Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD Ad Highlights iPad Mini Deficiencies

Amazon recently chose to run an ad comparing the Kindle Fire HD to its iPad Mini competition.  Specifically, this ad called out the inferior display that Apple has decided to include in its new $329 tablet.  We can’t necessarily expect even-handedness in advertising comparisons, especially in situations like this where the new device is clearly meant to come across as a high-end alternative to an established product.  Even so, it’s startling that Amazon thought they could get away with telling blatant lies about the iPad Mini to improve their business!

The ad in question can be seen on the right.  It has since been pulled from in response to the outpouring of hate over internet injustice.  The points are fairly easy to follow.  The Kindle has a better display, better sound, and better wireless connectivity.  Problems have been found with all of these assertions.

First, there is the issue of the screen.  It’s true that the Kindle has more pixel density than the iPad Mini.  Nobody is disputing that.  It’s also true that it runs at a higher resolution.  Amazon’s claim that the iPad lacks HD movies and TV or that there solution is too low for HD are obviously half-truths, though!

Ok, that complaint is almost half-true at best.  It has been coming up a lot, though.  The iPad Mini will have access to HD content.  It will be able to play that content.  It will NOT be able to display that HD content in a way that properly highlights its quality.  The minimum accepted standard for something to be referred to as “HD” is 720p.  The Mini’s 1024 x 768 resolution meets the 720 vertical requirement, but the 16:9 aspect ratio for HD playback quality is impossible without at least a 1280 x 720 resolution.  In other words, there will be HD content but the only way to view it in HD will be to output to an external display using adapters and devices sold separately.

Lacking that support, many complaints fall back on the sound comparison.  This is troubling for Amazon since Apple has clarified recently that their new tablet has stereo sound.  Before this clarification, which came well after the ad we’re looking at was released, Apple was still listing the iPad Mini as having a “Built in Speaker”.  When that’s the description in the product specs, it’s hard to complain about people believing it.  It’s hardly something Amazon needs to be making things up to support, either.  The Kindle Fire HD has been reviewed across the board as having the best sound playback out of any tablet on the market today including the full size iPad.

All that leaves us with is the WiFi.  Is Amazon overstating the importance of MIMO?  For some customers whose use will regularly involve strong signals and fast transfer rates, maybe.  It’s hard to see that as being the major deciding factor for anybody, though, and it is still something that the Mini lacks.

Did Amazon choose their comparison points selectively to highlight the Kindle Fire HD?  Of course.  It isn’t particularly hard to find points of comparison that could pull that off, though.  The amount of response this ad has received is ridiculous.

Kindle Fire Ads May Be More Productive than Their iPad Counterparts

When it comes to selling advertising space, it makes sense that bigger is better.  Billboards reach more people than bus stop ads.  That may not translate entirely to the tablet PC, however.  In a recent report, mobile advertising company Jumptap revealed that Kindle Fire ads are the most successful at getting customers to click through, despite the relatively smaller screen space they have to work with compared to the competition.

It seems that while the iPad has had the most success for its advertisers up until now, with .9% of those who view a given ad choosing to click through to the product, the Kindle Fire has already bumped itself up to 1.02%.   That is nearly twice the success rate that the closest non-Apple competition has enjoyed, as shown by the Jumptap graphic to the right.

This actually seems to support the general trend for those who choose to invest in the Kindle Fire.  We have already seen that Android developers enjoy something like three times the income through Amazon that the same app tends to bring in through Google’s own marketplace.  Now advertisers are learning the same thing.  Perhaps the only truly surprising bit of information here is that the Kindle Fire beat out the iPad.  As mentioned, shouldn’t bigger ads be better ads?

The Jumptap theory is that this is the result of a generation gap.  Kindle Fire owners are significantly more likely to be in the 45 to 64 year old range, which differs from iPad owners who are far more likely to come from the 18 to 34 year old range.  They suggest that while these older users are generally less likely to buy products on the device itself, potentially limiting the impact of some ad campaigns, it is worth coming up with ads optimized for the Kindle Fire’s smaller screen in order to take advantage of the click-through rate.

