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Why Kindle will fail as a device, succeed as a format.

The future of eBooks

By on November 21, 2007 12:04:55 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Draginol

Join Date 03/2001
+102

I just got back from the future in my time machine. Lots of cool stuff and not so cool stuff too.

But one of the things that surprised me was how eBooks ended up succeeding in ways one didn't expect and failed utterly in the areas it was expected to do well in.

It all started with the Kindle.  The Kindle was the first mainstream (seriously mainstream) attempt to get eBooks going.  With Amazon getting behind it (just like the did the Segway incidentally) the Kindle became pretty successful in its time.  But in the end, it failed as a product once people concluded a few things about books:

  1. People like books (physically).
  2. The people who buy lots of books like to have them around.
  3. People like the share books.
  4. If you damage a book, you might be out a few bucks, damage Kindle and you're out $400.
  5. Books don't have idiotic DRM issues.
  6. Books are easy to hold and read (Kindle doesn't have enough text on screen).
  7. Books can be sized and have print designed for that book (Kindle is a one sized fits all solution).

I buy about 4 to 6 books per month. I spend a lot of time reading. I'm also a techie. I'm the ideal customer for the Kindle.  Besides the fact that the thing is ugly, overpriced, and can't even handle PDF's directly, it does have an important niche use: The ability to read many different things while traveling.

And ultimately, that's where eBooks will end up taking off.  In the future, people buy physical books still but they also get a license to the Kindle version (good for Kindle, its format becomes the standard -- Amazon gets rich off of licensing the format even as its device fails). 

So when you go on a trip, your iPhone G5 will have your Kindle books on it too that you can read while the physical book remains at home.  Which is nice since I don't have to drag with me 2 or 3 hard cover books (that's the problem with non-fiction books, they tend to be big hard covers).

But Kindle, as a device will fail. But once Amazon figures out how to sell Kindle content with the actual book for tiny extra fee, it will succeed as a format.

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November 21, 2007 1:32:47 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

While I hesitate to question your time machine I think it is the "for a tiny fee" that will continue to trip up endeavors like this. Business types dislike aiming for ecomonies of scale when the short term perceived "pay-off" could be be larger by charging higher fees. Of course, the endeavor fails at that point and that short-term payoff never materializes.

 

This is why NBC stupidly decides it would rather foot the whole bill for a poorly designed video download service for it's mediocre TV shows over a dispute with Apple concerning a difference of $1 per show. They went for the short term pay-off over the long term gain and in the end will get neither one.

 

I would love to believe that Amazon will be better about this, but I am a pessimist at heart. If they were that long-sighted they would have insisted the whole shebang be DRM free from the get-go.

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November 21, 2007 11:18:07 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

The biggest problem I've ever had with e-books have been a few: readability on the small screen without too much scrolling around; and digital rights management hassles that locked me into only being able to use a specific device, or a few specific devices, that keep me from easily moving the material from one device to another.

Lately I would say the problems (for me) relate to not having a more modern device (last device I considered and tried using e-books on was an older Windows Mobile PDA) that makes sense for such uses.  Yeah, I have a laptop with a nice widescreen, but it was basically a replacement for my home computer and with me not travelling so much, I just don't have the time to spend reading books on screen or even on paper.

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November 21, 2007 11:45:30 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
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November 21, 2007 11:45:43 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
A book-sized device that can do what a book can do?

Little-whip is right about the two advantages, however

1) doesn't apply to most people and probably not to paperback books anyway

2) there are only two places where I would want to read and don't have access to my computer (which can also display e-books): travelling and the loo. When travelling I rarely need more than one book, and if I do, it's probably a journey on which I carry my laptop and sit down, and I never needed a library in my loo in the past and will probably never need one in the future. If I require more than one book there, my biggest problem is probably not lack of reading material.
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November 21, 2007 12:12:57 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

there are only two places where I would want to read and don't have access to my computer (which can also display e-books): travelling and the loo. When travelling I rarely need more than one book, and if I do, it's probably a journey on which I carry my laptop and sit down, and I never needed a library in my loo in the past and will probably never need one in the future. If I require more than one book there, my biggest problem is probably not lack of reading material.

With acknowledgement to the Way Back machine (or is that Way Forward Peabody?), we have seen the future in the Star Trek movies.  These ebooks may be the way of the future, but as Leauki points out, there is not really any great advantages.  I think what will drive it is conservation.  When the cost of "printing" gets to the point that this way is cheaper. Electrons dont cost nearly as much as trees.

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November 21, 2007 3:38:00 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

I am just not sure what market need this product is trying to satisfy.

The more I look at Kindle, as a product, the worse it gets.

