The Book Market Stares At Ubiquity
Image by fredwilson via Flickr
I was wrong about the Kindle when it first came out 18 months ago. I thought a dedicated device for reading was silly and that I'd be doing all my reading on an iPhone or a Blackberry. And I was pissed, and still am pissed, that you all have to pay to read this blog on the Kindle. That's why I refused when Amazon wanted to include this blog in its blog directory.
But what I missed and now understand is that the digital ink technology makes reading long form text on a mobile device as good of an experience as reading a book. Jacob Weisberg says in Slate this weekend that it is actually better than reading a book.
Jacob's column is well worth reading and he goes on to say that the era of digital books is upon us and paper books (for the most part) are soon to be a thing of the past:
a machine that marks a cultural revolution. The Kindle 2 signals that
after a happy, 550-year union, reading and printing are getting
separated. It tells us that printed books, the most important artifacts of human civilization, are going to join newspapers and magazines on the road to obsolescence.
I got a Kindle just over a week ago. It has changed the way I think about reading. I have a couple dozen books on it and I go back and forth between them in a way that I have never done with books. I am in the process of reading about six books in parallel and I love the way the Kindle allows me to read what I am in the mood for at that moment in time. This is what I am currently reading on my Kindle:
The Forever War – Dexter Filkins
Rapture For The Geeks – Richard Dooling
The Fred Factor – Mark Sanborn
Bobby Flay's Burger Fries & Shakes
Buy*Ology – Martin Lindstrom
What Would Google Do – Jeff Jarvis (re-reading parts of it for a second time)
Granted, I was given the Kindle by Random House and they stocked it with a couple dozen books and many of the ones I am reading now I did not purchase. But when I am done with them, I am going to buy a half dozen more (at least).
We've seen this in every form of media that goes digital. It moves from an economy of scarcity to an economy of ubiquity. I have way more music today than ever before. I listen to at least a half dozen artists every day and sometimes a couple dozen. Same with video and news. Success in the digital era is all about embracing ubiquity and harnessing it for economic gain.
The reason Random House gave me a Kindle with a couple dozen books on it is that I spoke at their digital lunch series. During the Q&A, someone asked me about ebook pricing. I had yet to use a Kindle, but my reaction was immediate. I suggested they lower the ebook prices as low as they can (four to five dollars maybe?) and also consider selling chapters with an upsell to buy the entire book (as iTunes now offers).
Reading is addcitive on a Kindle. If authors and their publishers see that and make buying a book an impulse purchase (like a ringtone or a game on a mobile phone) they will see way more purchasing activity, more reading, and more addicted readers.
And as Jacob says in the closing of his Slate piece:
Reading without paper might make literature more urgent and accessible
than it was before the technological revolution, just like Gutenberg
I have no doubt that this is true.
Thnx for bringing my attention to the Slate piece. I couldn’t agree more. Doing away with the concept of pages, being able to highlight interesting sections and export them to my Mac, switching seamlessly between Kindle and Iphone without loosing my place. All seems natural and makes me focus on the ideas not the format.I’m sold.
I agree. I do not have a kindle, but I love the iPhone kindle app so much I might buy one.I also do not think amazon has a monopoly on the digital reader market. I was playing with a pretty sweet Sony reader at walmart a couple of weeks ago.
well said fred.. i totally agree.. not sure if the kindle is purely disruptive, but it’s a game changer. it’s also great to email PDFs to your kindle ([email protected]) and read them there!
I still think the Kindle is one of the worst things to appear on the face of Earth.Not because of practical or aesthetical considerations, or because I’m a weirdo romantic leftist in love with smelly dead wood. It’s because of what it means to have a single point of failure concentrated in a single vendor that becomes the de-facto watcher for our cultural wealth.Of course it’s great for Amazon and for Amazon stockholders, but it’s a really fucked up thing for mankind as a whole.Really fucked up.
this is a really interesting point of view that really does give me pause. not at using the kindle, but at the fact that this is how i’m feeling about google’s book deal recently and about apple w/the app store. they create choke points that require that we count on on their benevolence towards book authors or app developers, and in turn towards the users themselves to have access to these. while they’re often disrupting other long existing oligopolies or choke points, once in control, they begin behaving in similar ways. i’m still wondering why developers can’t just provide access and the ability to download apps into their iphones or ipod touches fm any web site rather than *just* the app store. why should they need permission fm apple? hmmm… at the end of the day, it’s all about the business oppty, i guess.
