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Amazon Kindle sells half as well as Microsoft Zune

 Kindle-090203-1

Daniel Eran Dilger
If you’re hooked on phonics, you’re probably stoked about Amazon’s Kindle, which allows users to load up books, newspapers, and even blogs and Wikipedia articles from the web over-the-air for reading on a slow refreshing, grey e-Ink screen. But did you know it’s selling half as well as that barometer of epic failure, the Microsoft Zune?
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At least one analyst is excited about the potential of the Kindle to become a blockbuster, if only it follows in the pattern of the iPod. In other words, the task Apple accomplished in selling music players should be easy to replicate in any business: eBook readers, PDAs, Tablet PCs, UMPCs, even iPod clones. Since the Kindle sold 500,000 units in its first year, it must be due to sell twice as many during the global crisis of 2009, according to Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney.

AppleInsider | Amazon rumored to introduce Kindle 2.0 next Monday

Everything Counts in Large Amounts.

Just ask Microsoft, which has introduced all manner of consumer products that will all sell really well once they hit the same iPod magic curve that fires their sales up in the stratosphere automatically. Actually, that didn’t ever happen, and it looks like it won’t ever.

Exuberance about PDAs peaked shortly after 3COM took its Palm subsidiary private in 2000 and have grown increasingly inconsequential every year since. The Tablet/UMPC devices that Bill Gates pitched incessantly from the early 90s right up to his retirement from leading Microsoft have never achieved any measure of broad success outside of a few small niche markets.

And Microsoft’s attempt to replicate the iPod’s success with its own Zune resulted in intractable failure, with the company initially resorting to fire sales that liquidated the first year’s inventory at as much as 60% off, and second year sales that never broke out past that million unit per year mark that defines the baseline of failure in consumer electronics products today.

The Egregious Incompetence of Palm
Mobile EEE PC, UMPC, and Internet Tablets vs the iPhone
Zune Sales Still In the Toilet
Microsoft’s Zune crashes as iPod sales grow

There Can Be Only One.

Launching a brand new product, or even a new implementation of an existing product category, is very difficult. That’s why it’s more that a little impressive that Apple, while at its lowest point after the dot com bust, was able to successfully launch the iPod and turn it into a phenomenon within a couple years, despite having a full set of determined competitors, including both hardware companies like Sony with years of acumen in building gadgets, and software platform companies like Microsoft which were armed with existing industry relationships with the music studios and hardware partners that Apple lacked back then.

The success of the iPod involved shipping a good product that worked well, delivered a simple but obvious premise, was marketed well by a reputable company, and hit the market at just the right point to define itself as the gold standard for its kind. That type of success is very difficult to achieve, but Apple continued to hold onto the ball with the iPod for the rest of the decade, and still retains a 71% unit share of the US market and strong international sales.

Apple then did the same thing again in smartphones, a business that was entirely new to the company in 2007 when it launched the iPhone not just as an Apple branded phone, but as a fuller-featured iPod and a functional web browser. Pundits wrote the iPhone off at the time as being a fancy toy out of the price range of most consumers, but Apple sold nearly 4 million in its first six months on sale, well above that million unit per year barrier of failure.

The next year, Apple sold well more than ten million, not including the spun off iPod touch version. At the same time, Apple has continued to sell more iPods than ever despite the obvious cannibalization effect of all those new iPod-replacing iPhones hitting the market. That’s a level of success the market doesn’t spend much time contemplating.

Is Number Two Amazon Rivaling iTunes in Music Sales? Haha No

The iPod of Killers.

Really, where would analysts find the time? They’re all busy making assumptions that every new product that hits the market will be “the iPod of” that segment. The Kindle was supposed to be the iPod of book readers, but it turns out that not everyone has the inclination to carry around “an iPod” for each activity they pursue.

When pundits asked Steve Jobs when Apple would be coming out with a Kindle-killer of its own, Jobs shrugged off the idea by saying that people don’t even read books anymore. Of course they do, but in the sense of an activity that would sustain a standalone device, book reading just isn’t there. Apple’s solution for reading books on the go is suggested in the company’s ad which recommends downloading an app that lets you read books on the iPhone.

Technically, that experience is less ideal than the Kindle. There’s no easy on the eyes e-Ink screen on the iPhone, it’s smaller, it uses annoying color to paint up the screen, it has to be recharged more often (a serious problem for 24-hour book readers who need to sit more than five feet away from a wall outlet), and using the iPhone makes you look like everyone else, not an elitist nerd on the cutting edge of eBook readerdom.

But for 80% of the market, reading an occasional book (or more likely, web content that actually works like a desktop browser) is far more satisfying when it can be done on a pocket-sized device that also doubles as a phone, an iPod, a game machine, a calculator, a novelty fart device, and 10,000 other things in the App Store.