  1. You can subscribe to magazines like Time (that's good)
  2. But you can't buy just individual issues, you HAVE to subscribe (that's bad)
  3. The magazine selection is pretty good already (that's good)
  4. But the device only supports black and white (that's bad)
  5. It weighs about the same as a good (that's good)
  6. But it has a stupid big keyboard attached to it that is largely useless (that's bad)
  7. There could be a use for this for college text books (that's good)
  8. But you can't write or make notes in the books (that's bad)

But over and over, it's like there's a sense of petty greed going on here. Where so much of the device becomes interesting and useful at half the price. 

For instance, the magazine subscriptions are nearly the same as the paper magazine subscriptions even though the paper ones involve printing and mailing into their price and COLOR.

Like I said in the article, I could be talked into the device IF they had reasonable bundling deals -- I buy book X for N and I get the Kindle version for an extra couple bucks.    But no, I am expected to pay $400 for the device (That's a LOT of books) and then pay essentially full price for the Kindle book minus COGS (i.e. instead of paying $12 I pay $7, whoop).

 

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November 21, 2007 4:00:19 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

and then pay essentially full price for the Kindle book minus COGS (i.e. instead of paying $12 I pay $7, whoop).

It will change.  When?  Well, Star trek was 300+ years in the future. So I am not holding my breath.

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November 22, 2007 8:50:27 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
Here's another pro-ebook-point you missed:
- full text search!
I often find myself holding a 'real' book in my hand, trying to find a particular quote and wishing I could just Ctrl+F...

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November 22, 2007 1:31:51 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

- full text search!

now THAT is a selling point!

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November 22, 2007 11:43:33 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

now THAT is a selling point!

Not a $400 selling point. Maybe a $150 selling point.

 

 

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November 25, 2007 12:03:49 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
Not a $400 selling point. Maybe a $150 selling point.
I agree--WAIT--ala iPhone. But it's just another portable chit-chat device for unimportant matierial and then deleted.
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November 26, 2007 7:27:50 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

I was watching TNG on G4 last night.  They ran a streamer at the bottom that said Amazon had sold out of them in 4 hours on Black Friday.

But then a lot of people bought the Newton too!

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November 26, 2007 7:32:06 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
I was watching TNG on G4 last night. They ran a streamer at the bottom that said Amazon had sold out of them in 4 hours on Black Friday.


The thing never released was the number originally in stock. I think it was quite tiny or else they would have mentioned it.

False scarcity is the hot new sales tactic for tech. Best Buy has been testing out having sales guys walk out onto the sales floor announcing "the last Wii in stock!". It sells immediately and an hour or so later the same guy does the sam thing. Amazingly effective.


Since Amazon now says they won't have more in stock until the 17th it seems that this first bit was just a test production run.
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November 26, 2007 1:03:23 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
DRM-free, layout-free (IE, not formatted, so no problems with the layout not matching your screen), device-independent e-books. For less than the cost of a paperback book. That's what it will take to have ebooks "break out", IMHO.

And you can have it today - www.webscription.net. Also see http://www.baen.com/library/.

Baen books has been selling DRM-free ebooks since 2001 or 2002; and giving away books for almost that long. And, shockingly enough, making money at it. And they're doing it the same way our gracious host is - by not measuring piracy, but measuring sales.
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November 27, 2007 1:17:32 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

by not measuring piracy, but measuring sales.

 

Most business folks simply aren't able to grasp this simple concept. In their minds pirated copies of something equal lost sales on a 1:1 basis.

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January 22, 2008 11:46:39 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
I held a Kindle in my hand a week or so ago. I've got a friend that buys pretty much every gadget there is to see for himself - he got one from the first run.

I fell in love with it (and ordered one) for the following reasons:

1. It's easier on the eyes, and the text clearer to look at (IMO) than a real book.
2. There is no scrolling regardless of font size you choose. Each page is a page.
3. I was invited to this friend's family account which is some Amazon thingybob by which all members of said account share the books they buy. So if I buy one, my whole "family" can download it.
4. My friend makes eBooks He literally photographs every page of a book, slurps it all up into PDF followed by OCR. I looked at examples of his work. Indistinguishable from "professional" jobs.
5. You can press one button with the cursor on any line of a book and it invokes a resident dictionary listing all the words in THAT line you might need a definition of. You can then choose the word you're wishing to define and see a detailed definition.
6. It has a highlighting function. All passages you choose to highlight are stored in a separate text file. Great for research/paper writing.
7. No backlight makes for long battery life and easy reading in the direct sunlight. If it's dark, your regular old booklight still clips on.