At SXSW I forget who, but somebody famous, said “does anyone really believe that in 5 years anyone will be using a Kindle?”Anyone who buys proprietary DRMed Kindle books deserves the inevitable pain of obsolescence.
Well I may agree with that famous person.But the problem still remains, I don’t mind the device and thepractical aspects, I’m very troubled about absolute control of allcopyrighted culture, centralised dominion of every book in print. (andsince at some point they *won’t* be “in print” because they will bebits… culture effectively becomes property of those who control thebit-pipes)Maybe in 10 years from now we won’t even need a “device”, images willbe just transmitted to a receiver we can implant on our retinas butthe problem stays: You will only be able to see and read what Amazonwants you to see and read.Once they are in absolute control, there’s no way they will want togive it back.Microsoft, Google and Apple are only a glimpse of the problem thiswill become.Microsoft have even been able to ignore the law completely and buythemselves out of the nuisance.Liberal modernists attracted by the lure of instant gratification, inlack of hard thinking, can be a fascist’s best friend, as weregrettably and painfully have experienced in the last decade.Let’s ask people who know better than us.Let’s think hard about this.2009/3/21 Disqus <>:
Indeed. With mp3s you never had to play that game. With kindle, there’s no choice right now
If you can find a source of non-DRMd ebooks, they will work on your Kindle. Just email them to [email protected] and Amazon will email you back converted versions (or [email protected] and pay ten cents to have them show up wirelessly) . I did this with a bunch of books from the Gutenberg project and it took seconds. Hopefully someone will make a conversion tool so we don’t have to email Amazon. It shouldn’t be too difficult, Amazon book format is based on the old Palm ebook format.
Great pointI have the email address to my dad’s kindle and I email him stuff to read on itThat’s a great feature
My 16 year old is against the Kindle because he likes to turn pages. The Amish still churn butter, to each their own…Nathan Bowers writes below, “does anyone really believe that in 5 years anyone will be using a Kindle?” Yes… I do…Vruz talks below about books being in print – with the Kindle I imagine that ultimately there never will be such a thing as “out of print” that’s a flaw with papered books.Fred, we’ve commented back and forth about this before, glad you have had a good experience! I think Kindle changes everything…
If you read my post you will notice I said I wasn’t concerned about aesthetics and practicalities, which I assume will only improve over time, besides, I have no doubt the Kindle device will be eventually be great **as an electronic device**I used the term “in print” between quotes, because I didn’t literally mean books would be “in print”.Precisely this is my concern, with a single controlling entity like a corporation, we are only depending on their private will to decide which books will be available and which won’t.My concern is not the device, but about the single point of failure, and a sole absolute de-facto corporation in control of copyrighted works.If Google fail, the web won’t be lost. If Amazon become as dominant as Google are, that is a problem.
Vruz, I was speaking to my Son’s view of the aesthetics of turning a page verses the Kindle, not yours, sorry if there was any confusion on that point.I think your view, if I’m reading it correctly, is overly projected and pessimistic.I understand that you didn’t mean literally “in print” but my point is that long lost books will now be in distribution much longer if not forever because it costs virtually nothing to digitize a book and my point was that this is a really good thing for consumers and authors alike, it changes the entire business model, creates a tail of revenue for the author and publisher.I suppose you’re trying to say that Amazon is a single-controlling entity because there is such a hurdle for others but Sony has an e-Reader, e-Reader has an i-Phone app that is pretty amazing and just last week Discovery made a patent claim against Amazon. I agree with Fred that I hope alternatives emerge as competition is good but to project so far down the road to the worst case scenario when a technology is in it’s infancy is pessimistic. This is what the FTC is for frankly. I think it’s a broad jump to go from this new technology being less than 2 years old to anointing Amazon some sort of evil empire status; definitely something to watch downstream but let’s cover that one when we get to it, it’s awful early to shape up a new technology in the cursed laced tirade that was your first comment. If this were the de-facto way to view new technology we’d hate most first generation innovations.I think in their respective area, Amazon is already as dominant as Google is and I’m not sensing a negative consumer impact and mind you I spend a lot of time with the FTC in the “day job”.I did get a business idea for Amazon from your post though, maybe Amazon should get in the publishing business and skip the middle man publishing houses!!!
Well, Amazon already lets authors self-publish through their ecosystem.*And* they let those authors buy better visibility (ads).So, if we follow the Shirky model of FilterThenPublish being an obsolete process, Amazon is getting pretty close to being a publisher already.
