Amazon’s Ad-Supported Kindle Comes Out On Top

Not too long ago there was a fair amount of debate over whether or not customers could possibly accept a version of the Kindle which incorporated advertising.  As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.  Apparently while there may be any number of knee-jerk reactions to connecting advertising and the reading experience, nobody gets all that upset in practice so long as the whole thing is handled subtly and with the intention of keeping it unobtrusive.  This is good news for Amazon at the moment and might be great news for Kindle enthusiasts in the long term.  It all depends on how the trend holds up.

The fact that you can find the Kindle w/ Special Offers at the top of the Best Sellers list works as a proof of concept as far as ad-supported Kindles are concerned. Customers are willing to buy it.  Their biggest complaint so far seems to be the fact that they had to.  You see, many consumers feel that if they are going to be providing Amazon with revenue from advertising on an ongoing basis, it is wrong for them to expect an initial investment on the part of the end-user.  There is a certain amount of justification to this. It is definitely possible to see that being the goal, given projections that the Kindle may soon be a free or nearly free device.  At the moment, it still needs to prove itself as a worthwhile place for advertisers to buy time on.  Let’s assume that this works out and Amazon has no problems finding companies that would love nothing more than to advertise to readers around the world.  This opens the door for not only the free Kindle, but highly affordable Kindle Tablet devices subsidized by advertising.

There is the concern, of course, that this could prove too tempting a success and result in an intrusive ad presence in eBooks themselves.  I would call this unlikely.  In an earlier interview on the topic, Jeff Bezos mentioned that part of the reason they are choosing to keep the advertising completely separate from the reading experience, besides simply the undesirability of such an immersion destroying addition, is that maintaining the separation improves the impact of the ads when they are shown.  Simply put, more ads would mean less impact per ad rather than more overall impact.  If the advertisers are not seeing results, the whole endeavor flops.

So far we’ve seen Amazon do a great job of anticipating the needs of the customer.  They offer the most full-featured, affordable dedicated eReader on the market in the form of the Kindle and now they are selling it at what is almost certainly less than cost. If they sometimes turn to unorthodox methods to provide customers with the best value for their money rather than following the most vocal demands and desires of the moment, so much the better.  I think there will be a time when the Kindle w/ Special Offers is the only one they continue to offer as a dedicated eReader, but I also see it costing next to nothing by that point.  Any thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Amazon’s Ad-Supported Kindle Comes Out On Top

  1. “I think there will be a time when the Kindle w/ Special Offers is the only one they continue to offer as a dedicated eReader, but I also see it costing next to nothing by that point. Any thoughts?”

    I think it’s likely that Amazon will expand its Special Offers thusly:

    1. Offer the SO feature to current Kindle owners, who would be given a $25 gift card for doing so.

    2. Offer a more intrusive SO version for $50 off.
    3. Increase the number and attractiveness of the deals it offers, to the point where buyers earn back the price they paid for their Kindle within a year. (I doubt Amazon will cut the price of the Kindle much below $100.)

    But Amazon realizes that it is walking in a minefield when it introduces commercials into the realm of book-reading. The PR black-eye it could get from being perceived as being crassly commercial (or allowing its enemies a colorable case for making that accusation) is something it will strive to avoid. So it will or should:

    A. Wait for an online clamor to develop for those features above before introducing them.

    B. Offer an “Undo” to purchasers who don’t like the SO feature.

    C. Never drop the commercial-free version of the Kindle.

    D. Not insert pop-up singing commercials into its dictionaries. ☺

  2. A few thoughts:

    1) I don’t oppose the idea of ads, I’m just unwilling to accept them for the savings being offered. It’s just not big enough. I’m willing to pay $25 extra to avoid the ads. I might not be willing to pay $50, or even $40 extra.

    2) Why remove the ability to get an ad-free Kindle in the future? It’s just software. I can see them shipping all Kindles with ads from the get-go, but there needs to be a way through some fee or maybe a yearly subscription to remove them.

  3. I will never buy an ereader with advertising. Period.

    So much for your theory that lots of people hate the idea, but lots of other people bought it therefore no one really minds.

    /signed/ Kindle owner for three years

  4. Not sure how I feel about ads. I have a Kindle 2 so it is a moot point for me, but I am looking at getting a Kindle 3 in the future. Like Isaac, I don’t believe the discounts are enough to justify it, but perhaps in the future it will be.

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