Amazon announced it’s new Kindle yesterday. It’s smaller and lighter than ever before. It’s cheaper and faster too! It has a higher contrast screen with quicker refresh times. It now sports wifi. It even has some integration with twitter. And, at $139 it’s an absolute steal!
The problem is that none of my tech savvy friends are going buy one. Why? Because at it’s core it’s still a unitasking device in a world of multitasking. It’s certainly a great dedicated reader but it’s largely just a reader and with the Kindle software available for almost every device out there it seems a little redundant for someone like me who owns a lot of devices. In fact, the Kindle app for my iPad simultaneously killed my use of my Kindle (reader) while exploding my ebook reading even more than before.
With all this in mind, there has been a lot of buzz in the tech press that the new Kindle is DOA and that Kindles, as a whole, will never beat iPads. Perhaps that’s true but maybe they don’t have to beat them. Think about it. The fact that Amazon created two Kindle divisions within the company (one hardware and one software) was a stroke of genius to begin with and it clearly shows that they understand the market better than most.
Because of that critical decision, my Kindle library is available essentially wherever I want it, on just about any device I want it! I applaud Amazon for opening the floodgates in this regard. They could have insisted that you read your ebooks on their reader alone but instead you can read them on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Clearly, Amazon wants to be the world’s number one provider of books and can handle (financially and emotionally) not being the number one maker of readers. This strategy allowed them to weather the explosive launch of iPads (and the iBooks app) with a corporate yawn. I don’t know anyone, even die-hard Apple fanboys, that seriously think that iBooks is better than the Kindle app and most people that own iPads either use both apps or just the Kindle app.
When the iPad launched a lot of people were forecasting the demise of the Kindle (hardware and software) but they missed the bigger picture and they’re still missing it. Yes, most tech folks will only carry one “readerish” device and that’s probably going to be an iPad but there are a lot of folks out there that love to read that aren’t going to buy an iPad. They will however move to the Kindle as the ebook sea change continues. They’re going to move to the Kindle because it’s cheap, it works and it’s from a trusted venor in the book arena.
It all reminds me of hardbacks versus paperbacks. There has always been a big hardback market that was very lucrative and an equally lucrative paperback market as well. The two compete on some levels but were mostly separate. There weren’t as many hardback buyers out there but they were willing to spend more money on more expensive books. The paperback buyers wanted the books but wanted them cheaply and they were willing to wait a bit to get a book at a cheaper price. In the same way, there will be two breads of ebook reader people in the future. One will pay for the iPad and enjoy their books there in glorious full color. The other will happily read their books on a black and white screen with a Kindle. All the while, Amazon will make money off all the books they sell and an occasional Kindle (reader) to boot.
There is one feature that the Kindle still seems to have that the iPad doesn’t and that’s the ability to use it to read a book in bright sunshine, like at the beach. Maybe the Kindle folks should relabel their device as the iPad for beach lovers.