I’m with you vruz. We have to work on this issue
Whilst we’re at it:Disability groups demand full return of Kindle’s text-to-speechhttp://www.techflash.com/Di…
I love it when people open my eyes to things I did not seethanks
Also see:Kindle e-reader: A Trojan horse for free thoughthttp://www.csmonitor.com/20…
Consider me converted dan
I have some hope that an open alternative will emerge and that consumerswill embrace it
If a core NetBook vendor implemented the fold-around design of the OLPC and bigger tablets, and had a phone-card built-in, would that get close?
MaybeI love the super thin feel of the kindle. Being able to hold it in one hand and eat with the other is pure joy
Love mine too but crazy there is no social feature. Can’t share passages, tweet, etc. No api. Could be so much more viral.
I wrote a post about that a while backI have trouble with any media that I can’t enage with these days
Jon you are right on with the lack of social networking capabilities of the Kindle! That being said, Fred, great piece! I just got a Kindle 2 and am very pleasantly surpised with how easily I will fork up 9.99 to buy a book on a whim! Also very happy with iPhone integration…
I’ve been waiting for a good digital ebook reader for years, and I love that the Kindle can handle books, magazines, newspapers. Just being able to get rid of all the paper magazines and newspapers that stack up around the house would be a major benefit to my mental state. But I still don’t love the form factor and design of the Kindle 2, which is why I haven’t actually purchased one yet… What I really want is something more like the Plastic Logic device — something thin like a magazine, small enough to feel like a book but large enough for magazines/documents, and flexible enough to drop in a bag without worrying about it breaking. http://blog.wired.com/gadge… When that thing can fold up and fit in my jacket pocket, look out!There’s no question eBook readers like the Kindle will change the way we consume books, and I’m excited about that future. I guess I better just bite the bullet and get a Kindle 2, then upgrade to the next new thing when it’s available…
“I have no doubt that this is true.”just like you had no doubt that reading books on a kindle was silly? 😉
Hey, I call them as I see them and happily admit when I am wrongThat’s what I want from a blog and a bloggerOpinions, and heartfelt ones
not dissing your sincerity, just the extreme conviction that left no apparent room for doubt. just figured i’d point out the obvious, there is always doubt and that’s ok too 🙂
I knowBut this is a blogIt’s about taking a stand and then discussing and debating itI find that extreme conviction is a good thing as a debate starter and I amhappy to admit when I am wrong
i love my kindle2but fred, kindle is not an open platform – personally, i don’t care but don’t you dislike it for that reason?and when it perhaps inevitably does become an open platform, do you really think the publishing industry will see “way more purchasing activity, more reading, and more addicted readers”?i’m not sure there is any shortage of purchasing activity, reading and readers. in fact, even before/without the internet, humankind was easily at its most literate phase in human history (way more people literate, reading more, than ever in history)any case, ebooks may be great for allowing readers ready access to infinitely more material in realtime — love it! — but as with every other medium, they will likely lead to way less “purchasing activity” — as measured in dollars. even jeff jarvis released his new book in paper… for (as he readily admits) the money.separately, if we really do see a radical reduction in the amount and diversity of printed matter (though i’m not convinced yet), as a species we will also likely also see a sad decline in literacy. why? for the most obvious reason — it is far, far more simple, and vastly more affordable and practical, for poor or remote or otherwise illiterate peoples and communities to discover and embrace reading through cheap paper methods rather than thru electronic devices. one single paper-printed book can lead an entire village to read. one kindle in the same setting becomes instant trash – no way to charge battery. not on the cel network. whatever.enjoying, as we do, living in the materially rich and spoiled top decile of current humanity — and total human history — its sometimes easy to forget that the vast majority of human beings today and for the foreseeable future do not need iphones, wifi and ebooks. they need clean water, simple food and shelter, and basic, dare I say, analog, media…
All good pointsBut technology gets cheaper and cheaper every dayAnd there are people in the underdeveloped world who have cell phonesI think we’ll see more availability of content over time because of the net,wireless, and cheap mobile devicesAnd yes, the closed nature of the Kindle does bother meMy comment about them wanting to charge for my blog was all about that but Ishould have elaborated on itTo me kindle is more about what is now possible than the device itselfSame with iPhone
Nice topic. I was thinking about the book industry last week.My ideal arrangement would look something like this:1. Hard copy books – stay the same $10-$25 (i’d pay a premium to higlight and underline books I love. Its a habbit)2. Online Books – free (offered through google books or something) authors get portion of ad revenue3. Hand held/electronic books – $0.99 (offered through kindle or iPhone apps)I can dream, right?P.s have you read “against the gods: the story of risk”
No I have not read “against the gods”Who wrote it?