To illustrate, they used the example of fast food advertisements.  It seems these were tending to catch much more attention on weekends than during the week, but they are obviously the sort of small, quick graphic that can appeal to any demographic even when the product isn’t something offered through a given device.

Since we have a wealth of information available to properly tailor ads to their recipients in many cases, it seems like we have reached the point where size doesn’t matter.  Or at least a point where size matters less.  We can’t predict yet what effect a larger Kindle Fire will have on this data when Amazon gets around to releasing one, so it might just be a matter of Amazon customers being more predisposed to click on ads they find potentially interesting for all I know.

It’s always going to be up to developers to decide how best to monetize their product and this once again shows that Amazon’s platform is a superior choice.  The more we see of this, the more likely we are to see wider adoption of the Amazon Appstore for Android.  As a Kindle Fire user, even one who hates these very ads, that means this comes across as good news.

Why Amazon & The Kindle Deserve To Be Dominating Bookselling

This is going to be a bit controversial, I’m sure, given how Amazon has gone about using their influence to beat down smaller publishers and other suppliers recently, but when it comes right down to it there can be no doubt that Amazon deserves to be on top of the market right now.  It isn’t a matter of overhead or business ethics or anything like that either.  They are just the only company selling books right now that seems to be good at giving customers what they want.

Let’s think this through a bit.  People like to read.  Even before the Kindle and Nook started their competition, both companies were selling books.  Amazon had the advantage, mostly because they could afford to cut prices more than a company like B&N that had to deal with maintaining a storefront.  When the Agency Model was imposed by Apple and the Big Six Publishers, then, surely B&N should have taken off again, right?

This is admittedly an oversimplification of a complex situation, but when you throw in the common and intense criticism that Amazon faces from all quarters these days you have to wonder why nobody else has been able to attract attention as a superior alternative.  The Nook Simple Touch eReader is possibly the best hardware out there, for example, so why is the Kindle dominating the space?

The answer is that they know how to give customers what they want.  Not just in terms of free shipping, discounts, and other such monetary inducements.  Shopping for book on Amazon, Kindle Editions or not, is simply a better experience than anybody else offers.  Barnes & Noble provides customers with a site that is comparatively hard to navigate and that seems to openly privilege business agreements over anything else in how it presents potential buyers with suggestions.

Shopping for Nook Books, you get long lists of Bestsellers, anticipated releases, and other such predictable content.  It is just like what one would see when walking into a book store.  Interesting in some ways, but far from an organic series of recommendations based on what people are really enjoying right now.

In the Kindle Store, Bestsellers and Editors’ Picks are categories that have to be clicked through to.  Customers have an extensive list of potential categories for book browsing presented to one side and a completely fluid list of top selling titles on the other.  The only product placement is for the Kindle eReader itself.  On top of this, once moving into one of the many categories, the first thing you see is a list of books generated based on your own reading habits.  All Barnes & Noble gives you is their Booksellers’ picks.

Is Barnes & Noble doing something bad here?  Not at all.  But they are trying to maintain the sort of model used in their physical stores.  They are trying to act as gatekeepers and mediators, telling customers what they should want rather than presenting customers with something they may want.  This, more than anything, is what gives the Kindle user the superior overall experience.  If somebody is able to provide a similar sort of service, helping their customers rather than advertising at them, it will be the biggest blow Amazon has taken in eReading since they stepped into the field.  So far, it doesn’t seem like anybody has caught on.