And that’s why, even with a nice redesign, Amazon’s Kindle is not going to hit an iPod-like critical mass to become a billion dollar market any time soon, particularly not in the middle of a long term recession where people are more worried about their jobs and keeping their homes than at any point since the Depression.

It’s not that the Kindle isn’t any good, it’s just not good enough to warrant being carried around by a large enough audience to matter. Add up all of the tech-savvy cat ladies who sit in on Oprah’s book club, and you have a narrow niche market, not another iPod.

In-depth review: can Amazon’s Kindle light a fire under eBooks?

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64 comments

1 enzos { 02.04.09 at 5:05 am }

Awkward looking thing.. might as well just carry the book, eh? And much cheaper.

Far and near, through vale and hill,
Are faces that attest the same,
And kindle like a fire new stirr’d,
At sound of Rob Roy’s name.

2 Brau { 02.04.09 at 5:48 am }

“and using the iPhone makes you look like everyone else, not an elitist nerd on the cutting edge of eBook readerdom.”

Love the hilariously snide way you hit the nail on the head with that statement. Great read, made my day. Lol!

Half a mil swindled
and now sales dwindle
‘cuz readers want iPhones
instead of a Kindle

3 Joel { 02.04.09 at 6:24 am }

Not sure what this article is trying to argue. Yep, the Kindle is ugly, and yep there’s some things it can do better, but its the first e-book reader to be mentioned by the mainstream.

And am I worried about people thinking I’m an “elitist nerd” when I use an e-reader in public…? Not really, I grew out of worrying about what people thought of me when I left school. I’m more concerned about my eyes, and from having a more efficient method carrying around books and notes.

4 Joel { 02.04.09 at 6:25 am }

(There are other e-readers, but the Kindle is the first I’ve heard about talked about on non-tech tv…)

5 Kindle Sales Speculation: 09 Edition Ep 1 « The Book is Dead { 02.04.09 at 6:40 am }

[...] it is today. Enough said. For more, follow the comment thread in the techcrunch summary, or check this rather more acerbic take. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Those Damn Kindle Numbers…Are books [...]

6 danieleran { 02.04.09 at 6:50 am }

Joel, Yes, the Sony eReader (and a few others) failed before the Kindle did, but the take away point is that the Kindle, despite massive hype and frequent comparisons to the iPod, failed to attract a significant enough number of buyers required to take it seriously in its first year. That’s why the headline says what it does. The first paragraph also lays out “what this article is trying to argue.” Hope that helps.

7 enzos { 02.04.09 at 7:18 am }

Très beau, Brau.
Coincidentally; listening to ‘Bookstore Rap’ from Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House 1968 on the iTunes.
-Enz

8 Galley { 02.04.09 at 7:44 am }

It’s 2009, for crying out loud! Every school kid should be carrying an electronic textbook.

9 Joel { 02.04.09 at 8:28 am }

So, given that the Kindle sold out in its first incarnation, and was given enthusiastic reviews by people in the non-mainstream, and might have a vs 2 coming out this week, how has it “failed”…? And the Sony Reader is now on its 3rd incarnation. How has that product “failed”…?

The only reason you supply for this failure is for the lack of sales. The iPod in its first year only sold 376,000 (Data from Wikipedia). By that measure the iPod didn’t even clear the 500,000 you report for the Kindle. Clear failure. Hang on…

If the Kindle continues to have < 1 million sales per year for a couple of years, and is then withdrawn from market, then I would agree that it has failed. But to claim its failed when all the reports I read are good, and when using a friends device indicates it works well seems a bit premature to me…

And I would never rely on analysts predictions, especially on an emerging market such as this…

10 cy_starkman { 02.04.09 at 8:41 am }

why would anything be comparing an audio player or a video player to a book player.

its a book player not a frickin ipod.

I am at a loss though as to why E-Paper which when I read about it in the mid 90′s was meant to be just thicker than paper and even then was intending to have aerials and such woven into the fabric of the paper is so big and thick.

The Kindle. It reminds me of the Newton. Tech which will get called ol grand daddy as we roll up our thin film, multi haptic, semi organic media viewing device in 10 years.

11 Joel { 02.04.09 at 8:44 am }

Oops : non-mainstream should read mainstream. (I was going to put non-IT)

12 oomu { 02.04.09 at 9:23 am }

he didn’t tell the kindle is a failure

he explains (again) why the so-called “analysts” are just pundits and liars when they try month after month to disguise the kindle in a new ipod-like succes.

the goal of theses pundits is to minimize apple accomplishment.

-
but yes, Amazon has a nice product, and yes for the first time , a “e-book” reader was mainstream (in USA.) but no, it’s not an iconic success like ipod.