Peter Bernstein — http://www.amazon.com/Again…He’s a Harvard Academic with a raw, practical and fluid writing style (rare), heh.
Just bought itThanks peter and annie!
After a decent amount of use (on kindle 1 – have only tried kindle 2 quickly) I think there is one issue that is very subtle and emerges over time. Reading a book via a kindle I find I actually retain less. With a book I can picture where points were on the page, I remember the individual book, its feel, size and this helps with the longer term retention of more subtle details. I find that this was lost when everything is ‘anonymised’ in the standard kindle format. The E ink discovery is pretty fantastic and a great technology (and I hope one day they achieve the aim of making it really thin like paper). I think if they used the disqus functionality and (as pointed out in jonsteinberg’s comment) there was something more social to it (I’m not sure if this vision is to much like cliff notes at the bottom of a page!) then this retention issue would go away. Considering that it’s Amazon, I cant imagine they haven’t thought through this as its they key to their main site.
‘make buying a book an impulse purchase (like a ringtone or a game on a mobile phone)’But unlike playing a casual game or listening to a short piece of music, or even watching a two-hour film, reading isn’t an impulse action for most books and most people. Fine if you’re flipping between a lot of related general non-fiction, but on the whole reading is something you do on its own, not something you do while you’re doing something else. If anything, having the same low prices all the time, and having books almost instantly available wherever you are might lessen the impulse buys that hit people when they are in bookshops, which are often based on special offers and the ‘while I’m here’ feeling (with the Kindle you’re always there, as it were).I’d expect buying in bulk deals rather than very low indivdual prices, and maybe a return to scheduled serialized fiction (for a subscription?), something which is also good for helping avoid piracy (because if you’re really desparate to know if Little Nell is dead, you might refuse to wait for someone to upload it). It would also be a positive to see short stories back in fashion – now there’s your casual, 99 cent content.I’m really unsure about the claims made for changing publishing ecosystems, since the same claims have been made for different technologies in the past, and mostly all involving breaking Yog’s Law. Stephen King could have been self-publishing with POD, with Lulu, on the Internet (he has never finished The Plant), but this time it’s different? Right…
Good pointsI like the idea of a subscription offering
I just got mine too Fred and loving so far exactly the way you do, I am reading much more since I have had it.
I REALLY, REALLY like the idea of Kindle much, much more than the reality of THIS Kindle. As an avid reader but allergic to smart phones, I read a lot of comments from iPhone/Berry folks who seemed to believe that reading a long form book would work fine on those devices; and it always amuses me when people realize that there’s some truth behind the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” … but that’s not my problem with this Kindle … while 240,000 sounds like a lot, it’s really not many books. In the past 6 months, I would say that 97 percent of the books I have ordered and/or searched on Amazon have not been available for Kindle (and none of these were scientific or art or other books with many charts/graphics or obscure titles). Here’s something else to consider: I have watched newspapers (even my beloved WSJ) go to shorter articles, do less real reporting, etc; and there is no way, for example, that I would pay just to read the Washington Post on a Kindle. Nor would I pay to read any blogs on Kindle. And while I’d love to slap The Making of the Atomic Bomb and other large books on a Kindle before heading off for vacation, I remind myself that if I “buy” those books I can’t share them with anyone (unless the person is a Kindle owner on the same account or I hand over the Kindle itself). Further, they will have to adjust the pricing on either the books and/or the device if they really want wider adoption. The wireless feature is nice, but I have to imagine that a lot of people would be happy not have it (and pay less) b/c we’d just fill up our Kindle via wired downloads; of course, Amazon wants to turn books into impulse purchases like I suppose iTunes has done for music … if you go on Amazon’s forum for Kindle, you’ll see a lot of Kindle owners working really hard to justify the purchase. Many people say that there average book cost $1.80 or some low number and then they say that they’re counting the 100 free books they downloaded from elsewhere. I don’t want to buy a book reader if I have to make that kind of reasoning in public … if a publisher gave me a Kindle and slapped ten books on it I’d be happy, too … isn’t Sprint about to go out of business?? Okay, I guess not, but still … All this might be sorted out in a favorable way over the next few years but, as others have noted, are we going to see Amazon et al turn into the de facto e-book shop (and we all know how companies behave when they become “defacto” at anything)? Again, I love the idea of the ebook; and one has to imagine that the features/benefits will improve … but I have a feeling that it’s going to be “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” all over again.
