It’s been clear since early this year that as the Kindle Fire was taking off so impressively, Amazon was experiencing some amount of decreased Kindle eReader interest among its customers. It is probably fair to say that most people expected this. The Kindle accomplishes its narrow purpose well, but many people will always prefer a device that does many things adequately over one that does one thing extremely well. As the trend continues, and as the Kindle Fire becomes the first in its own line of tablet products, do we have to worry about this being a popular enough substitution to lead to the end of the Kindle eReader?
A year or two ago I would have, and am known to have, argued against the idea. The strengths of the Kindle are things that you just can’t match in a tablet. The Kindle Fire’s inferior screen, shorter battery life, and greater weight all make it a distant second-best for reading activities by comparison. Clearly not everybody is agreeing with those points, as sales estimates for the popular eReader have been declining coming into this year.
I believe it is possible to argue against this being just a matter of one device being somehow better than the other, though. The real problem is the way that Amazon has segmented their customer base.
If we assume that the Kindle Fire is more appealing to people who only read occasionally, and who would like to get more regular use out of their purchase, that leaves E Ink Kindle buyers as the more dedicated reader base. Let’s face it, Amazon’s actions lately have not been entirely pleasant for many fans of literature despite bringing prices down.
People get very attached to their favorite authors, and to the idea of authorship in general. For many, the “One of these days I’m going to sit down and write a book” mantra is less a matter of actual intent and more a sign of respect for the craft. The cult popularity springing up around any number of self-published Kindle authors is just another sign of this. By pitting themselves against groups like the IPG, and thereby inspiring even more public condemnation from big name author and those speaking more or less officially on their behalf, Amazon is damaging their pro-reader stance.
I don’t believe that the eReader as we know it is on the way out. The E Ink Kindle remains one of the best options for reading that money can buy and the combination of great selection with commitment to customer satisfaction works heavily in Amazon’s favor. This sort of questionable behavior does much to dampen enthusiasm for the product among potential buyers, though.
So is Amazon biting into Kindle sales? Definitely. There’s at least as much interference coming from their heavy-handed negotiation tactics as their tablet alternative, though. The Kindle Fire is an amazing little device and most people seem glad to have it once they take it home, but for reading nothing can beat E Ink so far. Sadly, Amazon has been doing some work making sure people have doubts about tying themselves to the otherwise amazing Kindle ecosystem in the long term, and so there are issues.
Amazon’s new @author feature is a new addition to their Kindle-based social media effort. Currently in a limited beta release, the feature promises to create an even closer author to reader connection by allowing readers to send along questions for their favorite authors right from the Kindle itself. While it may turn out to be a mixed blessing for authors already being pulled in far more directions than ever before to get maximum exposure, many will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity.
In its ideal use case, the @author feature will be a source for frequent connections with curious readers that allows for one-on-one contact and gives readers a chance to resolve points of confusion by going directly to the source. At the same time, since questions are visible from the author’s Amazon page and answerable by anybody, this should help to foster a sense of community among readers. It seems a lot like Kindle authors are getting the best of both worlds. There are promotional opportunities from the comfort of their own homes when they are building an audience and an open forum for discussion when that audience gets large enough and involved enough that people start answering each other’s questions.
Obviously the advantage for Amazon in all of this is that the Kindle‘s integration into the communication process will give it that much more pull on customers and potential Kindle Direct Publishing authors. The user experience of the upcoming Kindle Tablet will also involve tighter connections than ever to the Amazon.com storefront, which makes this a further selling point for the new hardware, at least among readers, should they market it properly.
There are potential downsides with this, as with all new services. Because it is still a limited beta release, we have no real way of knowing what kind of moderation the @author question/answer system will enjoy upon release. As anybody who frequents the Amazon product forums can attest, open discussion on the site doesn’t always tend toward the most productive side of things. There is also a new set of authorial duties that will take some getting used to.
Since the ride of eBooks began, many have expressed concern that the increased emphasis on self publishing would result in the best marketers rising to the top rather than the best writers. In theory, after all, the role of the publishing house was to select the best of the best to bring readers only exactly what they want to read. In some ways, it’s a very important concern. Sure, you can now sell your own book without bothering to get an agent, editor, or publisher, but now you also have to complete every stage of development from the start with no large support structure.
