Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Amazon Reader: Kindle
I never was interested in an electronic reader, but the new Amazon (AMZN) gadget looks quite intriguing: Amazon Kindle "Reader"
This thingie does have some attractive features: The ability to wirelessly grab books anywhere you are is way cool. But this is more than an eBook: It is a wireless device, grabing RSS feeds of blogs, newspaper and magazines. And, unlike Apple's iTunes, you own the books you buy, and if the device is lost or broken, you can re-download all of your Amazon purchases -- at no charge. (Apple's failure to do that is an inexcusable failing, and one of the reasons I hardly buy songs from ITMS).
Can Amazon generate the sort of frenzy reserved for Apple products? Perhaps -- earlier to today, Amazon as saying the Kindle was sold out. However, there are very few companies -- Apple, Harley Davidson (HDI), Tivo -- which have that sort of appeal or can generate that customer loyalty of that sort. I like Amazon, but its doubtful they will ever be in the rabid loyalty group.
Maybe they should tear a page from the Apple playbook -- after Christmas, slash the price 50% or more.
Why? At $150-200, this becomes a more compelling product. Amazon tells me that since the retail price also includes the wireless connectivity, this is already a $150 machine with $10 per month service for 2 years included. But would anyone really pay a $10/mo for the privilege of wirelessly purchasing books?
Some of the initial reviews of the doohickey were pretty good -- endorsements include Michael Lewis and Guy Kawasaki (below), and the NYT's David Pogue.
Criticisms: Version 1.0 has some obvious shortcomings: A few good observations (and one lousy one) via Scoble:
1. No ability to buy paper goods from Amazon through Kindle.
2. Usability sucks. Didn’t they think how people would hold this?
3. UI sucks. Menus? Did they hire someone from Microsoft?
4. No ability to send electronic goods to anyone else.
5. No social network. Why can't my friends see what I’m reading?
6. No touch screen.
The buying of regular Amazon products and send ebooks or other gifts are good suggestions. Social networking ("What I am reading") can easily be adapted to a widget.
In most software products (and this is an embedded piece of software), by version 2.0, the UI gets improved. Perhaps, the build quality/materials will get upgraded. Note that very few devices start out perfect, and even TiVo and the iPod got better over time.
Scoble's all wrong on the touchscreen: You don't really want to smudge the screen you are reading (Besides, I don't believe electronic ink works with touchscreen -- yet).
I would think that after working at Microsoft, Scoble would (heh-heh) know better than to buy 1.0 of anything.
Lets me make a suggestion to help Amazon out:
If Jeff Bezos wants to make the Amazon Kindle "Reader" a breakout iPod-like product, he has an easy solution: Get the price under $200, charge $5-10 per month for the service, and include 2 free books per month at that price. I would also think pre-loading the gadget with a few gratis books was an automatic. Home run!
I am not the road warrior I once was, but if I were, I would definitely have one of these . . .
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