“four to five dollars” seems about right. I did some consulting projects for a major bookstore starting in 2003. Books and music CDs have similar economics. If you take out the physical media (papers and CDs) and physical distribution (retail stores and transportation), you have 50% of original costs.I strongly recommended them to invest in ebooks, but at that time there was no affordable e-paper based reader. So, I recommended them to provide very short pieces so that people can read them on a phone for say 5 minutes on a subway without feeling pain in their eyes. Chapters were already available in Korea at that time, but I thought they were not short enough. Now, with ebook readers, I agree chapters or chapter-length books will be a good format in addition to shorter writings.One problem for me is that ebook readers are not widely available yet in Korea. A local ebook reader is to be launched only next month, with a newspaper subscription as a flagship content. I recommended managers at a large paper manufacturer (which also has LCD panel business) and electronics companies (you know who they are) as well as the bookstore to invest in the ebook device but none seemed very interested a few years back. They are good at catching up, but the honor to be the pioneer is gone.
I don’t doubt that ebooks will win out, my primary issue with the Kindle is it’s US centric-ness. I travel a lot, and I’d like to have a Kindle when I travel – but if I have to tether it, and can’t use wifi when I’m out of the US for long periods of time. It’s not beneficial to me.though I will happily say, I like the feeling of paper in my hands.
Good point about not being able to connect outside the US. I haven’t had to deal with that limitiation yet but I know it will annoy me when I do
I see you are reading “The Forever War”. I must recommend a better book about the war in Iraq – “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War” by SSG David Bellavia. Forget the journalists account of what happened. Bellavia offers us a look into what the men and women in uniform encountered. It is the most un-filtered account of war I have ever read. I read it (on my Kindle) in a day and a half. Enjoy!
Thanks. I am buying this today and will dive in once I finish the forever war which I am loving
Thanks to the K-2, I canceled my newspaper subscriptions. An unexpected benefit and a superb way to read newspapers — before they get to my house the old way. I do wonder about a world where advertisers cannot get my attention. Of course, everyone will become a content creator. It will be interesting who Amazon lets provide content — no rules like Web and iphone or old way of Church and State?
Another reason we need an open device brad
I’ve had my Kindle 2 for a few weeks now and I’ve got the same feeling I had when I got my very first hard drive based MP3 player (with more memory than I had music), this changes everything.I’ll be the first to admit that I’m much less sentimental than most people. About 6 months after getting my PBJ100 (the very first HDD MP3 player) I threw away every single CD case I owned because while the idea of liner notes was nice, the reality is that I didn’t care about them, not really. The current generation has very little interest in album art because it’s a nostalgic thing for us, but it actually isn’t essential to the act of listening to music.In the same way, I think many people are a bit too tied to the idea of books as a social medium; a physical object that is passed from person to person. While that does happen sometimes, for many of us, books take up space in our apartments as a monument to our tastes and interests, but often they just take up space; same as the jewel boxes for CDs and (heaven forbid) the cardboard albums of times past.The first real breakthrough market for the Kindle will be in books that people are forced to buy and lug around and a place books that are generally an unloved necessity: college. But from there, we will have legions of unsentimental book buyers, for whom a cover is a distant memory and “sharing” a book will mean a link to the webpage on Amazon. Same as people have sent me links to Amazon or myspace about songs they really like.
I don’t think the price will come down – in many cases it might actually go up.People buy $2000 marketing coursesPartially because of scarcity and marketing tacticsSignificantly because of the expected ROI (and there are good guarantees)Pricing however also adds additional factors1. The quality of the product – on some products you can split test and a $97 price point out-performs $17 – not just in top line return but also in quantity of sales2. If you pay $97 for an ebook, or $2000 for a comprehensive marketing course, there are 2 things guaranteeda) You are going to read the materials, watch the videos, attend the live training courses and offline events that might be part of the package.b) you will value the information more and take action, to guarantee a return (or what would you tell your wife or accountant)Once access to reading devices becomes more open, there will be a lot more opportunity for price testing, upselling, cross-promotion – not necessarily by Amazon but by independent publishers.Lots of book sales are currently looked on by marketers as some kind of loss leader for other revenue generation, much like the music industry has become, thus you will get a proportion of content at the lower price point.At the same time some content will increase in price with strong value propositions. Already people bundle training podcasts on a free iPod, and I have also seen training courses or workshops with a free Netbook.
