Amazon Kindle First Thoughts

While I was smarting from my loss of our in-office “Kindle Launch Date” pool, I still took some time to break down what seems like a very interesting value proposition:

What they got right

  • wireless connectivity
  • in-device purchasing (Connect has always been one of Sony’s liabilities.)
  • significant bestseller discounting (gives you a mental amortization “If I buy x books a year, this pays for itself in…”)
  • wireless pricing rolled into overall cost rather than requiring a plan
  • input options (you can do a bit of typing…)
  • untethered operation (never dock again.)
  • books + newspapers + magazines + sites/blogs (and the right ones)
  • “service not hardware”
  • got the marketing and author endorsements right. (Anybody see Toni Morrison or Michael Lewis stumping for Sony? Me neither.)
  • $5.50 mass markets. (Although did I notice a distinct lack of Harlequin series romance in the store…?)

What they missed (for now)

  • EVDOgreat for US (and Japan, Korea, OK for Canada) but GSM-based UK, EU could be waiting for a while, rights issues aside.
  • (Added) Mostly closed formatPurchasing and display is in Kindle’s proprietary format only. Text can be converted, but no .epub, .pdf, etc.

Things people will think is a big deal, but probably aren’t

  • no WiFi (Blackberry lived for years without WiFi and as long as this is push rather than browse, it shouldn’t compromise the experience.)
  • not the greatest input/typing layout. (but it isn’t an email device)
  • (Added) DRMDRM matters a lot to people who don’t like DRM, much less to those who are looking to buy stuff. I’d argue that the format issue matters more. If I don’t like iTunes, I can still drop MP3’s on my iPod. On the Kindle, not so much…

 

At first glance, looks like a significant step forward on the eReading front, which is surprising for a company taking its first swing in consumer electronics. Does it do everything? No. This is something my dear friend Mr. Shatzkin and I fence back and forth on: “One Device to Rule Them All vs. “The Best Device for This Media”. Every media experience involves a form factor optimization; books more than most because you are constantly interacting and the mechanics have to recede into the background in order for the experience to become immersive. So personally, I think the ultimate music+phone+reader+laptop+food processor is a red herring. New devices can get added to the repertoire if they confer significant advantages vs. the media they replaced and this one has some goodies that I think consumers will find appealing. (And you know the busy beavers in Amzn Bus. Dev will be cooking up the value-add deals for some time to come…)

Also, never underestimate Amazon’s ability to leverage a platform: AWS, ECC, S3…

(Updated: added some additional “things missed” after reading some of the commentary by people smarter than myself.)