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.

Nook Still Going Strong in Kindle vs Nook vs iPad Study

It’s gotten to the point where everybody and their grandmother, quite literally in most cases, has their own page on the Facebook, Twitter feed, or something similar these days.  You might even post to them from your Kindle from time to time.  Whole network news stories have formed based off of memes and rumors spreading across the social network giants.  We’re all aware of the pervasiveness of the phenomenon and clearly Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) and Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) are too, given the integration into their eReaders.  So, if you want pure, unfiltered information relating to pretty much anything then it only makes sense to consider pulling the comments from these sources.  Easier said than done though, given the millions of posts being done on every topic imaginable, or none at all, on a daily basis.

In spite of this, we have Crimson Hexagon, a company that specializes in just this sort of data gathering and analysis!  Looking at relevant Twitter Tweets, and no they don’t specific how “relevant” is defined for the sake of this study, they have released a study of the comparative levels of customer satisfaction among owners of the Kindle, Nook, Nook Color, and iPad (though specifying that only tweets specifically related to the iPad’s eReader usefulness are taken into account).

The results are fairly predictable, in a way.  Kindle definitely takes the lead in terms of sheer user comment volume, having averaged approximately a thousand tweets per day against the five hundred or so for the various Nooks.  The iPad came in with the lowest numbers, but that was mainly acknowledged to be the result of culling all non-eReading related posts for the sake of the study.  Both of the Nook types, and the Kindle, had around an 80% positive reaction rate, with the iPad coming in lower due to its bulk and glossy screen as might be expected.  Users preferred the iPad for its versatility, but the displays, affordability, and convenience of the dedicated eReading devices wins out.

One of the more interesting things that comes out of this for me is the positivity of the Nook Color’s reception.  Now, I’ve recently gotten one again and this time I’m forcing myself to hold onto it to stay up to date on what it can do and how it’s holding up by comparison.  That said, I’m still distinctly unimpressed by many things about it.  The fact that this study emphasizes the fact that most Nook Color owners consider it affordable at the current price, for example, took me completely by surprise at first (I would mention library books, but let’s face it…that’s an awesome feature for the Nook that you can’t really be surprised by at this point).  I see two possible explanations.  Either owners in general have little experience with eReaders before they got this one, having put off such a purchase on the basis of “who wants a black and white screen” or something similar, or the fact that it’s basically a cheap tablet PC is boosting its reception out of the eReading community.  I’m not saying those are the only cases in which somebody can like their Nook Color, just that they seem to me like they would have to be the most prominent to see these kinda of numbers.

Still, my own possibly flawed analysis aside, it’s great to see that the Nook product line is still keeping consumer attention.  The Kindle is still the best one for me at the moment, but it would be silly to hope for a market to stay strong with only one good product being offered for it.  It would be really nice to see a hardware update to the original Nook that could give Amazon a run for their money.