February 12, 2010

kindle as service v. kindle as product

Andrew blogs the rumor that Amazon is going to give Kindles away to their Prime subscribers[1], and comments…

But I don’t know… there’s something about it that still just doesn’t feel right to me. Most of my heavy reading friends love theirs (I’m looking at you Sippey). I’m buying an iPad as soon as it comes out and can see applications for it in my life all over the place. And hey, I’ll happily take a free device I didn’t want any time. But for some reason, I just don’t see myself lustily opening that free Kindle and gleefully downloading away.

Since I was called out, I had to comment…and since I left such a long comment I thought I’d reblog it here.

My book buying habits aren’t necessarily lusty, but now just more “on demand.” Done with one book, pick up the next right now. I’ve shifted the bulk book buying I used to do on Amazon to the device… But frankly, they do a really lousy job of merchandising titles through the Kindle’s on-device store – it’s a seriously crappy shopping experience.

Which makes me wonder just what the heck they’re doing. This just feels like a combination of iPad fear an unnatural love for his own device on the part of Bezos. Assuming that Apple doesn’t lock them (and Stanza and all the other one off ebook sellers in the app store) out of the iPad because of the iBookstore, presumably they’ll have a great Kindle.app for the iPad, just like they do for the iPhone. Sure, the Kindle’s probably a better reading experience outside, but unless they’re sitting on some massive amount of inventory that they don’t want to have to write down completely, or are thinking about their Spint data deal in the wrong way (sunk costs, anyone?) I just don’t get this.

I’m not saying that they should exit the business, mind you, but that they should just rightsize it, make the product better, and realize that Kindle as a service brand will have a longer shelf life[2] than Kindle as a product brand. Amazon should look at the iPad and scream “holy crap, this is awesome – we can have a much better selling experience on the device than we can with our slow, non-responsive black-on-gray reflective screen device. Hooray!” Instead, Bezos just wants to be Jobs.

[1] I loved Hunter Walk’s tweet this morning on this: “Conspiracy Theory: Apple behind the ‘free kindle to amazon prime customers’ rumor to chill kindle sales pre-ipad”

[2] Pun fully intended.