Charles Pillsbury III

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Thoughts on eBooks and Kindle

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The following was my long-winded response to a member on Wordtrip regarding his dismissal of the Kindle because a retailer pushing their proprietary format “never works” in his opinion, and that he thought the device that will really be the tipping point for ebooks will be an “iPod” that plays anything.

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The iPod was A big gun in the portable music market, but it was when they introduced the iTunes music store selling their proprietary audio format that locked people into using the iPod to keep using their newly purchased collection, that it became THE big gun in the portable music market (even though it was way more expensive than the competition).

The iPod always played mp3s, just like the Kindle will display PDF and HTML and DOC formats, but it was the easy digital delivery and purchasing of proprietary AAC, which gave the producers happy feelings about their stuff not being stolen, that made the legal on-line music market (and they’ve sold a few billion songs that way before going DRM free). Now you’ve got a lot of DRM free versions of music (amazon’s mp3 store for example) because the producers didn’t like to be locked into Apple, and what I suspect will happen is something similar when the Kindle has shown enough publishers that people will pay for digital content the producers will then start unlocking it for other eBook readers.

The Phone idea isn’t unlikely per se, and the Kindle app for iPhone is a step in that direction (they’re apparently going to be making for other devices as well), though I think the BIG dig against a blackberry/phone concept is that having read a few things on the iPhone and Blackbery, it’s just not as comfortable to try and read any quantity of content on a small screen. For me I think the more likely scenario would be something in the Netbook realm which cost about the same (or less) than an iPhone/smartphone, are about the size of a large hardback, and have a large subset of the computer functions. Acer (or Asus) has demoed that dual-touch-screen netbook that could be used as normal netbook, or held open like a book and read. They’re already working built-in wi-fi and cell in the netbooks, so if they tweak that technology a bit to allow for longer battery life it could be a Kindle killer (even though with a browser and mp3 player built in already the Kindle is going to make other people work for it).

The thing to notice on Amazon though is that, unlike Apple who keeps a stranglehold on “their market”, Amazon has shown incredible willingness to market their competitors. If you go to Amazon and search for a product, they show the used and new people selling items cheaper than they do AND if it’s a non-book product they usually default a sale to the cheapest people selling it even if they sell it as well. I’m not sure how they’d monetize that in a digital content market, but I’m not sure they couldn’t come up with a way. Bezos tries to be very customer-centric in the company’s decisions.

Secondarily an eBook reader will almost by design be a one-off market catering to a higher-end customer UNLESS the book industry figures out a way to drop prices on digital books to be consistently at the paperback (sub $Cool price range. Most people I know who are book lovers don’t go buy every hardback they own at retail price. Most are used book store people who pick up a ton of their collection at sub $3 per book pricing. The main market for the eBook is going to be the business traveler who would otherwise be buying a book in the airport.

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March 7th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Blog Entry, Misc

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