Undoubtedly some amazing authors have fallen by the side of the road for exactly that reason. Overall though, with the sheer number of increasingly successful Kindle authors, we’ve seen an increase in the number of great writers being read. This will probably bring a little bit more hassle for some people, but it will also facilitate convenient conversation and have a net positive effect for any author smart enough to take advantage of it.
If you’re vigilant about tracking the daily Kindle news, you will find a bunch of good books for free or discounted prices. They don’t stay discounted for very long, so you have to act fast.
Bookmark Amazon.com’s reader forums. Overall, these are good resources for anything Kindle related. Kindle users are the best judges of what works best and what doesn’t. But, for discounted and free books, check out the forum titled: Discounted / Price Dropped Kindle eBooks. Put that title in the search box since there’s no way to directly link to the forum itself. There’s also a Free Kindle book forum that is worth checking as well. Even if you don’t find a book you like, keep checking. This forum is updated often.
Don’t forget to check the Top 100 Free Kindle bestsellers list. A lot of these books are cheesy romance novels or self help books. Occasionally though, you’ll find a bestseller, or other good book to try out. About half of the books on my Kindle came from this list. I was able to discover new favorite authors by finding their books here. The list also includes Kindle games and active content.
Don’t forget the new Kindle Daily Deals going on. They include major discounts on bestselling books. There are some bestsellers that I can’t afford the full price for. Some are as much as $15! So, I’ve been keeping track of the Daily Deals to see if they show up there. One of the most notable ones to show up on the Daily Deals was The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly.
Through the forums, I found a great website that provides alerts when prices are dropped on a book. It is called eReaderIQ.com. The website lets you track Kindle price drops, search for your favorite books, view the free Kindle book list, and see what books have been recently converted to Kindle. The recently converted book option is quite handy. There are a bunch of other discounted Kindle book websites. You’ll find them recommended by readers on the forums, and pretty much anywhere there are discussions regarding the e-reader and e-books.
Aside from all of the resources here, you can check out the Amazon Kindle Twitter and Facebook page for more news and discount sale information. The Facebook page has been an excellent resource for both authors and readers alike.
As most of you will almost certainly be aware by now, the ever popular Harry Potter series is on its way to the Kindle. The author, J.K. Rowling, is keeping control over the distribution of the books by attaching her sales platform to the Pottermore companion web site that will be opening this coming October. While the combination of extra content and fan loyalty will certainly make the site and eBook sales even more of a success than we expect, in the meantime the anticipation building around the site has left over-zealous fans open to scams built around the pre-release proceedings.
You see, a lucky few have managed to secure invitations to experience the Pottermore site well ahead of time. There was a contest of sorts that allowed the truly interested to get their names in, but it was arranged in such a way as to technically allow somebody to get multiple invites. This, of course, opens to door to eBay sales even if they are technically against the site’s Terms & Conditions. Sadly as we all know by now, I hope, where there are electronic invitation sales, there are scams.
Harry Potter fans hoping to get in have been singled out for everything from hundred dollar fake early access accounts to total identity theft from some fairly convincing dummy sites asking people for far too much information in order to gain entry. Pottermore admins have, naturally, warned people against falling for these scams and have pointed out that even if people do manage to find a legitimate account transfer they will still be banned for breaking the rules, but when people are trying this desperately to get around existing restrictions and rules there is little chance of such advise from the people creating the barriers being heeded.
If you are one of the millions looking forward to the Pottermore site, whether for access to Kindle versions of the books or to enjoy the content, your best bet is to just wait it out. The only worthwhile avenues at this point are the official ones, so if you don’t see what seems to be your way in written about on the Pottermore placeholder like ‘The Magical Quill’ contest has been then you are inviting trouble by pursuing them.
When the site does open up, Pottermore will be completely free to the public. Users will be able to access it in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more options coming within the year. There will be over 18,000 words of new material for you to read through, a shop to purchase things like eBooks from, a number of simple games that go along with events in the books, and a generally social experience through which to share your enjoyment of the Harry Potter series.
There is a lot there to get excited about, and if you are a big enough fan to be interested in paying large amounts of money just to get into a soon-to-be-free site then you’re probably very excited indeed, but wait it out. Rowling, Harry Potter, and the Pottermore site will all come together in just a couple more months. No book is important enough to risk identity theft or large sums of wasted money.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows growth in both eReader and Tablet PC markets. The ownership base for Kindle and Nook owners has doubled in the 6 months from November 2010 to May 2011, ending up at an impressive 12% of those polled. Tablet ownership, over the same period, has seen a 3% jump. The breakdown is about what one might expect in a lot of ways. While it might just be a matter of curiosity for most at the moment, studies like this will be what determines the immediate future of these devices. The study takes into account 2,277 adults aged 18 and up.
