Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Thoughts on the New Kindle & Publishing

My first was: shiny!

My second was: wow. I was so right.

I’m really pleased I nailed the pricing ($79 and $199, specifically). I had the feeling we’d see sub-$100 by year’s end, and I’d hoped it’d be sub-$80, because this paves the way for the continuing digital revolution. I think we’re going to look back and notice that the thing that finally made e-reading totally mainstream was the $70 Kindle. At that price, it’s nearly impossible to pass on it (and consider that by next summer, we’re probably looking at a sub-$50 Kindle).

Between a $79 Kindle and Apple’s iPad, this could well be the conquering moment for digital publishing. The death blow.

Can the big six maintain business-as-usual anymore? Heck, what is business as usual?

So far, corporations have somehow maintained their ten and fifteen dollar prices for e-books, and they’ll probably manage to uphold them for a little while longer at that, but the new Amazon commercials, which I unfortunately can’t find to embed, boldly proclaim “850,000 books for less than $9.99, with many at just 99 cents.” That may be paraphrasing, but I think it’s pretty huge. It’s used as a selling point, which means that one of the things Amazon is trying to sell people on is that they’ll be able to find good, inexpensive books, many as low as $1 (the commercial also mentions free classics).

So for how much longer can corporations convince people that a new novel is worth more than $10?

I think not very long at all.

The new devices do look pretty fantastic, though I’m not sure they’re enough to persuade me away from what is apparently now my Kindle Keyboard. I’m just not sure that the Touch feature is really that compelling, though who knows?

The $79 Kindle is less compelling for me, but I think it’s going to convince a lot of other people. I also think it’s going to be a huge gift this season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Amazon sold out of them quick.

And then there’s the new Amazon Kindle Fire. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this one, because I can’t imagine reading on anything besides e-ink anymore (and that includes paper. I tend to read paper only as a last resort lately). The contrast is great, and it’s terrific for long-form reading (and in some ways better than paper. I lose track of how much farther I have to read, which somehow makes me more likely to read longer books I’ve previously put down). I’m sure movies and such look great on the display, but I never really looked at my Kindle and thought the one thing it was missing was the ability to play videos.

The thing is, the Kindle Fire is basically now the best Android tablet on the market, and tied directly to the on-demand music and video content people would want. It’s less tied to Android than it is to Amazon, and it’s legitimately perfect as a media device. It seems like it runs Android apps (I haven’t seen enough, yet, to know). Also, so far as I know, Barnes & Noble doesn’t sell music, videos, or storage, so this could be a clear winner over the nook Color on that point for people who want a tablet worthy experience.

The price makes it way compelling over an iPad, which is basically what this is all about now. People who buy tablets aren’t buying computers; they’re buying tablets, for very different reasons than people buy computers (usually for media). Which could mean we’re effectively looking at a three-tablet market.

Because I’m betting Barnes & Noble is going to update their line any day now. We’re definitely due for an upgrade to at least the nook Color (though I doubt the Simple Touch will get much of an update).

If I were going into Amazon fresh (without my Kindle Keyboard, basically), I think I’d end up going with the Kindle Touch.

And then I’d buy an iPad.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, but I think one thing is clear: Amazon, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble are drastically countering whatever arguments could have been made for conglomerated corporate publishers.

And I think that’s pretty great.


  1. I think this is pretty great too. When the KindleFire gets released here in the UK, it will cost around £127. People who don’t want to spend more for an iPad will snap this up. So many marketing strategies are swimming through my mind right now, for the UK KindleFire release day and Xmas!

  2. @Suz: It’ll be interesting to see how authors and publishers adjust pricing and promotions as the gadgets come to market, which is about to explode.

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