Despite the fact that the PR gathering tomorrow was supposedly a secret, everyone on the internet knows that Amazon invited a number of publishing representatives and technology folks to New York for a PR event to take place on November 19. No details were given, but based on the people that were contacted and other sources, it seems pretty clear that the Kindle is making its debut. The details:
- Price: $399
- Internet Access: Sprint EVDO access (I assume that this is a monthly fee that you have to pay in order to avail yourself of this feature) and Wi Fi
- Design: same fugly hot mess we’ve been seeing for months. There is some debate on this. CNET says this is the design, but others have suggested that there was a redesign. Maybe the latter group is just engaging in some wishful thinking.
- Light Source: Package might include a swing arm booklight that attaches to the side of the Kindle
- Download times: 2 minutes for a book. This is unacceptable in my mind. A book should not take 2 minutes to download.
- Library: A bigger book collection than Sony with 50-100 digital newspapers like the WSJ and NY Times.
- Audio: Audiobook support and a headphone jack. Some sources indicate that the device might even come with a set of headphones! Can you believe that? Because no one has a spare set of earbuds just lying around. Why do companies think that headphones are a big selling point?
- Format: Mobipocket. I wondered when the first Kindle pricing showed up at Amazon whether it would be a Mobipocket version that every device that could read mobipocket could read or whether it would a special one, designed just for the Kindle. Since the Bookeen e-ink device reads Mobipocket and is priced cheaper and looks a thousand times better, it seems that Amazon would lose some ground to other online eretailers. IPods have its specialized format and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that Amazon shows up tomorrow with its own specialized format.
CNET speculates that there might be some hot book that is tied to the launch and I say no way. Publishers and authors want to sell as many books as possible to get on a bestseller list and I can’t see either group okaying an exclusive to Kindle buyers book, particularly a hot book because a) ebook sales are not reported to the major lists and b) even if they were, Amazon would have to sell at least 5,000 units in a week to make the lists for that “hot book”. I call shenanigans on that speculation.
The CNET article also says that Bezos has studied Apple launch tactics used for the iPod such as celebrity endorsements. Um, yeah, that’s really what sold the iPod, not the hot ass design and ease of use. Plus, we totally believe that superstars and celebrities listen to music. I don’t think the general public believes that the Hollywood set are big readers. For example, I am not taking a Posh Spice literary recommendation seriously.
IDC analyist Richard Shim believes that Amazon has the advantage of a superior delivery mechanism for content. Amazon has increased tremendously in the past few years reporting sales of books, music, and DVDs in 2006 at 3.58 billion.
Why am I so down on the Kindle? Because it is ugly. Because it is too high priced. Because Bezos started out his company delivering a product to book lovers and if anyone could possibly get this right, I would think it would be him. I almost feel like he thinks Amazon could put out any old piece of trash and people will knock each other over to pay a premium for said trash.
I really want the Kindle to be successful because I am a huge lover of ebooks and Kindle’s success means greater access to digital content for everyone. I would love it if I woke up on Monday and was greated with a super sexy design with wi fi access, ability to read and respond to emails, and a price tag sub $300. I would ditch my Sony Reader so fast that its little joystick would fall off.
Here’s the one way I think the Kindle will succeed with consumers (non business consumers). It chooses to employ a subscription program whereby you agree to buy x amount of books at Amazon in exchange for getting the Kindle at some reduced price. Another way to drive ereading traffic to Amazon would be to sell books without DRM. Jeff Bezos was convinced that DRM free music was imperative. Why not DRM free ebooks?
Why I don’t think that it will succeed is because there simply aren’t enough business people buying books. The heart and soul of the publishing industry are genre readers. Look at the statistics I posted the other day if you don’t believe me. The advantage that Sony has over Kindle is that many people like to see a device before purchasing. Sony is in nearly every major Borders bookstore and Borders will be selling Sony ebooks on its site to be launched in 2008.
I am prepared to be terribly underwhelmed, and bitter, at Amazon on Monday for screwing up what could have been a good thing for ebook readers.