13 Joel { 02.04.09 at 9:39 am }

Well… I would still argue its hard to determine if something is an iconic success, or not, within the first two years of availability. Particularly when the item we are talking about sold-out (through supply problems or unexpectedly high demand)…

But then I don’t take pundits seriously and rely on what *I* see.

14 rickrandom { 02.04.09 at 10:02 am }

You’ve probably already read it, but John Siracusa over at Ars Technica recently wrote a very good article about e-readers and why they’ve never really gone anywhere. Well worth the read.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2009/02/the-once-and-future-e-book.ars

15 John Muir { 02.04.09 at 10:05 am }

I’m neither impressed nor dismayed by the Kindle. But here are a few points for the debate:

Kindle Strengths.
1. Designed by Amazon – book people – instead of the usual suspects (Sony, MS partners, etc.) with ulterior motives
2. Energy efficient screen technology for extended reading
3. Integrated book store sync

Kindle Flaws
1. Designed by Amazon. The hardware’s shape and button placement are the subject of near universal complaint
2. Murky and smudgy screen technology
3. Crappy browser for the web at large, beyond Amazon and its partners

It’s swings and roundabouts with the Kindle. There are some things about it which are very promising, but nothing seems to have been achieved without serious compromise.

Personally, I read the web on the go (and watch movies and listen to music) far more than I read books. So my iPod touch is a much better fit.

But I can certainly see the promise in ebooks, with hardware more tailored for their demands -larger screen, epic battery life, daylight legible – than the iPhone / touch provides. It’s just that so far, none of the contestants seem to have delivered.

Perhaps the ebook reader market is in its Creative Nomad phase, waiting for its transformation from geeky dream into mass hit reality. Amazon clearly hope so. I wonder if Apple is keeping an eye on this too.

16 edinburghmac { 02.04.09 at 10:38 am }

I don’t see the great convenience of an E-book reader compared to the iPod. The iPod revolutionised music listening because it allowed people to listen to any of their music at any time (normally on a daily commute). This allowed people to choose to listen to whole albums, any individual song or rediscover their music libraries using shuffle. With books you make a conscious decision to read a book and then generally only read that one book until it’s finished. You generally don’t mix and match chapters from different books the way you can with music. Additionally, it would be quite easy to listen to dozens of whole albums in a day but there aren’t many people who could finish a whole book in a day. To me the only use for an E-book reader is if you were going to be away from your books for an extended period of time (such as a holiday or lengthy visit). I’m not sure that we’re all ready yet to give up on the printed page.

17 Orenge { 02.04.09 at 12:12 pm }

I don’t like the bulk of the Kindle (lose the keyboard! I want to read books) nor the black-on-gray screen (technology will advance to make it true white I’m sure).

But I will stand up for them when it comes to sales: the Zune is a failure in a HUGE market–music players. Half of that number, in a TINY market (e book readers) is actually very good.

The headline is like saying that a certain brand of deep sea goggles sold only half what a minor brand of sunglasses sold.

18 SamLowry { 02.04.09 at 12:13 pm }

I don’t get it. The one thing a book reader does not need is a keyboard. To include this in the second version is worse than keyboards on mail centric smartphones.
The iPod wasn’t a success because it did only one thing, but because it did one thing exceptionally well.

19 daGUY { 02.04.09 at 1:06 pm }

I agree overall with this article – if a device isn’t designed well, and/or it doesn’t have a clearly defined market, there’s no magic point where it suddenly becomes the “iPod” of its category and takes off.

The Kindle definitely isn’t there yet, and I don’t know if it ever will be. The hardware is clumsy and awkward, it looks cheap, and there are still some major issues to work out. For instance, why is a third of the Kindle’s surface devoted to a keyboard? Is it supposed to be used for reading or writing? The phrase “a camel is a horse designed by committee” comes to mind.

That said, I agree with Joel that it’s a fallacy to use 1 million units/year as an absolute benchmark of success. The iPod only sold 325,000 units in its first full year on the market (2002), and 600,000 in total since its introduction in October 2001. If we applied this same logic to the iPod at the end of 2002, we’d conclude it was as much of a “failure” as the Kindle is now. Obviously, that’s not an accurate indication of future success.

Heck, Microsoft sold 1.2 million Zunes in the first 6 months after its introduction (November 2006 – June 2007). It took Apple 2 years to hit the same number with the iPod.

So, one year of initial sales isn’t really enough information to make a final judgment.

20 stefn { 02.04.09 at 1:39 pm }

Two points:

* Amazon will continue on with the Kindle ‘cuz it knows all content is going digital and it must cover its bases. IOW, Amazon doesn’t care if the Kindle sells in the millions right now. It’s a place holder. Amazon knows that patience pays.

