While eBook sales have been expanding across the board and the Kindle is flourishing with ever-increasing sales each year, very little has been heard about the Kindle Edition eBook / A/V hybrid that was once touted as a potential future for the eBook. The explanations for this failure to thrive is fairly simple are understand, but do they mean that the format is dead?
Probably the main failing, in my eyes, was the lack of logical transition for the customer. Books are familiar territory for most people. Audio and video are separate concerns. The only place that the average eBook customer is likely to encounter a combination of the two is while browsing the internet. When the best comparison that a reader can draw is to something they already encounter for free on a daily basis, it would take some fairly strong marketing to increase the perceived value.
It didn’t help anything that the nature of the integration made it impossible to access on the Kindle eReader itself. The whole platform, while offering a reading experience to anybody with a screen and internet access, is pretty much built around the eReader. Having content that cannot be accessed through this doesn’t do as much good as one would prefer.
On top of that, you have no Android app access, meaning that the only customers who even have the option of reading their purchases away from the PC are Apple iOS users. Soon even they won’t be a valid audience. Given recent issues with the Apple App Store guideline enforcement, Amazon is clearly prodding iOS users in the direction of the new Kindle Cloud Reader which does not yet (and seems unlikely in the near future to) support A/V integration.
Price must also be considered a factor. While it is true that the integration of extra-textual layers brings some added value to a book, it seems difficult to justify the additional cost for many of the available texts. The experience is often similar to the special features on a DVD. It might be worth a small about more than simply the main experience, but not enough to justify a noticeable jump in price. Of course, without that price you have added investment beyond the core book that is not being compensated for. A bit of a dilemma.
Does this mean the end of the project? While it is clear that priorities have to be elsewhere right this minute, I can see this being something Amazon comes back to in the future. The upcoming Kindle Tablet will have the hardware necessary to allow this sort of integration again and will hopefully be accessible to far more users, in terms of price, than the iPad was at launch. Assuming that Amazon does not intend to break the Kindle completely away from the app marketplace in favor of browser-based applications, this would also finally result in a working Kindle for Android A/V presence which would further increase the value of the product line. For now, not really a major factor in the Kindle‘s success.