Amazon's Kindle

In December, I was stumped with the question of what I wanted as a gift for my birthday and Christmas. I'm one of those painful people (period?) to buy a gift for as there is truly nothing I 'need' and few things I 'want' that I haven't gone out and bought for myself.

Fortunately, advertising helped me make my decision!

My amazon account told me the Kindle was the leading gift for Christmas in 2009 and that they've finally pulled their fingers out and offered up a version for international users.

Apparently, if you believe the advertising, they sold more eBooks last quarter than physical books. I don't necessarily believe the advertising, but I do believe the market noise around eBooks, which was covered in the ReadWriteWeb article EReader and EBook Market Ready for Growth.

That morning, I had been on my way to Melbourne and arrived at the airport with nothing to read on the flight, having read all the ads in the November Qantas in-flight magazine before & a low battery in my laptop & iPhone which meant I felt the pain of having nothing to read.

When talking about it with my better half, I was sent this Wired article on eReaders which sealed the deal.

Apparently you break even on the purchase at around 15 books as the books are around US$10 versus the $20-35 for a paperback. Given the amount I read, I'd break even by late January.

I'm a bit pissed off: early in December, only the 6" version was available but as of January 2010 (i.e. now), the DX 10" version is available. To be honest, I don't think I'd spend US$489 vs the US$259 for the larger version but it would have been nice to have had the option. Harvard Business Review takes a look at the markets the larger version seems to cater for. It was reported on it's release that the Kindle DX will also be a part of a pilot program at six universities across the country: Arizona State University, Reed College, Pace University in New York, Princeton University, Case Western University and the University of Virginia.

Now you can go out and get the Amazon Kindle reader for your PC and iPhone, but apparently the iPhone version doesn't allow you to browse the Kindle store. Mac and Blackberry versions are apparently coming soon too. Interesting, according to the ReadWriteWeb review, Amazon does not expect that this app will cannibalize Kindle sales as users will probably only use their phones to read for short periods.

There have been tonnes of rumours regarding an Apple tablet (iSlate?) and the Barnes & Noble eReader, but the key selling points for me with the Kindle were:
  1. The 'now' factor - I was looking for a present in December, so maybe the 4 points below are just me justifying my choice to myself!;
  2. The screen: it's e-Ink, not a back lit screen which is supposed to be easier on your eyes and more authentically replicates the book experience;
  3. Amazon's store: you get free wireless access to the store which makes getting a new magazine or book quick and simple. The store combined with the device is the killer app, much like Apple's iPod and iTunes combo;
  4. It is a gen 2 device so most of the annoying kinks have been worked out; and
  5. The ability to annotate, highlight and take notes - something I do a lot when reading.
Interestingly, the magazine experience doesn't work so well on the Kindle. Magazines are definitely optimised with glossy colour pictures, and they don't come out at all well on the Kindle.

However, I've found the book experience fantastic. The navigation is easy to learn and in minutes you wonder why you didn't take the plunge earlier.

We've now got two Kindles in our house (my better half decided they wanted one for Christmas), linked to a single Amazon account so we share all our eBooks.

My buying experience was slightly better: the Kindle came configured to my Amazon account and all I had to do was fire it up. Drew's experience was a little more painful: it wasn't configured/registered and it was an older version of the software so wasn't working with wireless (so couldn't be registered). To fix both issues, about 45 minutes was spent on the phone to Amazon support in India. They also sent us a 3rd Kindle in the process as a replacement and charged me for it. They've advised once they get the 3rd Kindle back, they'll refund me. They are all really minor issues and other than that it's been plain sailing.

Right now, not all books are available as Kindle editions, and then not all Kindle editions are available internationally. For instance, Seth Godin's latest output - Tribes - is one such example - much to my disappointment. Checkout this FastCompany article to learn the ins and outs of Amazon's struggles with publishers. I suspect this will change over time. Due to this issue, it's unlikely I've bought my last physical book, but I have found I'm likely to buy an alternative eBook rather than buy the book I was looking for. That's a message to publishers and writers: don't fight this trend, embrace it. And a message to Amazon: fix your stupid international publishing issues so the Kindle versions are available internationally - you'll lose revenue whilst this persists. Seth has a few of his own suggestions on improving the business model.

If you are an avid reader, I'd thoroughly recommend getting one.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:08 AM,


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