* Apple can make kindling of the Kindle if it does Kindle’s EVDO, making our content available on MobileME all the time, any place. Wouldn’t hurt if the screen were a tad bigger. But, yes, it must be pocketable!

21 stefn { 02.04.09 at 1:42 pm }

That’s “…if it does Kindle’s EVDO on the iPod Touch…”

22 addicted44 { 02.04.09 at 2:14 pm }

@Joel
Daniel’s point here is that while the Kindle serves those who are interested in it well, it is only serving a niche market. Unlike the iPod, its probably not going to be a worldwide phenomenon.

Also, sales comparisons to the initial years of the iPod are flawed in that the iPod was originally, mac-only. The iPod achieved near Kindle like sales with an addressable market < 5% of that of the Kindle. It was pitched as a way to have people switch to the mac…

23 Joel { 02.04.09 at 2:29 pm }

Heh, I remember articles on the Internet at the time that said the reason it was Mac-only was because Mac-owners were the only people to afford it. And the only people geeky enough to bother with it :)

“It’s a place holder. Amazon knows that patience pays.” : Yes, and I would also say that perhaps Amazon rushed out the Kindle. It would explain the clunky looks and using EVDO. Amazon could have waited and produced a GSM version and we’d have the Kindle in the EU by now…

24 jmdunys { 02.04.09 at 2:33 pm }

Why spend money on an eReader?

Nowadays when you buy a phone, you get (at least) a calendar, a contact list, an alarm clock, a camera, and games.
If you get a Smartphone, you get all the above, plus email, web browser, etc.
There are reading applications available for WinMo, iPhone, RIM and probably others.

I used to have a bible, a concordance, commentaries, and note taker on my HTC WinMo. I could finally read without using my glasses…

So really, why buy a standalone eReader? Beats me!

25 Joel { 02.04.09 at 2:40 pm }

Because e-ink provides a much nicer expereience (IMHO) than back-lit LCD…? And yes, its one of those things you really need to try…

26 harrywolf { 02.04.09 at 3:01 pm }

“the tech-savvy cat ladies who sit in on Oprah’s book club” – Daniel, you are the King of Satire!

This article, while accurate and ‘tech-savvy’ (!) as usual, was also the funnest (sic) that you have written, maybe ever.

Woke me from my low-cash doldrums and am now headed out the door to conquer the world with a D.E. Dilger-inspired good feeling!

Thanks, Dan – and no politics – some of your more Ostrich-like readers will be pleased…..

27 harrywolf { 02.04.09 at 3:12 pm }

@ DaGuy:

Microsoft SHIPPED 1.2 million zunes – they didnt actually SELL that many.

They were discounting them down to $39.99 here at Best Buy in Vancouver BC. in midsummer 2008, and I would hazard a guess that they were from the 1.2 million that presumably floated around in boxes for over a year.

The iPod became the market leader because of a combination of factors – none of the competitors have all of those essential ingredients, and the iPhone is doing the same because of the App store and iTunes and its huge capacity as a music player (iPod) etc.etc.

Apple kept control of the OS and the Hardware and that, more than anything, is a rare and unbeatable combination.

Blackberry have a similar thing going, which is why they are also doing well.

Licensing parts of the whole works for Windows, mainly because of historical accident and criminal activity – it rarely works otherwise.

28 Jesse { 02.04.09 at 3:15 pm }

I think it behooves us all to admit we don’t get it. Any geeky tech lover is going to look at the Kindle and go, “bleccch!”–myself included. Whatever Amazon’s game is, they’re doing something right, and us technorati are scratching our heads.

They’ve created the world’s only name-brand ebook reader, and they’ve done it by doing the opposite of what everybody else thought you should do. Instead of making something sexy and streamlined and Ives-y futuristic, they made something ugly and ungainly and very very retro (the thing looks like a big 1980′s calculator!).

But it worked! Why? You got me. I hate the looks of it. I want none of it. But I don’t buy books. I buy gadgets.

All us gadget-heads just don’t get it, and I include myself. What Amazon has done–and it’s baffling everyone–is make something that’s an awful gadget, but a great product.

29 beanie { 02.04.09 at 3:34 pm }

But Kindle always seems to be in top 3 of the Amazon electronics bestsellers list. So is Amazon fiddling with their bestseller list or is it actually selling better on Amazon than other electronic gadgets, even individual iPod models.

Zune Touch based on NVidia Tegra is the most likely next hardware version, if Microsoft decides to continue Zune. If you look at the past, Microsoft does not get it right until the 3rd or 4th version. Microsoft was also planning to enter the European market when the Zune was good enough.

