And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
Predictably thoughtful take from John Gruber on the broader tablet strategy that Amazon is taking up in light of the new Kindle/Kindle Fire product line. You should read the whole thing, but a couple of points really stand out. First:
Apple’s primary business is selling devices for a healthy profit, and they back that up with a side business of selling digital content for those devices. Amazon’s primary business is as a retailer, including as a retailer of digital content. They back that up with a side business of low-cost digital devices that are optimized for on-the-fly purchasing of anything and everything Amazon sells.
This is exactly right. I’d extend the idea all the way out to its limit: Amazon should buy Qwikster from Netflix.
While this move would, to Netflix, be akin to selling Babe Ruth to your direct competitor for a few grand and a bag of balls, what other company out there understands shipping better than Amazon, has a built-in pipe for selling overstocked used discs of yesterday’s blockbuster movie, could seamlessly merge the “this isn’t available to stream, shall we ship it to you right now” experience, and, most importantly, has the leverage with the content owners to actually, you know, offer a lot of content from their streaming service? Clearly the answer ain’t Netflix. It’s Amazon, who can go to content-owners and say: “Do you really want Apple to dominate your pipeline to the consumer? We have the customers, data about those customers, and the access to them. Use us a leverage against Apple and we’ll give you a marginally richer cut in exchange.” Even in an era of increasing disintermediation, the Apple model shows quite strongly that if you pile up enough content that people want, it’s ultimately easier to sell from those fewer, larger silos. Nobody wants to search ten sites to figure out which has Transformers 18: This Time It’s Personal available to stream this week only to have said stream expire mid-movie because you had to pause it at an inopportune moment. In that model, T18:TTIP pirated torrents become king. And yet this is fairly precisely the situation we consumers and our content-overlords increasingly find ourselves in. The future is most definitely not 35 separate “Apps for that,” each of which has to be painstakingly consulted on movie night. There’s room for two, maybe three, giant content aggregators. As of today, I’d say one of them is pretty obviously Apple. The other sure seems likely to be Amazon; even more likely once they’ve sold a few million Kindle Fires. Hell, since Netflix likely won’t sell a direct competitor the keys to Quikster, Bezos should just buy bothQuikster and Netflix, re-brand the sexily named “Amazon Instant Video” service Netflix and milk the Quikster “physical media” approach for as long as it makes sense to do so (as part of a broader package ultimately tied to Amazon Prime membership…which, of course, is mostly a deal-sweetening mechanism designed to drive unrelated sales for Amazon as a whole). As always: fewer choices for the consumer means more money for the provider; you draw them in with the enticing product or service, then completely empty their pockets on all the other stuff they hadn’t previously even thought of buying. It’s precisely Apple’s strategy, but attacked from the perspective of the content instead of the device.
Interesting point two:
Amazon is a data-driven company. I’ll bet the $40 premium [for a Kindle that never serves you “offers”] is based on how much money they expect to make from the ads they sell and products they promote via the special offers. Last year the special offer Kindle was only $25 less; the data must show that the special offers are worth more than $25 per Kindle to Amazon.
Taken together with the previous point, it’s clear that there’s potentially much, much more value in that premium. With Silk, Amazon will quickly have a huge dataset covering the browsing habits of their users. They already have a huge dataset on the buying habits of those users. In the user’s hand at the moment of the “offer” is a device purpose-built to grease the skids of said content purchase; just as easy to grease the skids for any kind of purchase once you know what the user wants or is looking for outside of the “content” world. And Amazon just so happens to sell that stuff, and will drop it on your doorstep quicker than seems possible with your annual Prime membership…which, oh yeah, you need because of all the content! Worth something to Amazon to be sure, but worth even more to the content owners and other potential advertisers who will presumably pay handsomely to get targeted sales…and Amazon will be able to show them exactly how well the campaign worked.
It’s simply not possible to do ad-word jiggery-pokery when an actual purchase (as opposed to a view) is the outcome metric. So I’d say it’s crystal clear that it’s in Amazon’s interest to gradually raise the heat on “offer-free” Kindles until, at some point Kindle purchases more closely resemble contract and contract-free purchases of mobile phones. That, I suppose, is when the ads start to intrude on the reading. But that’s a whole other post.
Got this offer from the Boston Globe today. What the Globe (and, by extension, its parent company the New York Times) can’t quite sort out: this price should read: $0. If you subscribe for a year or two, we will GIVE YOU a kindle so long as you agree not to receive the actual paper-paper. That’s because printing the damned thing costs twice as much as simply giving all subscribers the kindle and calling it a day.
Newsprint: To survive, you are going to have to shed your old ideas about what your business model is. I’m not sure how much more simply it can be put. Change or die.
Princeton has been running a Kindle-DX trial, in which several classes were selected, and the students in those classes were issued a Kindle-DX pre-loaded with the reading material (and whatnot) associated with that class. The article contains both the predictable and the WTF-able.