Barnes & Noble Cleaning Up After Misleading Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet Campaign

The competition in the 7″ Tablet market was obviously thrown into disarray by the arrival of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet devices.  Even if you completely set aside the service being offered in conjunction by either company, any moderately powerful Android Tablet in the $200-250 range is attractive.  Just look at how well the Nook Color did, even locked down with ridiculously few apps and a marketing campaign focused on reading.  What’s also rather clear, however, is that with the Kindle Fire getting the majority of the attention pre-launch, B&N needed to make an impression on potential customers.  They may have overdone it a bit.

The most obvious disappointment for Nook Tablet early adopters was the storage space.  One of the biggest draws in this case was the fact that they included twice the Kindle Fire’s storage space.  This is especially important given the huge emphasis on video viewing that’s been happening lately.  The Nook certainly offers more natively supported formats, so 12GB of available space to side load your library onto is great on paper.  As we’ve learned since then though, that’s not going to be happening.  Barnes & Noble decided that Nook Tablet owners would probably be needing to have around 11GB of that space blocked to outside content.  That’s less than 10% of what was promised, which means that the only people likely to ever get the most out of their new Nooks in this regard are the ones who root them.

Also related to the video viewing qualifications of the device is the quality problem.  Probably to set themselves apart from the Kindle Fire yet again, B&N advertised the new Nook as “The best in HD entertainment”, among a number of other similar claims.  Now, obviously this could not be the case.  Anybody who gave it a decent amount of thought already knew that, given the resolution of the screen if nothing else.  This sort of language has since been dropped from the Nook Tablet product page.

The official response was that what they “really” meant for customers to understand was that they pull a higher quality video feed from Netflix than the competition and the message just got lost in translation somewhere. Where the Kindle Fire pulls the standard definition stream and fits it to the tablet, the Nook Tablet grabs the HD and downgrades it.  This does, admittedly, result in a better picture for those with the network reliability to support it and would have made sense to advertise.  Instead, they opted for what seems to have been deliberate misinformation.

It’s taken a bit of time, but corrections are being made to the advertising.  I think it’s important to make note of these early efforts to drum up preorders, though.  While the Nook Tablet is definitely a good product for the money, there’s something a bit off about this approach to selling it.  There is a big difference between fixing launch bugs and having to significantly modify your product descriptions to avoid deceiving customers.

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?

Ads in Kindle Books a Possibility?

As eBooks gain more popularity, it can’t really surprise anybody to see advertisers trying to cash in.  Does this mean we can expect to start seeing ads in our Kindle books?  There’s no real push that way yet, but it only makes sense, really.  If offsetting some of the cost of a new book by putting up with a few pages of ads is possible, I doubt most people will mind.

Before anybody gets too up in arms, I should probably point out that this isn’t precisely a new and innovative concept.  Off the top of my head, the earliest example of ads in books (and I’m not making any claim of this being the actual earliest example by any means) would be in Victorian serials, such as most of the Dickens releases.  In more recent years, not much has changed.  WOWIO, a popular eBook marketplace, has proven that it is possible to provide free books to interested consumers without taking sales revenue away from the authors by allowing advertisers to adopt specific titles and “wrap” them with ads at the front and back of the book.

The only question is what format the advertising is going to take.  We’ve discovered over the years that the internet, traditionally a primarily textual medium however much that is changing in recent years, didn’t exactly encourage people to stick with your average magazine ad equivalent.  Pop up ads, obnoxiously loud talking ads, animated gifs, flash animation, and more have all become pretty much a staple of internet browsing.  Let’s be honest and say that there’s not much that could destroy the reading experience more effectively than these things manifesting in the middle of your book.

Overall, there’s a lot of potential here, both for great things and for unpleasantness.  My impression is that a lot of the reason advertisers avoid books is that they sell in small numbers, compared to other forms of media consumption, and they last too long to be useful.  What good does an ad do for somebody when it’s in a book I bought five years ago, right?  Well, with devices like the Kindle, there is at least some potential for periodic advertising updates in books located on their servers, right?  Sounds unpleasant, but it ends up being all about the implementation.