Netbooks are the offspring of UMPC. As netbooks become more powerful, they will fullfill the UMPC concept. The new Sony Lifestyle “netbook” looks cool.

Convertible Tablet/Laptop is the most likely form-factor for Tablet PCs. So the laptop can be used in clam-shell or tablet configuration. HP showed off the TouchSmart tx2 convertible tablet. ASUS showed off EEE PC T92 convertible tablet netbook. Windows 7 has touch so convertible tablet is the way to go.

30 David Dennis { 02.04.09 at 4:06 pm }

The Kindle sold 500,000 units in its first year, and if my memory serves, a bestselling book sells about 600,000 copies. This means Kindle sold about as many units as a bestselling book. In its target market of book readers, a tiny subset of the US population, that has to be considered a significant success.

Since music sells many more units than books, clearly a music player has a higher sales bar to climb over to be called a success. It is reasonable, by any standard, to call the iPod a success and the Zune a failure, since in the overall market, Zune didn’t capture a sizable share.

So for a deeply flawed product – and we know Kindle buyers read, and therefore most of them have read the reviews – I’d say Kindle is an impressive success for Amazon, particularly since the media (i.e. books) are fairly pricey per unit.

When I visit the bookstore it’s interesting to see a lot of publishing being done in color, even of mainstream books at reasonable prices. I would certainly not want to buy an Adobe Photoshop guide in black and white, for instance. So I think in the long run, Kindle’s monochrome screen will be unappealing.

So far, so good for the Kindle. I wouldn’t buy one, because of the screen and navigation awkwardness, but it seems to me Dan’s a bit hard on it here. It’s a worthy effort that deserves a better v2.0.

D

31 David Dennis { 02.04.09 at 4:08 pm }

@Beanie

Note that Amazon is the only place where you can buy a Kindle, while you can buy an iPod in Apple Stores, Wal*Mart, etc. So it should not be surprising that Kindle is always an Amazon bestseller.

D

32 Per { 02.04.09 at 4:22 pm }

“Add up all of the tech-savvy cat ladies who sit in on Oprah’s book club, and you have a narrow niche market, not another iPod.”

This had me laughing out loud. I had an awful day and getting to read stuff like this really lightens things up. Thanks.

33 daGUY { 02.04.09 at 5:34 pm }

@HarryWolf: I grabbed the numbers off Wikipedia. I thought it said sold, but it could have been shipped (or Wikipedia could be wrong…lol).

Anyway, my point was that I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket rule that <1 million units sold in a year is a failure. As I said, the original iPod only sold 325,000 units in its first full year. A lot of people wrote it off at the time – remember the infamous Slashdot commentary? “No radio. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” If someone told you then the iPod was going to dominate in a few year’s time, you would have laughed them off.

The other thing is, we’re comparing entirely different devices here. iPods and Kindles overlap in some areas (both can browse the web, read documents, play music, etc.), but they’re completely different products aimed at different markets. I don’t think you can apply the same general “X sales in a year” rule for such different devices and then use that as a measure of success.

34 nat { 02.04.09 at 6:02 pm }

I don’t get how the Kindle has become the first “mainstream” eBook reader as some in these comments have asserted. Ask 20 people on the street what a Kindle is and they’ll say “kindling? that’s for fireplaces right?” or “Ken doll? that’s Barbie’s boyfriend.” In contrast, people more often than not call any mp3 player that remotely resembles an iPod, an iPod.

I question if dedicated eBook readers will ever reach serious market penetration. I could see reading digitized books on laptops becoming the norm. That’s already possible and it’s quite nice actually. I ended up reading most of The Picture of Dorian Gray on SparkNotes back in high school because reading real books is so relaxing it makes me drowsy. On a laptop, the text is backlit and more importantly, the ability to scroll the page line-by-line, rather than having to move your eyes down the page, keeps your eye muscles from getting worn out. Likewise, in my Sophomore year I was fortunate enough to get a massive Computer Certification Technician textbook that came with…a CD that contained a PDF!! Suddenly everything was instantly searchable, great for studying, homework, and open-book exams.

Why people would want to carry around a Kindle and a laptop if both could view the same eBooks is beyond me.

35 John Muir { 02.04.09 at 6:37 pm }

Great, great link that Siracusa story by the way Rick. He’s always a good read and I’d missed that. Damn Ars not doing author specific RSS feeds!

He covers many of the points we’re arguing again here. Definitely a good one to check out.

36 LuisDias { 02.04.09 at 7:05 pm }

I have to agree with Joel. While I understand Dan’s point, I also don’t see the reason to be such a snob against the Kindle.

To all of you who don’t “see” why the Kindle is being a de facto success (not an iPod, forsure, but anyways a very good sell considering the price of it and the niche market of it), you should understand that the e-ink has no comparison whatsoever against the iPod.

