One book does not a reversal of policy make

I don’t share the optimism of Teleread and Kindle Nation, but it appears that Amazon has not entirely deserted free ebooks.

They do, however, remain committed to controlling virtually every aspect of the Kindle that they’ve leased you, which is not terribly consumer-friendly.

Still, at least it’s not as bad as it originally seemed.

Free ebooks back at Amazon- John Lutz Urge to Kill | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home.

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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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 –

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How NOT to sell ebooks

Astak got a lot of press last year for promising an ebook reader in the $150 price range.  That never materialized, but they are now selling a rebranded Hanlin V3 for $270, putting them right alongside much of the competition.  Cheaper than Sony and Amazon, but not cheap enough to change anything.

So, they’ve launched Mobiebook, an ebook store to go along with their reader.  This makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the giant disclaimer on the front of the site:

All eBooks on this website are powered by Mobipocket eBooks common library and you can read them on your PC, but not on the EZ Reader. This is because the EZ reader currently does not support DRM ebooks. We are working hard on supporting the DRM format, and we will notify EZ Reader users when a firmware update is available it will be displayed on this website.

Can you imagine if you bought an iPod and followed Apple’s instructions to head over to iTunes, and then were told you were welcome to buy songs, but you couldn’t play them on your new device?  iTunes would have lasted about a week with no sales before disappearing.

When you have two complementary products (MP3s and MP3 players, ebooks and ebook readers, whatever), sales of one are supposed to drive sales of the other.  Ideally, this even works both ways.  But here, because of the ongoing ebook format wars and the inclusion of anti-consumer DRM, we have a situation where the complementary goods aren’t even complementary.

They also have a really interesting “promotion” going on, where you can pay extra for things that are usually included in the price.  Maybe I’m missing something – the website is pretty awful – but I’m not sure where the deal part of this is.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Nothing surprising from the Kindle 2

How did Amazon do on fulfilling my wishes for the Kindle 2?  Failure on four of five counts, and no compelling reason for current Kindle owners to upgrade.  SD card support?  WiFi?  Free things staying free and a reasonable pricing structure for books?  All ignored by Amazon.  Clearly they aren’t reading this blog.  They did improve the user interface, to the surprise of no one.

And they haven’t given any current Kindle owners a reason to upgrade.  The battery life is better, and it’s thinner.  It’s easier to use.  It works in the two states that couldn’t get the Whispernet connection before.  All of these things are nice, but not game-changing.

Amazon had (And still has, with future generations of the Kindle) a chance to change everything about reading.  Instead, they chose to release another device with bells and whistles and a pretty package, but locked down tightly to protect their ability to continue overcharging for digital content.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I feel like it’s the Super Bowl Pregame Show

And I hate the Super Bowl Pregame Show.  Also, I think I just violated the NFL’s concept of its rights to the words “Super Bowl”.  Please, NFL, send a bogus lawsuit my way, I could use the publicity.

Amazon is starting their press conference at 10AM.  So the next hour and a half will be filled with posts, just like this one, from all the tech blogs and the publishing blogs and all the other interested people.  They will all say the same nothing that we’ve been hearing for a while.  Yes, shots of the new Kindle leaked.  Are they real?  Probably.  Who cares? 

As you can see, I have nothing to say on the Kindle that hasn’t been said too many times already.  And neither does anyone else.  So we will all spend the time between now and when something interesting happens by rehashing the same things, over and over, trying to make them sound new and fresh.

10AM can’t come soon enough. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The new Kindle will disappoint

By managing both the content and the device on which to consume it, Amazon is in a fantastic position to do great things in the electronic publishing market.  Later today, they’re expected to announce the new version of their ebook reader, the Kindle.  The speculation is that it will be thinner, lighter, and easier to use.  “The “Previous Page” and “Next Page” buttons are smaller and less intrusive, to prevent accidents.”, Forbes says.  Most other articles about it are even less interesting.

The new Kindle will probably be the best ereader on the market.  The current model is already arguably the best available, so improvements should cement that position.  But until Amazon stops thinking about how to sell books in a new format and starts thinking about what fundamental changes to the way people read are now possible, whatever they might announce will be a disappointment.

It may be great for their bottom line – Amazon’s stock is doing quite well – but for everyone who isn’t a stockholder, incremental improvements to an expensive device that displays expensive words isn’t nearly as exciting as Amazon would like you to think.  It’s still just a slightly more convenient way for people to purchase and read books.

What about enabling things that just weren’t possible with books made of paper?  Interactive book clubs, automatic updates to serialized novels, communication with the author, or any number of things that become possible when you have an always-on internet connection.  But Amazon, like everyone else in the market, is too focused on protecting the old way of doing things instead of embracing everything new.

