The Amazing(?) Amazon Kindle
This week Amazon lowered the price of their popular six-inch Kindle by $60. No fanfare, no major announcements and no (á-la-Steve-Jobs) laser shows. In fact, Jeff Bezos was nowhere to be seen, just a new lower price on the Amazon homepage.
The Kindle, for those of you who’ve been under a rock the last year, is a small, thin, electronic display that can hold over 1,500 books. Amazon, the undisputed king of booksellers (online or offline), designed and released this device in advance of deep-pocketed rivals (like Microsoft, Google and Apple) to hopefully create a market for e-readers that they could control.
Amazon took a giant leap of faith and created a product that could destroy their original business model. A risky move, but one that was as necessary for Amazon as it was for Polariod. (Polariod, of course, failed to recognize the move to digital photography and ended up declaring bankruptcy.) Amazon’s bold leadership is strong enough to recognize that either they can destroy their business model, or they can allow a competitor to do it. Bravo Amazon – we only wish more businesses were willing to be so bold. (Did someone just say “General Motors?”)
The Kindle is the Kleenex of e-Readers
Much as Apple’s iPod has become the standard for all portable music players, Amazon is pinning its hopes on the Kindle to one day be the electronic reader of choice. Clearly, Amazon’s price drop to the psychologically appealing $299 level was a move to further popularize the Kindle before rivals have a chance to become established.
Amazon’s latest version of the Kindle is both an amazing home run and an unexciting walk – all at the same time. The Kindle 2, as it’s also called, has an advanced display that truly reads like real paper. Even in bright sunlight, the Kindle acts more like paper than a computer screen; delivering clear text and distinguishably crisp images. A true home run that comes in sixteen shades of grey.
It’s a Great Reader, but Where Are the Books?
If you’re a voracious reader like TheManager you have two needs when it comes to your books: variety and speed of delivery. A faster delivery time is the primary reason I made the switch from traditional paper to an electronic device. Using the wireless connection on the Kindle, I can download books in less than a minute. That is, when the book is available for the Kindle.
Amazon claims over 300,000 titles are obtainable for Kindle owners, but that’s out of the millions of paper books you can buy on Amazon today. An unexciting walk, if you ask me. (Not a stumble, mind you, but Amazon had almost two years to Kindle-ize every book ever published. If Amazon’s rivals have an opening, it’s to have more titles more quickly available for their e-readers.)
Rest assured that the most popular books are Kindle-ready; including every one of the TheManager’s Top Ten Leadership Books of All Time. And, Amazon seems to make daily announcements to add whole categories of books to its device.
The Kindle Family
Amazon launched the original Kindle in November 2007 with a $399 price tag. The relatively minor issues with this device (i.e., battery life, storage and visibility in direct sunlight) were solved back in February when Amazon introduced the Kindle 2 at $359 (now $299).
If you want the very best money can buy, and you’re willing to part with $489, you can get your hands on the 9.7-inch Kindle DX. This monster works just as sound as the three hundred dollar 6-inch model, though with a much bigger reading area. It totally feels more like you’re reading an actual magazine or newspaper – plus, the DX comes with a rotating screen and holds 2,000 more books than its smaller cousin.
While books and periodicals for either device are generally cheaper than buying the paper copies, they’re still not what you might call “cheap.” Clearly, there is room to deliver some periodicals (and maybe even books) as ad-supported content. There are some reports that Amazon is exploring ways to make the DX feel even more like reading a magazine by including advertisements on its pages. Of course, there are numerous critics of an ad-supported Kindle; though if it means consumers can receive periodicals at a reduced cost, it seems worth it to us.
The Bottom Line on the Kindle
We’ve recommended a large number of books, rolling briefcases and even an online chat program to our readers: We are now proud to add the Kindle to our small list of products that we stand behind.
So, should you buy a Kindle?
If you like to read and hate to wait for even the two-day express shipping, I recommend buying a Kindle. If you like to read, but hate searching for books on your shelves, get the Kindle. If you like to read, and don’t like to carry books, magazines and newspaper around (especially on an airplane), buy the Kindle. If you want to read newspapers from all over the world, but not on your computer screen, buy the Kindle.
And, if you can afford the extra two hundred bucks, I recommend you step up to the DX – ultimately, you’ll be glad you did.
If you’re a casual reader who cracks just a couple books a month, you may want to wait for an ad-supported version of this or some other e-reader. The good news is that Amazon has set the bar so high that the next generation of e-readers may be worth waiting for…