If anything, I can’t understand how anyone dismisses this device just because e-books are “readable” in the laptop, iPhone, etc. If anything, people saying this have never read an e-book, period. It hurts the eyes to read for so long a period of time against a backlit screen, and the e-ink is just like a conventional paper. It also uses next to nil power, so you don’t worry about battery.

Ahw, yes it’s “ugly”, but then again, people that usually are interested in books aren’t that snobbish for looks. You know, the usual drill between superficial peopl *ahem* looks, and deep content in books. People that read many books aren’t that interested nor worried in looks.

That’s probably what irritates Dan. The Kindle is a success despite irritatingly dismissing any “apple” notions of desing. And that’s also probably why Apple will never enter such a market, because these people couldn’t care less if the iKindle has 14 or 20 different colors in metal case or not. They don’t care if they see a dull white keyboard or the lovely clickwheel.

Not in their e-books at least.

37 KenC { 02.04.09 at 8:33 pm }

I read tons of books every year. You’d think I’d be the ideal Kindle customer. The Kindle is too expensive. It should be heavily subsidized. $99 if you buy a book a month for a year. Free if you buy a book a month for 2 years.

Having said that, every time I look at a Kindle, I see an immature Newton. Why is that?

As for the person who said UMPCs became netbooks, I would point out to you Dan’s point was that Gates was promoting UMPCs for selfish reasons. He thought he could sell more OSes and Office Suites. Netbooks are not going to be selling any Office Suites and most come with Linux. So, the rise of netbooks, is hardly the validation of Gates’ vision.

38 KenC { 02.04.09 at 8:36 pm }

@luis, readers of lots of books ARE snobbish when it comes to looks. We like hardcovers with nice jackets, and heavy-st0ck paper that appear to have been cut with a letter opener. That’s why a Kindle is so hard to stomach. You lose so much of what goes along with a good book.

39 mr_kitty { 02.04.09 at 8:45 pm }

One of my clients has a Kindle, and while the hardware is klunky and poorly designed, the convenience of having books immediately download for you is really nice.

If Amazon were truly interested in the life of the Kindle market, they’d release a Kindle app for the iPhone. The secondary market place of the kindle would normally violate the App store terms, but they could work with Apple to get special permission.

The main barrier to the kindle is it’s very expensive for mediocre designed / manufactured equipment.

40 nelsonart { 02.04.09 at 10:44 pm }

I have probably read thousands of pages on Bloomberg using my iPod touch and don’t really mind the white text on black background. You do a fair amount of scrolling and it’s tiring, but short articles are fine.

That said, I’m going to take a hard look at the new Kindle when it comes out. Having a dictionary/thesaurus handy when reading is a nice feature. For me, it’s going to come down to how that screen is.

It’s embarrassingly ugly and I’m sure Apple could absolutely kill it if they chose to enter this market, but Guy Kawasaki was gushing over it so there must be something to it!

41 Per { 02.05.09 at 1:41 am }

I read a lot of books and if there’s a choice I always choose the better looking edition. I still think that the paperback is unbeatable for reading. For school I can make quick notes or underline stuff that’s important. I haven’t seen that implemented as well or as quick in the digital realm. For me to switch to an eBook reader it would have to make everything about reader better than it already is, kind of how my iPod is better in every way than my CD collection (except for sound quality through my home stereo speakers maybe).

42 LuisDias { 02.05.09 at 8:53 am }

@KenC,

I am not talking about people that buy books, I’m talking about people that actually read them. Such people couldn’t care less if the cover of the book is not that stylish. The main reason why covers are so stylish after all is mostly because they are excellent gifts, and an ugly cover isn’t a good gift ;). With the Kindle, even if people buy you a “e-book gift”, it won’t be its cover that will blow your mind.

The only thing that keeps me from buying it is not its looks, as most people here complaint, but as you say, it’s expensive. That’s it. But there are tons of people that are price insensitive. You know, same people that are Apple’s deep core base, or that actually spend 400$+ to buy Windows Ultimate etc.

So I don’t think the Kindle will flop. Perhaps it will take two or three years, but the price will drop, perhaps by subsidies, or simple Moore’s law, or both. When it drops to 99$, it will be quite a catch. Even I will buy it.

And with looks, Kindle 2.0 as is in Apple Insider is not half as bad as Kindle 1.0. I think the 3rd or 4th iteration will begin to be actually nice looking.

Last but not least. There is a good motive to compare it to the iPod. Although the iPod started to be a success and only afterwards the iTunes boosted, Amazon has the prime advantage of already having a huge internet shop in the cloud. The main reason why the Kindle is having more success than his rivals is because of this close interaction between the device and their site. Much like the iPod and iTunes. So the comparison there is fair game.

