is good and i am never going to buy it ! i think the business model behind Kindle is brilliant even though the device is damn ugly.

If you look from the rampant ebook piracy point of view, ebook selling websites shouldn’t exist. But they do (Baen, Sony Connet, ebooks.com, mobipocket.com)! and so do sites for Music (iTunes) & Videos (Netflix). So basically there is a market out there which is being currently served/serviced.The next question is, ” is the market big enough?”

Simple answer is NO! I do not believe that the current market is even 1.5-2 million “paid” downloads. So, market opportunity cannot be more than $10-20 mn. Now, which company is even looking at a New Media Industry like that, when in comparision, the new Wii consoles have sold 15 mn units, since Dec 2006 (Xbox – 10 million & PS3 – 8.8 million); Industry behemoth ipod sold 18 million units..hell, even Zune sold 1.2 mn units ! look at the figures and despair…all ye ebook reader companies!

The immediate need of the market is rapid expansion – like the Wii did for the console business. What i contend is that the business model behind Kindle is really going to blow up the market.

Lets look at the reasons why –

No. 1 Instant Gratification – Ever wondered why all those Point-of-sale terminals are loaded with small goodies? That’s for enticing you to spend your money rather than taking the view away from the pretty cash-countress :p Look at Kindle. Instant Wireless connectivity…get any of 90k books/blogs/magazines. All it takes is 1 second of need and you’d have bought yourself a monthly Times subscription, a BusinessWeek or a NYT bestseller. Sitting in your drawing room and having Coffee next to a roaring fire ain’t gonna boost sales…an idle, boring wait at the conference you went to, or the local subway ride..and there the money would flow.

No. 2 – Convenience – I can reasonably source almost any possible fiction book on the planet, that i need, given enough time. My sis, who just has to mail me to ask for a new book, couldn’t be bothered. She already has too much stuff on her plate. This is the reason why people buy the Norton Antivirus’s or the Windows Vista DVD’s – it’s not that they can’t source it illegally – it’s just that they do not have the time or familiarity to trawl through the wastes of pirate cells and look for stuff they want.

And what do we get in return…

We get a bloody bigger TG. More people into ebook reading. And that gives rise to consumer choice! All those screamers about getting bogged down by format, seller, DRM etc all exist because the industry is monopolistic. Once an adoption of readers happens, be it the Kindle, CyBook, Illiad..or anything else, we can have lower prices, better devices and services. Planning 25 years from now for owned content is stupid (Sorry, Cory Doctorow, your books are good but this is incomprehensible nonsense to me). Hell, all the paperbacks from my college days (which wasn’t that long ago) have all wasted away.

A growing market right now can be better news than a great device which supports all formats, has color display and costs $150. That device willl only come if there is a market for it. Otherwise, no one is gonna plonk down their shareholder wealth in this particular mess.

That’s why i think Kindle is good. It’s good for the industry. It will force companies to change their whole idea about this marketplace. It brings in new technologies and delivery mechanisms…which might not be perfect, but are radically different! that counts for a lot, i say!

And all those internet based (text) content services, finally also have a revenue model that is not based on Advertising or Premium Services. Good old-fashioned subscription…finally making a pie, albeit a very small one, out of the $0.00 internet service!

I think that it is great to have something of this sort come up now. Let’s hope the ebook industry becomes bigger…its in the interest of all of us!


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