The only place where I’m really leery of what might happen is on the many Kindle apps, and possibly future hardware offerings, which are capable of displaying video and playing sounds.  It’s neat to be able to play integrated video in your eBooks, but if that means that ads can be inserted that will take advantage of the same capabilities, it’s not worth it.  For now, at least it’s nice to know that the Kindle device itself is safe, and that authors are given enough control over their works through Amazon, in general, that this will likely not be something that sneaks up on people if or when it does come around.  When it does, who knows but that we might really appreciate the opportunity for some great new free or cheap eBooks in spite of the ads?

Kindle’s Christmas Ad Campaign

Not too long ago, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) took some flak for addressing the sunlight reading quality disparity between the Kindle and the iPad as one of its main selling points in a commercial.  Personally, I’d say they deserved it for so much as dignifying the Kindle vs iPad comparisons with a response.  They’re different devices with different goals in different price brackets.  Fortunately, Amazon’s newest set of Kindle ads seem to have let up on the subject and taken a more holiday-centric angle.

There are two ads that have been recently released, one specifically targeting holiday sales, the other a more general marketing device.  The New Kindle Holiday Ad shows a grandmother beset by the usual holiday requests of an indecisive kid who wants something to read.  It does a good job, really, of establishing the Kindle as a device good for all age brackets and topics when it comes to reading needs.  The grandma clearly knows her stuff when it comes to holiday shopping.

The New Kindle Zest Ad, on the other hand, gives us the picture of the Kindle as a go-anywhere, always useful, super-durable kind of device that is perfect for anybody.  It fits anywhere, can take a licking(literally), and comes in handy pretty much constantly. While Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) is frantically scrambling to establish their product line as not just an eReader, Amazon seems to revel in bringing out a great product that does exactly what it is supposed to do, better than anybody else, and for a great price.

I think that they’ve made a great choice in marketing the device as itself and letting comparisons fall aside.  Yes, there are other eReaders out there, but I have yet to find one that does what the Kindle does without coming in at a much higher price.  The Nook was coming pretty damned close for a while, and I really miss the Kindle vs Nook arguments already, but it feels like they’ve pretty much given up.  While they’ve got the top of the market pretty much to themselves, Amazon will be making the smart move if they stay above petty squabbling over the advantages of features the Kindle, as a reading device, would gain nothing from having in the first place.

Amazon files Patents For In-Book Advertisements



Amazon has applied for two patents: On-Demand Generating E-Book Content With Advertising and Incorporating Advertising In On-Demand Generated Content.  Essentially, the patents are for adding content-generated ads to Kindle products, in a manner similar to Google’s AdSense program.

The patents specify a number of hypothetical advertising practices that seem like many readers’ worst fears.  One example:  “If a restaurant is described on page 12… [then] page 11 or page 13, may include advertisements about restaurants, wine, food, etc., which are related to restaurants and dining.”   In addition to full page ads, the patents also describe adding ads to the margins of a book and fitting in extra ads if the book has larger margins.

It’s interesting to imagine what long-term goals of Amazon this may reveal.  Since the Kindle and the books read on it are already purchased up front, I can’t imagine very many consumers would be happy about ads.  It seems unlikely that ads will be added anytime soon, as Amazon is already getting bad press for this and wouldn’t want to lose its customer base.

One possibility, actually mentioned in the first patent, is for Amazon to create some sort of two tiered bookstore in the future.  In addition to the current, ad-free books, Amazon could start offering discounted, or even free books that rely on advertising revenue.  Another thing to consider is the use in newspapers and periodicals.  Papers are already primarily ad-supported anyway; Amazon could be hoping to license their ad service as news makes the transition away from traditional print media.  Any paper being published to an eReader format could mostly shop between Amazon,  Google, and others to choose an advertising provider.

Another possibility is that these patents are defensive move meant to keep Google with their successful ad-based revenue model out of digital books while Amazon itself has no immediate intention of putting ads into books.