Owners of eReaders like the Kindle are fairly evenly broken across the genders. Parents are more likely to have picked up an eReader in the last six months than people without kids under 18. The greatest growth among surveyed ethnic groups was in Hispanics, who jumped from 5% ownership to 15%. The only group that seems to have dropped off in terms of eReader ownership was High School non-graduates, who went from 5% to 3%. College graduates predictably jumped the most.
Tablet ownership grew along similar lines, though not necessarily the same ones. Men, for example, are significantly more likely to own a tablet than women, with a large number of those surveyed saying that being able to impress others with their purchase was a priority. This might have played into age demographic differences as well, since tablets showed the most growth in the 18-29 bracket. eReaders, by comparison, did best with those 30-49. In the case of tablets, ownership among college graduates was actually outpaced by that of those with partial college completion. Hispanics still lead the pack among reported ethnic groups.
Basically, everybody likes their new gadgets. Men, especially younger men, are fond of the flashiness of the tablets. Slightly older people of both genders are getting into the eReader market. Overall, tablets are still lagging a bit behind, in spite of early predictions that they would spell the end of the eReader. Possibly this has to do with the lack of serious competition among tablet makers, in which case we’ll likely be seeing some different numbers this time next year. More likely would be that this is an indication of a trend toward dual-ownership. A good 3% of those surveyed confirm that they have both types of device on hand.
For now, there are already groups where as many as 20% of those surveyed have adopted eReaders. There has been noticeable growth in all households with an income greater than $30,000 per year. Households over $75,000 per year are of course doing the most shopping for portable electronics, but the difference in growth between this and other income brackets is not as pronounced as it is among tablet owners. They seem to be cheap enough to be accessible to, and appealing to, pretty much everybody. Pricing the Kindle at just $114 might be the smartest move Amazon could have made. It will likely surprise nobody if the upcoming Kindle Tablet undercuts the competing iPad by more than a little bit to take advantage of the trends.
With Christmas coming up, I noticed the news about Kindle is focused on predicting the number of Kindle sales during pre-Christmas shopping time. I also see some Christmas anticipation from the Kindle community – some folks cannot wait until the X day to give Kindle as a gift to someone special, others hope to find Kindle in their Christmas stocking, and a couple of people indulge in bragging about getting Kindle as an early Christmas present (most likely they were also the givers).
Does the fact that Kindle is the best selling item on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), magnify the urge to buy Kindle even more? Would it be the “herd-instinct” (kudos to Nietzsche for coining the term), i.e. everybody has Kindle, therefore I want one; or it would be due to the belief – if so many people purchase Kindle then it must be good? Well, as for me – clearly, it makes me wonder. Who would we attribute the predicted numbers for Kindle sales – to the agile marketing strategy, or to Kindle’s superiority among the e-book readers? Mind you, the 8 million of future Kindle sales is a mere prognosis for now. Personally, I cannot wait to see if this prognosis will be supported by the facts after Christmas. In any case, I am applauding to Amazon marketing team: the Kindle advertisement’s slogan is solid, strong, and concise.
Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has announced that they will be releasing what they claim is the largest update to their nook device since the eReader hit the market. While we won’t be seeing this update rolled out until late next month, from what they’ve said, there is the strong implication that they’ve been listening to what their customers have been clamoring for.
Specifically, we have the following to look forward to:
- Barnes & Noble Library Organization
Let’s be honest, this has been the biggest problem with eReaders in general and the nook in particular since the things started becoming affordable. Up until the Kindle’s Collections feature, there were all sorts of innovative workarounds for people, including genre specific memory cards, creative file tagging, and even completely limiting what you carry with you to avoid having to scroll through page after page of stuff you don’t want today. Let’s hope that this organization both improves the process and extends beyond the B&N library into the My Documents list for those of us who like to get our books from various sources.
This one’s been rather a long time in coming, when you think about it. After all, Amazon’s had it going for a while and it has never made much sense to leave it out. Anyway, finally we’ll be getting the option to have B&N keep track of our last read pages so that we can put down the nook at home, read a couple pages on the PC on our lunch break at work, maybe a couple more on the cell phone on the train home, and never once lose track of progress.