Today, and in the days to come, you will hear a lot about how wonderful the new device is, how this one is really “the iPod for books”, and how great Amazon is.  And then you’ll go back to reading books in more or less the same way you did before.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Kindle wouldn’t have happened without the iPod

But even the 500,000 estimate would mean that the Kindle is outpacing iPod unit sales in the iPod’s second year on the market, when it sold only 378,000 units. That means if you turned back the clock and launched both at the same time, the Kindle would be outselling the iPod by 32 percent.

The problem here is that you can’t compare sales figures.  The Kindle is, in some sense, standing on the shoulders of the iPod.  The iPod changed the way people thought about buying and listening to music.  The Kindle hasn’t even yet earned the “iPod of books” title that was nevertheless bestowed upon it almost immediately.

Yes, Amazon has sold a lot of Kindles.  Yes, they sell them so fast they can’t keep them in stock.  But the Kindle is just a pretty slick new package on essentially the same old business model.  It hasn’t fundamentally changed the market.

If you had released the two at the same time, Kindle sales would have been much lower because people would have had no idea what to do with it.  The iPod paved the way for the very idea of the Kindle.  It gave it a context in people’s minds, something similar that it could be compared to.  It’s impossible to measure what this did for Kindle sales, but it did something, and you can’t ignore that something in making hypothetical projections.

Article: Is The Kindle Outpacing Early iPod Sales? –

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My Kindle 2.0 Wishlist

If you’e been paying attention to the ebook world lately, you’ve no doubt heard that Amazon is expected to announce the second generation of their Kindle reader on February 9th.  Rather than add to the already rampant speculation, or further insult the UI (I haven’t seen a Kindle, so I’m not really qualified to judge the UI anyway), I thought I’d talk about the things that I’d like to see in the new device.

SD card support – It’s a great feature that they back up all your files in case you lose or delete them, but every other device on the planet supports some kind of removable media.  I already have a half dozen SD cards lying around, so that’s my removable media of choice.

No charge for stuff that’s already free – Ten cents to put a PDF on your Kindle?  99 cents a month to read an RSS feed, and only for approved blogs?  It’s like they built a big fence around your house, and then told you they had to charge you a dollar every time you want to go to the grocery store so they could pay for the fence.

WiFi – Even Amazon admits that their Whispernet connection only works in 48 states, and nothing international.  Montana, Alaska, and the entire rest of the world is left out.  The Whispernet is a fantastic idea, but with WiFi available in more and more places, it would be nice to be able to take advantage of it.

Improved user interface – As I said, I’ve never used it.  But with so many complaints, it must need improving.

A reasonable pricing structure for books – $9.99 is highway robbery for a book that you can’t resell, can’t loan to a friend, can’t do anything with but read.  Amazon is one of the few, if not the only, company that has the opportunity to completely change the way the market works.  It would be wonderful if they did it the right way.  A subscription service like Netflix would probably work.

Aside from the user interface, I don’t expect to actually see any of these things.  And that’s why I don’t expect to buy one.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A failure for Amazon is a service for Amazon Kindle owners that lets you aggregate your favorite feeds and have them delivered to your Kindle in a convenient, easy-to-navigate format. You can also have your feeds delivered to your Kindle automatically on a schedule.

While most of the Amazon-related news these days is about the next-generation Kindle that everyone expects to be announced on February 9th, there are still things going on with the old version.

The mere fact that exists and is not a part of Amazon means that Amazon isn’t meeting all the needs and desires of their customers.  That’s okay, and to be expected.  They can’t think of everything.

But the fact that the site owner is now afraid that what he’s done (make the Kindle more valuable by providing additional services for it) is actually against Amazon’s terms of service means that Amazon probably did think of this, and decided they didn’t want people doing it.

This insistence on controlling every word that goes onto your Kindle is the main reason I didn’t buy one, and won’t buy generation two unless it stops.  It means that Amazon hasn’t figured out how to properly monetize the Kindle.  In general, the company is pretty open with how you use their services – they try to help people sell their stuff in the Amazon marketplace, they provide online storage and processing power for people to purchase, as well as numerous other things.  These services are very open because Amazon knows how to charge you.  Each gigabyte of data you send or store using their service has a calculable price.

But the money is much fuzzier with the Kindle, and so it’s much more restricted.  In the long run, this is a mistake.  Basing your business on preventing people from doing what they want with your device will always limit your market.  You may make more money now, but you leave so much potential on the table.

Link: – RSS and Atom Feed Subscriptions For Your Amazon Kindle, via – Cool Websites and Tools (#258)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]