43 Joel { 02.05.09 at 10:47 am }

“Don’t judge books (e-books or otherwise) by their covers”…?

44 fnsonin { 02.05.09 at 1:47 pm }

I have a collection of Classical CDs that is over 500 albums and close to 1500 actual CDs. I was able to rip all of those using iTunes and then play them on my iPod. I did not have to rebuy any of my albums or purchase any additional equipment to rip them on my Mac.
I have a collection of over 2000 books. Most of them are now out of print. How do I get that content to a Kindle?
That is the main reason that ebooks are never going to be as popular as music MP3s or H.264 videos. There is no way an average user can rip their existing books into an “iTunes” equivalent for the Kindle.
Therefore I would have to repurchase all of my books as ebooks. That would be too expensive and somehow I do not believe that ‘Mathematische Physik” by Courant and Hilbert is going to have a Kindle edition any time soon.

45 John E { 02.05.09 at 2:34 pm }

shucks, everyone sees that the Kindle is targeting a niche market. it’s real competition isn’t the iPod or laptops, it’s traditional paperbacks. which the great majority of people (sorry, gadget guys) still find much more convenient and always will.

about the iPod, don’t agree with Dan that it was THE revolutionary device that then took over its market. that is an oversimplification. it was iTunes instead that was THE real revolution, which of course was launched 10 months earlier in January 2001 (for the first time in history you could buy just the one track you wanted from an album for 99 cents! and burn it to a CD!!). early model iPod sales were very modest until 2004, once the Windows version of iTunes was released in late 2003, and then really took off in 2005.

iTunes is the true heart of this “ecosystem,” and iPod is one of its extensions (along with AppleTV, iPhone, and your home media LAN). it’s the one that makes $billions for Apple of course, so i don’t mean to diss it. its styling and ease of use are very important factors in its success too. but without iTunes it would have been just one more nice looking media player competing with the Walkman. with iTunes, it killed the Walkman.

46 daGUY { 02.05.09 at 2:50 pm }

@John E: “it was iTunes instead that was THE real revolution, which of course was launched 10 months earlier in January 2001 (for the first time in history you could buy just the one track you wanted from an album for 99 cents! and burn it to a CD!!)”

Hm? The iTunes *Music Store* wasn’t introduced until iTunes v4 in 2003. But yes, iTunes itself (as a means of organizing/syncing your media) was definitely a selling point for the original iPod.

47 LuisDias { 02.05.09 at 7:40 pm }

I have a collection of over 2000 books. Most of them are now out of print. How do I get that content to a Kindle?

You do realise that are alot of e-books freely available in the internet, right? Like, pay zero cash, right? I mean just look at the Gutenberg Project for instance.

The ignorance level that some people show up here is only comparable to their snobbish attitude towards everything that isn’t an iPod or an iPhone. Get a life. Really.

48 LuisDias { 02.05.09 at 7:44 pm }

Also, while I see a reason to hold the same songs one has in a CD in the iPod, I don’t understand how’s that important for a book. I mean, yes, it would be nicer, but come on, how many times does a person read a book in a lifetime? 1,2 times? 10 times if it’s the favorite book in the house? Not the same thing as your fav music that you’ll hear 10.000 times I’d argue…

49 enzos { 02.05.09 at 9:17 pm }

WHY SO SERIOUS! .. Dan was just raining on the delusional parade of a tech journalist. And funny it was.

Personally, as long as their are books (similar size, same content, organic, no batteries required), I can’t see much point in the whole category ‘e-Book reader’ .. . it’s hardly going to set the world on fire (.. so maybe they could call the next one Prometheus*). Each to their own, though.
-Enz

* (Forethought): A Titan who stole fire from the Sun Chariot by trickery and returned it to earth… To balance the irrevocable boon of fire, Zeus gave man a curse in the shape of that scapegoat on which early priests and poets so readily load the sins of our race. Woman (Pandora) was created and sent down to earth by the hands of Epimetheus (Afterthought)…

50 fnsonin { 02.05.09 at 9:21 pm }

@LuisDias:

The primary reason I would use ebooks would be to have access to my personal library as I travel for work. I often have to reference books for quotes and for certain proofs while at a job site. It would be very convenient to do that using an ebook rather than having to go to the internet or the library to look it up.
I am very aware of the Gutenberg Project as well as many other sources of freely available mathematical information. The books I require access to are not in the public domain and require special formating for the mathematical formulas they contain.
I also own an iPod Touch with 16 GB of classical music in it and appreciate it very much. My original post said absolutely nothing negative about the iPod nor the iPhone.
For someone so passionate about the very limited Kindle book reader your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired.
Sincerely,
Folke Sonin

51 John E { 02.05.09 at 10:28 pm }

thanks daGUY for correcting my time sequence. all the memories kinda smudge together … but that 2003 date strengthens the point that iTunes made the iPod a success, especially once it was ported to Windows that year too, not vice versa. (wikipedia has very nice iPod timeline and sales charts for reference.) then the first Mini with the first click wheel came out in January 2004 … and the iPod began to get rolling.