The predictable: Kindle is different than a book. It doesn’t have page numbers, for instance. Look at this magnamity in action:
[the professor] has permitted his students to use location numbers in their written work for the course
Wowie, that’s big of him. When future historians revisit “India: A Land of Contrasts” from this class’ 2009 collected output they will, however, face some cross-referencing challenges. This does, though, get at some fundamental usability issues with Kindle. The book has been reformatted and (obviously) needs to be repaginated (and actually repaginates on the fly if you visit an endnote and then return, for instance). I get that. But it would be a minor thing for Amazon to add a “Give me the page number from edition X” feature; you could presumably even generate page references from several editions if you wanted to. Seriously. Why isn’t that already there?
You can’t really mark up a Kindle. You can “fold” pages down and create a bookmark; you can (at least on the “real” Kindle, not the iPhone app) highlight text, search text, add notes, and do other stuff along those lines. But, without recourse to a straightforward touch-based interface, students report consternation in that many of these markup features are either lacking or extremely inconvenient:
“It’s clunky, slow and a real pain to operate.”
the annotation software was “useful but not as easy or ‘organic’ feeling as taking notes on paper.”
“A huge benefit to the Kindle is having large quantities of reading available at your fingertips and not having to print and lug around books and articles,” she said. “Some disadvantages are the necessity to charge the Kindle and the impossibility of ‘flipping through’ a book.”
The underlying theme of these comments leads us inevitably to the WTF-able (emphasis added):
Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages — not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs
Indeed, I think most students learn by tearing up the pages in a book. How else am I supposed to undermine the progress of my classmates? I ask you, how am I supposed to fuck them over on a Kindle? Water? Sharp objects?
As somebody who recently readInfinite Jest on the iPhone Kindle app, I feel some of this pain. Searching is actually non-existent on the iPhone version, so count your lucky stars you Kindle-DX users. Conventional page numbers are not there in any version of the device. But you can flag portions really easily. Too easily for my tastes, actually; I flagged pages by accident on several occasions. You can jump around reasonably easily, and the numerous endnotes were a dream; no using two bookmarks and flipping back and forth, finding the entry in inevitably tiny text…Kindle handles it all for you, even though it somewhat disconcertingly (at first, anyway) returns you to the space after the endnote, not to the page-view you had previously. With DFW, the endnotes are often quite, uh, lengthy, and some re-contextualizing to where you were is often a must, thus requiring a page-back, page-forward move to get back into the previous format of the page. But, with one or two exceptions, the Kindle performed perfectly in navigating multi-nested notes and always sorting out where to go to after. Seriously, read (and lug around) the annotated War and Peace and then the Kindle Infinite Jest. See which endnote approach you prefer. And, of course, there’s the constant availability and no-light readability.People never seem to mention those with “real” Kindles. Oh, wait, it doesn’t have a built in light-source. And it’s a separate, unitasking gadget to lug around, and so not really ubiquitous in the sense of something you have with you all the time, no matter what. Is it different: to be sure. Is it in many ways better: without a doubt.
So, does that mean this whole e-Book idea is kaput? I seriously doubt it. Everything they specifically complain about in the article comes down to interface, design, and performance. A more capable reader, some kind of tablet, let’s say, coming from a company with legendary interface success, a company familiar with portable computing and always-available networking, a company that can manage a large internet-attached “store” of some kind, such that copyrights can be honored, and that furthermore could put applications, or “Apps” into circulation such that this tablet would be useful for many tasks beyond just book reading and tip-calculation. Then add in a pre-indoctrinated user-base. Why, that company would really be onto something. Too bad nobody is positioned like that.
This is one of the strangest statements I’ve seen in a long time:
We see that when people buy a Kindle, they actually continue to buy the same number of physical books going forward as they did before they owned a Kindle. And then incrementally, they buy about 1.6 to 1.7 electronic books, Kindle books, for every physical book that they buy.
That’s Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos as quoted in the NYT (reporting on the introduction of the NOW! Bigger! Kindle DX).
Amazon reports rather impressive sales of Kindle-books, especially given that the article states there are probably fewer than 1M Kindles in circulation as of today. And yet, people who buy the Kindle (a device whose chief benefit would appear to be the avoidance of buying dead-tree books that the buyer has to lug around, store, and etc…) keep right on buying dead-tree books they have to lug around at the same rate as before…they simply supplement those with some Kindle-books.
Are these gift books? Do these buyers understand what their Kindle does (and that it does more than calculate tips)? Particular authors that are not available on the Kindle for some reason? What possible explanation can there be (if we assume that Bezos is being completely open about the underlying stats and isn’t simply mistaken on some point). Seriously, this seems to me to be the key moment of the whole presser but it’s reported without too much note. But this admission does go a long way towards explaining why Amazon decided to put out a Kindle reader app for the iPhone: it’s unlimited upside to them. If they sell a Kindle once you’ve read some of their books on the iPhone (and presumably discovered that you could read on the little screen after all, but decide you would prefer to do so on a Kindle for one reason or another) then it’s even more profit for them. But, if you don’t make the leap to their device, you’re still apparently going to buy just as many dead-tree books as you ever did, plus some number of Kindle-reader books for the iPhone.