Fred why do you think Amazon won’t release Kindle sales numbers? I remain very skeptical, esp. as the best reviews seem to be coming from folks who got free Kindles. Millions are very happy to use Google for free, click on a few ads, and make Google money. As netbook sales soar, how many will pony up for an additional reader and books to feed it and connectivity. I’d guess the answer is enough to make a very, very modest market for this, but nothing like what most are projecting.
We’ll see Joe. I understand the skepticism but I have fallen in love with reading on a kindle and am going to have a hard time going back to books
Thx Fred. The two things I’d expect to see, but have not yet, if Kindle’s are really poised to take off would be sales numbers from Amazon (why hide a sales revolution during a recession?), and a lot more reviews from mass market folks who ultimately will be needed to make this a big hit.At $99.95 and $2 a book and $SmallAmount per month I see the Kindle reshaping publishing, but with the costs of Kindle production I don’t think any volume of sales will make that profitable for Amazon for some time and I think other devices will come up to compete by then.
The few stats Amazon *has* released make me think that their main *unit sales* have been nearly-free public-domain titles.http://webseitz.fluxent.com…
Interesing Bill, and again Bezos is really vague about what’s going on. I suppose he could have strategic reasons for keeping things quiet but it seems far more likely that the success of the Kindle has been greatly exaggerated, helping to keep AMZN stock hot. while they hope for better numbers in the future. Hmm – sounds kind of like our US recovery plan?
I find it too difficult to believe that Kindle will ever overtake traditional print publishing. Perhaps, among the techie crowd, it will gain widespread adoption. However, for the overwhelming majority of readers, the printed novel is something that you cannot ever replace. The ability to physically turn the page is a gratifying experience that is simply impossible to replicate in a digital setting. Not only that, as some other commenter mentioned, even if it gained widespread adoption in the US, the rest of the world (with the exception of Asia), would lag far behind.
That’s how I felt 18 months ago and partially why I called it ‘silly’But using one has changed my viewClicking next page produces the same emotional satisfaction that turning a page does and its faster
vruz, how far up your butt is your head exactly. You have NO idea what the heck you’re talking about.People who make this grand and sweeping statements with nothing to back them up is just so much B.S. and hyperbole. Here’s a novel idea, actually present your point and then back it up with the some data or facts not sweeping, empty statements. You’re obviously never really used a Kindle; let me guess you still listen to all your music on vinyl too. Whatever.
Whoa shane. That kind of comment isn’t welcome here. You gotta be nicer than that. Pls disagree and debate but no nastiness please
this is what i like to see, putting the smackdown on anonymous cowards droppin’ hategood job boss
Fred I think you mean “Whoa Heaveho”, which ironically sounds like the beginning of your upcoming cowboy ebook for the Kindle.
Setting aside the vitriol of your comment, let me address a couple of your points.First, I have used a Kindle. Granted, I have not used it at great length, but I do agree that it is a novel approach to reading a book/other printed media. Second, I do not listen to my music on vinyl. That is not to say, however, that listening to an old-school 45 is not a nostalgic experience.My contention is this: recorded music in its modern form has been around for ~100 years. Books, in their modern form have been around for over 500, and the way they have been consumed has remained largely unchanged since the invention of the Guttenberg press. This is in sharp contrast to music consumption. Since day one, inventors and innovators have been changing the way music has been consumed. It is a fact of life that every five or ten years, a new music delivery service is created. Unlike books, which have remained largely the same, apart from hard/paperback. Not only that, consuming music and consuming printed material are two drastically different things. Like I said, the ability to turn the page and feel the paper in your hands are sentimental values associated with books/other printed material, and I do not believe that they are faithfully replicated in a digital setting.Finally, from a practical standpoint, the Kindle has a finite battery life. What if I am traveling in the South Pacific and I would like to read while on the beach?By the way, Fred, please do not confuse me with heaveho, I always play by the rules 🙂
The perspective of having empty bookshelves is the biggest turn-off for me. I’m faced with a conundrum; I love the practicality of the Kindle, especially when traveling, but I also want to own physical copies of the books I love.I think it would be smart on Amazon’s part to offer a bundle, allowing users to buy both physical and Kindle edition at a special price, or upsell the print edition of any book purchased on the Kindle at a reduced price.If a Kindle edition was (for example) priced at 10USD, and the book at 20, I could be willing to purchase first the Kindle version, then the print edition for 12/15USD, to have in my bookshelves and consult when I feel like it. I suppose the publishers and Amazon would still turn a margin on it, if they were to negotiate special terms and to treat the book’s sale as marginal profit.