I'm sure in the future, something better will appear, but for now, I think I'll be satisfied.

As far as DRM, there's a huge number of classics I've always wanted to read that are public domain and available. Even if all I ever really get is all the classics for 400$, that's still way cheaper than if I'd bought them all.
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March 22, 2010 12:19:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

  I still think that reading text/graphic on pc is great.  I have always been bothered with the medium.  You buy music on 8-trac, cassette, cd, dvd, etc..Then you have to buy the next device..Why?  Same with books, games, etc.  Why should I have to buy the same Bram Stoker story over and over.  For this reason I like digital distribution.  Instead of having to rely on the latest version you should have access to your purchase forever.  Remember when albums got scratched and you would have to buy another. I don't want to have to buy the same books, games, music, movies, etc. over and over just to have the same product over time.  It also seems like we should be recycling our products instead of spamming them.  I thought digital medium would help reduce the waste and not increase it.  I also thought costs should drop significantly over time for any fiction or non-fiction.  This is not happening.

  I'm probably not seeing the forrest for the trees.

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March 22, 2010 12:38:01 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Kindle did not fail. ^^^^^ The two year old bump kinda did though.Way to go Magicke.

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March 22, 2010 3:30:12 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums
When the Kindle first came out the price was $400. It has since dropped to $259. When I travel I used to take as many as 10 books with me, now I can take as many as 1500 without taking up any room in my suitcase...PLUS I can adjust the size of the print so I can actually SEE what I'm reading. Plus I can get free samples of anything I'm remotely interested in AND get reviews online of anything I'm considering buying. Was it worth the price? DUH!
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March 22, 2010 4:05:09 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

The two year old bump kinda did though.Way to go Magicke

Agreed!

 

That said, I love -- and have loved -- e-books for years.  I started with an old hand-held PDA (not even a smartphone, just a Tungsten E2) and migrated to a Palm Treo.  I've been reading e-books for about 5 years now (I think), and almost exclusively e-books for 3.

 

Webscription is my favorite; Mobipocket is a great backup.  Unfortunately, thanks to Amazon's acquisition of Mobi I'm in a very nasty spot.  Mobipocket is being deliberatly run into the ground to make room for the Kindle, so eventually it (and all the books I buy with it) are going away.  I need to break the DRM (which may or may not be legal) simply to migrate to a new device.  Which device I'm going to go with is up in the air, I haven't decided.  I'd consider the iPhone, but the monthly price is actually higher than my current Spring contract with inferior service (no insurance plan to protect against damage).

 

Overall, I am unimpressed by my options.  iPhone is only available via AT&T at a higher rate, with inferior service, and none of the other options have e-book programs I am familiar with that look like good long term prospects (i. e. NOT Mobi).  That said, Amazon has recently started a "Kindle for mac" promotion, which drew my attention to kindle books for non-kindle platforms (tablets, PCs, iPhone, macs, blackberry), so I may need to look at that.  The ironic thing is that the iPhone has a program that will handle decrypting the Mobipocket DRM for me, so it's probably my best bet (especially sicne I have access to an iPod touch through work that I'll be using to debug the software we're working on).

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March 22, 2010 7:10:19 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

I am a huge reader, and have been most of my life, ( i was the kid that actually read the Grapes of Wrath in high school) and the Kindle has been for me, the best thing since sliced bread, but thats me, and i swear by it, i can buy and read approximately 2.5 books for the price of 1, witht he rate i buy books, i am saving myself a bunch and reading more for less, plus the best feature of all I never lose my place, plus i can read it on my laptop if need be

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March 23, 2010 2:35:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

  Thanks PJ an Ron.  Slightly red in face, heeh.  Also ty for the breakdown tigerlady, Ron Lugge and jpmurph1. 

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March 23, 2010 2:47:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

May I suggest that Audiobooks have a much brighter future than kindle?

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April 21, 2010 11:24:01 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Can I download kindle on my commodore 64? People have been bugging me to put my book on kindle, I don't see it as a winner for me. Am I wrong??

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April 22, 2010 4:24:04 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Can I download kindle on my commodore 64?

Yes, if you have one of the new Windows 7 Commodore boxen:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/192415/commodore_64_returns_as_retro_windows_7_pc.html

 

People have been bugging me to put my book on kindle, I don't see it as a winner for me. Am I wrong??

You might be.

While I wouldn't really want the Kindle itself, I am dreaming of an Android-based Google tablet that runs the Kindle software. And then I'd buy lots of e-books.

See, I don't like the iPad as I find the mobile phone attitude towards applications too restructive (I want to run whatever software I want) and Apple's licensing too dangerous (I want to write .NET apps for my tablet).

 

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