Posted in Concepts, Marketing
4/01 2011

Why the Kindle Reader is not Important to Amazon

What did Amazon want to achieve with the Kindle Reader? Did it want to own the e-reader space? I would wager that it doesn’t care about e-readers, so long as they can access Amazon distributed ebooks.

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Amazon’s goal was to sell electronic books. In November 2007 when the first Kindle was launched, there were very few devices available for reading electronic books and none had a great market share.

Hence the solution for Amazon was to create its own e-reader that would create enough market share. However since 2007, the number of devices that are capable e-readers have exploded. The iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Phones, not to mention the iPad have all provided an excellent platform for consuming e-books.

Amazon made the sensible decision to create a platform for its Kindle service, so you can read ebooks on whichever device you own, be that a Kindle e-reader or an iPad. So when you’re buying an ebook, you know if you buy on Kindle, it will always be available to you. Is that the case for some of the competitors?

Both the Nook and Kobo have the backing of Barnes and Noble and Indigo/Chapters respectively, but one has to question their longevity. Would you want to build an ebook collection with a provider that may not be around in five years?

Given the pace of technological change, and the vast array of new tablet devices that will be hitting the market, it’s hard to see how the Kindle e-reader will survive. Devices such as the iPad beg for a more colourful and interactive experience, and the Kindle’s technology just doesn’t seem ready to provide that anytime soon.

However this won’t matter, Kindle is already installed on iPad users’ machines and Amazon can continue selling books to their customers with or without a physical e-reader.

With hindsight, one of the biggest roles the Kindle e-reader has played is as a marketing ploy to make e-books accessible to a large audience. Now that e-books are hitting mainstream audiences, with their array of devices, that role is no longer required of the Kindle.

Its legacy, however, will be an amazing multi-device platform for the consumption of ebooks.

  • Bakuryokuso

    Richard, I disagree with your post.1. How can you say that the iPhone is an excellent platform for consuming e-books? It’s a terrible platform. I love books and I tried the Kindle store, Kobo store and Apple e-books on the iPhone and it’s not good.2. You argue that the iPad has a more colourful experience and this will displace the Kindle e-reader. You seem to fundamentally misunderstand why e-Readers are far superior to the iPad. Take paperback novels. Why would someone prefer to read them on an iPad and have eye strain with the bright backlight?3. The Kindle Reader is a marvel, succeeding to gain major consumer adoption – something previous e-Readers were unable to achieve. Why would it suddenly disappear? Why would Amazon want it to disappear? Why are they creating newer versions of the Kindle if they care so little about it?

  • Richard Beck

    Thanks for your comment Adam. Let me add some thoughts:1. Sure, the iPhone is not the ideal form factor for reading, but it’s an acceptable device for reading on. In addition it has the convenience factor of being with you at all times. For reading, the Kindle form factor is definitely more ideal.2. My point here is that I don’t expect the paperback novel to remain as is. With ebooks you can easily add images and videos that give a more indepth experience. For example, I’m reading a book about barefoot running. Having a video that shows what the text is describing will add so much more value. In a paperback novel, you may want to add in images that show what a particular place looks like. You could argue that the beauty of reading is that you can use your imagination to conceive these things, but I believe that “experience” is up to the author to define. The point is, ebooks let you do so much more.3. I fully expect the Kindle to be around for a few more years, as it’s clearly still useful in its niche. However, with the move to more graphical ebooks and improvements in iPad tablet technology, I think the Kindle will become obsolete as a technology platform. The same thing happened with PDAs once smartphones gained momentum. At that point, Amazon will have to decide whether they are a tech device company or a retailer. It’s usually hard to execute both well. They will probably decide they don’t need to be a tech device company anymore and focus on their core competency, which is retailing.

  • Tim

    Hi Richard,I have to agree with both of you on certain points. Being an avid reader ( having close to 2 hours daily of commute tends to do that to people ). Reading educational materials, such as your book about barefoot running, would probably be enhanced by being read in a format more suited to an IPad style device, but i have a hard time imagining trying to read something like LOTR, or a book by James Clavell on one of those devices, that wouldn’t just be a movie. Part of in the interest in those styles of novels is letting your brain getting immersed in the imagination of it, and letting your brain create the world such as the author is trying to convey.So you are correct, it is possible to read an EBook on an IPad/IPhone/IPod but very unpleasant to do so. For an avid reader, something like the kindle, kobo, nook is much better for that taskmy 2cents