52 LuisDias { 02.06.09 at 5:22 pm }

fnsonin, I’m sorry if I misunderstood you and also for the harsh tone. I don’t think I read you wrong, though. You presented your case as if it was representative of general population and as…

the main reason that ebooks are never going to be as popular as music MP3s or H.264 videos.

Surely, having 2000 books up your sleeve to get instant “quotes” isn’t quite “representative”. And much as noble as it can be, it’s nothing but a small fetiche of yours, so your statement is still ridiculous.

My original post said absolutely nothing negative about the iPod nor the iPhone.
For someone so passionate about the very limited Kindle book reader your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired.

I never said you said anything wrong with the i’s. So your last comment is quite backfired really… do you shoot yourself in the foot this often?

53 Amazon to Make Kindle iPhone App for e-Book Reading? - 19th Edition | Tech & Telephone Blog { 02.06.09 at 9:52 pm }

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54 fnsonin { 02.07.09 at 12:15 am }

@LuisDias:

Imagine if the iPod had not allowed you to use your existing content with the device. Instead you had to buy a special ‘iPod’ edition of the CD that you already owned. Would Apple have sold millions of iPods?
The answer is obvious. Extending this to books. If the Kindle uses only special Kindle editions of ebooks and provides no consumer friendly way of using previously purchased books, then it will not be as successful as the iPod as a mass market device.

Most normal people resent being forced to repurchase existing content merely to use it in another format. Perhaps that is a ‘value’ fetish or maybe a ‘not getting screwed’ fetish. I leave that for you the fetish expert to decide.

It is not enjoyable to read an ebook. The experience is incredibly limiting. The only significant advantage an ebook has over a real book is portability of large collections.
Therefore I was addressing the only valid use case of a Kindle. Pointing out that in its present form, the Kindle is an epic fail because it will not easily allow the reuse of existing content.

I owned a Kindle and returned it because all of the content I wanted either was not available or looked like crap. It is easier to read a book.

As for my reference regarding iPods and iPhones:
“My original post said absolutely nothing negative about the iPod nor the iPhone.”
It should have read:
“My original post said absolutely nothing about the iPod nor the iPhone.”
Obviously editing is not my strong point. Nevertheless, apology accepted and I hope that Amazon can figure out a legal way to import existing books into the Kindle. That would make it a keeper.

55 Joel { 02.07.09 at 6:29 am }

If I ever launch a product, I wish it would have the “epic fail” of getting it Oprah, and selling out at 500,000 units. Perhaps, and here’s a strange thought, some times different people have different opinions…?

Did you try any other e-readers, like the ones which fully support pdfs…? Or did you try to use the service provided by Amazon, or the other formats it supports. Perhaps the Kindle 2 will support pdfs…

Its a bit like saying I can’t play ogg files on my iPod, and so all mp3 players must suck, and the Ipod is “epic fail”. Do one will want them things…! :D

56 KathyLee { 02.08.09 at 10:00 am }

Hey! I’m a tech-savvy cat lady! :-D But I don’t follow Oprah… I sadly agree with Jobs, but not that I don’t read anymore – I don’t read fiction anymore. I spend a lot of time reading, but it’s online blogs, news, tech news and rarely any books. Even magazines are out-of-date by the time you get them. One thing about the Kindle which seemed neat, is the subscriptions to newspapers/mags. That could be cool if offered on the iPhone. I don’t want to carry an e-reader just for that – the back-lit LCD of the iphone is ok on my eyes (thus far) for reading articles, not sure what it would be like for entire books.

57 daGUY { 02.09.09 at 1:48 pm }

The Kindle 2 was just officially released today (well, available for preorder): http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/B00154JDAI/ref=nosim/daringfirebal-20

Overall, it looks like a solid update over the original – longer battery life, better display, better design (although it’s still ugly in my opinion…but at least this time it’s symmetric!), etc.

At the same time, I still kind of feel like this is a solution looking for a problem. Don’t get me wrong – being able to carry around your entire library, search, look up definitions, etc. and download new books on the fly is pretty cool. But I feel like most people do more “short” reading nowadays (newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, etc.), and while the Kindle can handle these things, other devices do it better (iPhone/iPod, for instance). Maybe I’m just not in the target market.

Bezos mentioned in his presentation that books have been largely the same for 500 years. Maybe that’s because there’s not really anything wrong with them?

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