That is actually an upsell scenario, whereby you purchase one item, then add something else of value, typically up to 60% of the price of the original item.Thus for a $20 paper edition, you could offer a $12 ebook to read immediately on your Kindle or other reader.A physical upsell to the digital version would also work well, but then you have some problems. To make the same total money, you would have to either have the digital version at the same price front end as the paper copy ($20), so you can do a $12 upsell, or upsell from a $12 digital product to a $20, a 167% upsell, which would have far less takeup.The way around this is to have upfront bundles, but then you are adding choices which might add friction to the sales process.Gut feeling is that the most effective is to upsell from paper to digital, though it is something that needs to be tested, and Amazon are good at that.How many times have you purchased a book for a friend, and decided to get a copy for yourself as well. In this way you would give them the paper edition, and keep the digital copy for yourself.
i don’t think books will disappear. they will just go back to being Art.
See for examples:Daily question: Is this the future of the Printed Book?http://counternotions.com/2…
My wife, aka gotham gal, feels the same way giordano
the other thing about the kindle that i appreciate is that the iphone isn’t the swiss army knife for every single applicationthere are gonna be lots more connected devices in lives. some will do little things and some will do more important things.
May be a personal quirk, but I hate the idea of digitizing and converting to lifeless screen shots a book that could otherwise be held, touched, leafed through, marked up, shared with a friend, put away on a shelf and rediscovered years later when the cover seems a throwback and the pages are more yellow and have a slightly musty smell. Books are not tweets, at least not yet. Just as the music industry lost a lot of its quality and charm when LP records were replaced by digitization, so too will the book industry. Sure, we will have easier selection, and easier consumption, and instant gratification. But we will look back on the days of old fashioned print, like we do now upon vinyl analog, feeling that the esthetic has been stripped and cooled, and the enrichment we may feel as consumers will turn out to be slightly vacant.
For sure some will feel that way, my brother still insists on listening to vinylBut my kids have no interest in vinyl even though I have hundreds of vinyl records in our summer house and listen to them all the time when we are out there
I bought a Kindle expecting not to like it. I read a ton and was worried that I would miss the physical experience of interacting with a book. Several times during my first book I tried to flip a page on my Kindle like it was a real book. It totally fooled me once I got in the zone. Plus there are several things I like better about reading on my Kindle such as handless reading (put it on the table and it doesn’t close itself) and aggregation of highlights and notes. I am sure it is not for everyone, but everyone should give it a try. I was stunned.
I love the ability to hold in one hand and just hit next page, next page, next pageIt totally works for meI love it too
I have used the Kindle 2 but also have the Kindle software on my iPhone. I prefer reading on the iPhone–don’t think the eInk is that important. I find myself reading 2-3 (small) pages while I’m standing in a line or waiting for the subway. How great is that?!
here’s the thing i hate about the kindle : i want to be able to write with it. i want to be able to reblog immediately what am reading. i want to be able to take snippets, pages or even chapters of those books, comment them and then post them on blog. in other words, i want the kindle to be like a nettop. it doesn’t have to be a full nettop, but it should allow for reading AND writing and PUBLISHING online.Amazon wants to keep the reading separate from the writing and publishing –just like Apple neutered “Rip Mix Burn” from iTunes. ironic that is was Amazon who’ve tried to disrupt their market share by selling un-DRMed music :Pwith a book it’s a hassle to re-write what i want to comment, but i can do so freely because it is my constitutional right. the Kindle’s technology denies me my very basic, very American constitutional rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.Amazon thinks it can make it convenient for book publishers to skirt the constitution just like Apple did for the goons funding the RIAA. they think they can use technology to deny people their constitutional rights and just call it “a feature” when it effect it is a very deliberate and well thought out bug developed with the express intent for publishing and old media conglomerates to say “screw you” to the US Constitution.so honetly, the Kindle is a horrible device ESPECIALLY if you add what vruz had to say in the first comment to this post : do we really want Amazon to become the de-facto digital gatekeeper to our cultural wealth?UPDATE : make no mistake, we will go the way of the e-book and, honestly, i can’t wait. what i like to call “disposable books” ought to be delivered only on electronic format. it’s amazing to me all the crap that passes for “worthy of print”. let paper form books go back to being Art –whether in the design or for real literature. everything else? put it on the kindle or some such digital format –but not one where DRM is the de facto feature.
