This wouldn’t be so bad if the Kindle were more open

Bad news for Kindle readers, especially the less computer-savvy.

But it is worth noting at this juncture that Amazon appears to have made a business decision, at least for now, that “free” will play an increasingly limited role in the Kindle Store

Amazon certainly has a right to shift focus and resources from free and public domain books to the books they’re trying to sell.  But it’s pretty disappointing.  For many people, unfortunately, the Kindle is the ebook reader.  It’s done wonders in showing the non-technical part of the population that ebooks and readers are out there.  But it’s these very same non-technical people who are likely to get all their reading material from the Kindle store, which is of course what Amazon wants.  They’ve put up all sorts of hoops to jump through if you want to put other content on the Kindle.

And so these non-technical people are effectively cut off from public domain books, or books from other publishers who can’t or won’t play ball with Amazon’s restrictions on the Kindle.

Also disappointing is that Amazon doesn’t want to deal with free promotional titles.

The number of free promotional titles has been dwindling since August, and no new free promotional titles have been added this month despite numerous publisher requests to offer free titles.

There is no question that free promotional titles can grow your fanbase.  Two of my favorite science fiction authors reeled me in with free ebooks (here and here).  I’ve since not only bought books from them, but pre-ordered a couple.  Again, Amazon certainly has a right to do what they’re doing.  I’d just rather they chose not to.

Fortunately, it keeps plenty of room in the ebook market and the ebook reader market for others to come in and fill the holes.

Article:  Kindle Nation Daily: Honey, They’re Shrinking “Free” in the Kindle Store via Teleread.

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AT&T looking to monetize things

With the success of Amazon deal with Sprint on the Kindle’s always-on internet connection, it should come as no surprise that others are going to want to get in on the synergies.

“There’s a whole bunch of ways to monetize that type of device,” [head of emerging devices at AT&T Glenn] Lurie said in an interview with Bloomberg at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. “That’s coming, it’s coming fast,” he said. “We’re going to be part of it.”

This may be putting the cart before the horse – jumping into a market just because you see the dollar signs is a good way to lose your shirt – but doubtless AT&T has the money and the resources to do it right.  Whether they do or not remains to be seen.  Competition for the Kindle certainly won’t hurt consumers.

via AT&T May Enter E-Book Market, Dominated by Kindle Update2 –

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Amazon is surely wetting its pants now!

Google is constantly updating its library of public domain books, currently 1.5 million strong, so you should expect an ever-increasing number of books available to read both on both PCs and on your phone.

While it’s great that Google is making more and more books available in electronic format, I hardly think Amazon is worried about error-filled scans of public domain books.

Article:  Google Makes iPhone the New eBook Reader: Watch Out Kindle – PC World.

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Free Kindles and no newspapers

If [T]he [T]imes killed its paper print-run and followed the Kindle-only model, that would leave the newspaper with $346 million in its pocket. Okay, distributing the newspaper electronically in a secure way needs some electronic infrastructure…let’s stick a figure of $10 million on that. That still leaves $336 million to spare–a figure not to be sniffed at.

While it’s true that printing and delivering a newspaper is a huge cost that makes less and less sense by the day, this analysis still misses the point.  Replacing one ridiculous expense with a more ridiculous but smaller expense is not the way to succeed.  Newspapers must accept that the only way forward is to focus on the the scarce things they have to sell, and give the rest away.

And no, I don’t mean selling the printing presses and the buildings that house them.  While these things are scarce, and might bring in some extra cash, they won’t solve the problem.

But what do newspapers have that they could sell?  They have experienced reporters who will do more than scan Google and Technorati for the latest news.  They will actually investigate, research, and report.  These are all valuable things that take time and effort.  Businesses would pay for extensive, accurate, and timely information about their respective industries.  They already do pay for information like this.  Collecting this sort of information, weeding out what’s not important, presenting it in a readable way, these things are all hard.  These things are all valuable.  These are things you can sell.

But how does everyone else get their news?  For free.  Delivered via blogs and RSS feeds and however else people find it convenient.  Some will still pay for paper copies, at least for a while longer.

The difference is that, instead of trying to figure out ways to restrict your content, to keep people from getting at it, to inflate the price with artificial scarcity, you get it out there.  You use your content to build your reputation as a great place to come for good information.  And when people want to pay for your reporting and researching skills, you keep giving the content away.  Those who are paying you can have it first, maybe, but after that it goes out onto the internet where others can use it and build on it and consume it and keep building your reputation and naturally inflating the prices, sustainably inflating the prices (provided you continue the high level of service).

Saving the newspaper industry won’t really be about the newspaper at all.  It will be about transitioning an old industry that focused on putting things on paper into a new industry that focuses on collecting information and putting it together to be consumed.

Article: Fast Company – Should The New York Times Ditch Paper, Distribute Kindle E-readers?

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Competition for the Kindle?

Via Verizon To Support Kindle Rivals – Technology – redOrbit.

“Competitors to the Kindle are out there and ready,” [Verizon head of device certification Tony Lewis] told Reuters. “In 2009 I’d expect them to come to the market.”

A while ago, Verizon announced plans to open their network to third-party devices, and gadget-loving users began to salivate at the thought of a fully open network.  So far, Verizon hasn’t delivered.

But maybe this will be the year.  Amazon has been unable to keep the Kindle in stock.  People have suggested that sales numbers are exaggerated, but it still sells for more than the Amazon purchase price on Ebay, and that is probably a much less biased method to estimate the true demand.  People really seem to want these things, thanks in no small part to Oprah and her endorsement.

So why haven’t the competitors appeared already?  The technology in the Kindle is not groundbreaking.  The idea of a lifetime subscription to the data connection being included in the price hasn’t really been done before, but there’s nothing stopping anyone else from doing it.  Having a huge support system like Amazon certainly makes it easier for the Kindle, but Verizon is hardly a mom-and-pop outfit without any money and resources.

Perhaps it is Verizon and the other mobile carriers’ reluctance to accept a device that they have so little control over.  Verizon sells most of its phones with a proprietary operating system, which makes it easy for the less technically inclined to switch from one Verizon phone to another, but doesn’t foster innovation and growth.

Verizon must see the exclusive deals that its competitors have made on devices like the Kindle and the iPhone, and certainly someone has suggested it do the same.  It remains to be seen whether it will be before or after the next-generation Kindle, and whether or not anyone cares.