The wording on this is a bit vague, but in the context it was presented, the new password protection seems to go beyond simply being a lock for the device as a whole. Possible, perhaps, to lock individual books or store access for those with family accounts? No way to know for sure but this seems like a feature with some promise. Hell, even if it was just a lock for the device as a whole, it would be useful as a safety measure for those of us who love to take our nooks out with us to random places. Theft is always a concern!
- Dramatically Increased Page Turn Speed
Now, “Dramatically” is a fairly subjective term, of course, but nobody is ever going to complain about this one. As somebody who has been a proponent of eInk-based eReaders from the beginning, I got used to the screen flash a long time ago and really find it far less distracting than the action of turning a physical page, even. The pages on my nook never stick together. That said, I know it bugs the hell out of loads of people. Every time B&N increases their page turn speed, they make their customers happier and their prospective customers that much more likely to venture a purchase. I am, you can be sure, interested in seeing what they define as “Dramatic”.
Anybody who’s spent any time trying to get eBooks to work in a classroom in conjunction with people using standard texts knows that the functionality depends on a quick, easy search function. So far, the nook only has one of those attributes. Since this update is boasting quickened on-device search capabilities, we can hope for a better experience than the current ridiculous waiting game in spite of the limited hardware that one expects on such a device.
There is a very good chance, as well, that this could mean a lot more than simply a firmware update for the popular device. It was almost a year ago now that the nook first hit the market. It had a rocky start and no small number of naysayers, some justified and others less so, but there can be very little doubt that it’s at the top of the charts these days, second only to the Kindle and covering some very important features that the Kindle lacks.
The fact is, however, that the Kindle 3 has a very significant lead at the moment. It’s more recently updated, has a better screen, faster interface, and just generally slightly more comfortable user experience. As some of you may recall, there were stories a few months back about the patents being put in place that seemed to be for the nook 2. If that is to be released this year, it will have to be before the holiday season, and it would only make sense to put out something soon in order to increase interest. With that in mind, it is easy to believe that this update is meant to pave the way for what could well be a coinciding announcement of, or even release of, the new model.
Whatever the case on that front, nook owners will likely find this to be a major plus. It’s been a while since the last significant software update and I know that I’m rather excited about it. While the Kindle still has the slight edge in terms of functionality, it really sounds like this will address all non-hardware based complaints about the nook and that is huge for a device that already offers advantages over the main competition like a full-color mini-screen for web browsing and compatibility with the current standard in eBooks.
One of the advantages to being in a town with a large college presence, let alone spending large amounts of time on the campuses, is the opportunity to informally poll students and get a first-hand account of the happenings in whatever field you happen to be curious about in the field of your choice. I figured this would be useful for all you college students stuck in the Kindle vs nook vs iPad debate. Depending on who I manage to run into, I’ll update this list from as more students from more fields become available!
Today’s accounts are taken entirely from a university satellite campus in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Everybody I talked to was an active user of at least one device in academic settings.
Kindle vs nook:
Kelli, an English Undergrad, said:
I was basically looking at what would save me money on everything I had to use. I knew I was going to get whichever one I wanted from my parents to help me out, but for books and things I was stuck with student loans. I narrowed it down to either the nook or the Kindle 3. They both looked good, but I got the Kindle because they had a thing where you could get ebooks from other places sent to your Kindle by emailing them. That made things really easy. It’s a little annoying to have to have to carry around a notebook inside my Kindle case(It looked to me like she had this one), but I doubt any of the others make note taking any easier and I saved a load by getting mostly free kindle books in all my Lit classes.
Kindle DX PDF Reading:
Markus, a Biology Undergrad, said:
My girlfriend got me one of these because she knows I love to read, but I would rather just pick up a book. It’s just more fun to feel the paper and smell the book. Last semester, though, I picked it up off the shelf when my printer broke in the middle of printing off articles for class. One of my profs had the bright idea that sending us lots of articles would save on our book costs. Apparently cheap laser printers don’t like printing hundreds of pages per hour. Anyway, I loaded everything I had left onto the DX and decided to make the best of it until they sent the printer back to me. By the time it finally showed up, I didn’t really case anymore. This thing is the perfect size for reading pretty much anything, it zooms in on charts and photos, and you never have to worry about where you set down the paper you were halfway through last night. I still do all my pleasure reading on dead trees, but I tell everybody to try a large screen Kindle.
Kindle for PC and Mac:
John, a Professional Studies Undergrad, said:
I haven’t quite talked myself into getting the physical Kindle yet, though it looks really cool. Right now I’m doing pretty well using the software Amazon put out for my Macbook. It’s easy to use and I can save what I was doing and all the notes I took. Hell, I even go home for the weekend and know where I stopped reading when I use my parents’ computer and can get some homework done. I tried out the nookStudy software and it was really nice, but I felt like it was just too bulky and tried to do too much all at once. Plus it kept trying to redownload my books every time I wanted to read them. What if I want to save some battery life and turn off the wireless connection?!
Kindle DX vs iPad:
Taquisha, an Early Childhood Ed Undergrad, said:
People in the program tried to get me hooked on the Kindle DX for like an entire semester. It’s cool, the page turning isn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be at first, but even when I got one of my own I ended up sending the thing back. You can’t use something like that when you’re working with little kids. It’s durable, but they just don’t care. All it’s good for is hitting stuff with, as far as they’re concerned. I finally saved up the extra money and upgraded to an iPad and it works much better. I can play games with them, show little movies, make slide shows, and still be able to just load the Kindle iPad app when I want to read a book. Everybody was telling me it’d be bad for my eyes, but I just turn it off for a little while when mine get sore and I’m fine. I’d definitely say to only go for the Kindle if you want to read on it alone. It doesn’t help at all when you’re working with kids or in groups.
Well, believe me, there’s plenty more. Kindles, nooks, iPads, netbooks, and even the occasional less popular eReader are becoming staples of the modern college classroom and it’s not likely to change. The convenience, especially for students with dozens of online articles to read or several huge textbooks to carry from class to class without a chance to set things down, cannot be beaten. I’ll try to come up with some fresh reviews from another campus some time soon. It’ll be interesting to have some first hand accounts of how these devices stack up as midterms and such put the pressure on their owners.
On June 15, the biggest update since the launch of the Kindle DX was released. The new version 2.5 update has a cool feature that owners of the Kindle 2 to send updates to Twitter and Facebook from the Kindle using Sprint’s 3G network. Information is so widely shared these days that it is only natural that the Kindle should add that capability.
Once you install the update, link your Kindle to Twitter or Facebook in the Kindle browser. Once the browser is connected to the social networks, you can select text from whatever books you choose and tweet them to your followers. The text will show up with a kindle hashtag and a link so the passage selection has to be pretty short. more
If you would rather share an annotation of a book you are reading, use the annotation tool to select the text and save and share your Twitter and Facebook friends or with the Kindle community. There is a Highlights section in the Kindle community where you can go see what fellow Kindle users are reading. This is a good way to find reviews and suggestions for books to read.
This is a good way to share favorite quotes or lines in a book quickly. The drawback is that the space is limited, but if you have to, you can always create a set of multiple tweets on the same passage. This would be a great online discussion or book club starter. If this feature takes off, it will be fun to see passages from well known or much loved books shared and discussed.
A day after Amazon’s May 10 announcement regarding plans to offer Kindle for Android, Amazon announced updates for its Kindle for PC application. The article from eWeek suggests that Amazon’s recent actions might be in response to increased competition from the iPad, Nook, Sony E-reader and others.
Kindle for PC’s new features include the ability to edit notes and marks, change background color, adjust screen brightness control and includes a full screen reading mode. Amazon’s Whispersync technology transfers notes, bookmarks and “last pages read” between a PC, smartphone and the Kindle. By adding these adjustments to the application, Amazon has made it much more user friendly.
Jay Marine, Director of Amazon Kindle wrote: “Kindle for PC lets customers enjoy more than 540,000 books in the Kindle Store even if they don’t yet have a Kindle, and it’s the perfect companion application for the millions of Kindle and Kindle DX owners.” Amazon seems to be heading into the predicted direction of gearing their market towards software, despite solid Kindle device sales.
Amazon also recently announced plans for a new update to the Kindle and Kindle DX called Version 2.5. In this version, users will be allowed to share passages with friends on Facebook and Twitter. It will also include Collections, which categorizes books and documents on the Kindle into different sections based on the subject, and Popular Highlights, a passage from a book or document that the Kindle community finds the most interesting. Content sharing is “the big thing” right now. It will be an interesting trend to watch in terms how how the Kindle will work with it.