I don’t feel the same way as you about the kindle (I like it) but I sure wish it had a reblog to tumblr option on it. I’d have used that a dozen times alreadyI’m with you on the need to engage with media. Its essential in the digital medium
” … reblog to tumblr option.” Oh my goodness! THAT would potentially double, triple, 10x a book’s sales. Think the old school will catch on to that? … in our lifetime.
There’s going to be on open version of kindle that people can build stuff ontop ofThink iPhone, or the twitter api
That would be the truly disruptive event.
First, you say: “I am going to have a hard time going back to books”Then: “I’m with you on the need to engage with media.”So, which one is it? :-)I know you believe “textbooks” are in the process of being reconstructed, why not the very notion of what a “book” is, as delivered today by Kindle?The more significant disruption is not Kindle’s portable reader but the (longer term) re-definition of what a “book” is. Or more accurately its disappearance. From a static entity to a dynamic aggregation within an ever-changing context.Most non-fiction books, for example, are obsolete within an extremely short time after their “publication.” This will be shown to be unsustainable in the near future.If I’m right, a limited-purpose device like Kindle will prove to be woefully inadequate to support such dynamism and contextual interaction.So you’re actually right, you won’t be going back to books, because they’ll be all about engagement. 🙂
Hi KontraI’m glad to see you commenting again hereWhen I think of “engaging with” media, it means taking something, like aquote, a paragraph, or even a chapter, and annotating it and sharing it withothersI do that with music, photos, and basic news and blogs all the time on mytumblog at fredwilson.vcI can’t do that easily with a book, although I do it at times by literallyretyping the whole thing into tumblr or this blogThat’s what I was thinking about
Once you “engage” with a book, its static, unitary nature is disrupted. You slice and dice it in whichever way it makes sense to you.That’s like going from dumbphones to smartphones, at which point the platform that supports all the interactions you might want to perform becomes a crucial factor. Sure, (better engineered) Nokia radios can perhaps make more reliable calls than, say, iPhones, but in 2009, is that all you want from a “phone”? Black and white screen maybe easier on the eyes, but for *engagement* Kindle is inadequate, as you found out.Amazon is still thinking like a retailer (of books), which is their business. I hate to say the words, but there’s a need for more “general purpose” devices that can provide a richer, more connected, more engaging experience.
I totally agree
HA HA!!! Glad to see you have come around, Fred, and I’m not surprised that Jacob pulled you across the finish line – he is extraordinarily convincing on any topic on which he chooses to write.An important and interesting aspect of this migration to digital reading is the business model and as one studies it, I find it clear that Amazon is already too far ahead to be challenged in this game. They’ve got it cornered – they have built, in the words of Andy Kessler, the “virtual pipe” that control this media http://bit.ly/jMWWY
Well we have to disrupt that pipe just as we have to disrupt the music pipe that apple hasIt is an imperative of an open society to have an open pipe for media
it is going to be tough – Amazon has the publishers cornered in several ways and they will use them if publishers don’t play along: as an extremely important seller of hard copy books, through POD, as the major reseller of used books. If a publisher holds back, Amazon can refuse to discount their book and can push used copies soon after a book is released. Eventually, Amazon can sign writers directly and cut publishers and agents completely our of the process. Who can beat them B&N? Sony? Apple? No…
The thing that always beats monopolists open source, open hardware, openecosystems
Disintermediation is a very tricky business that large companies prefer only as a last resort. If you get it wrong, you can easily go out of business. Even Apple, which owns digital music, hasn’t tried to cut out the labels. It clearly has issues with studios and networks in being able to provide a wider range of movies and videos on iTunes Store on reasonable terms, but again it hasn’t tried to circumvent them. There are clear legal restrictions involved here as well.As to Apple putting together a hardware+software+service package to compete against Kindle, absolutely. If only its CEO were interested. 🙂
Wow, after reading your post I am opening a little to another little brick in my handbag, PDA-cell phone + i pod + kindle. I will spend more each season in “handbag real estate” so it better be good! Imagining that I could get through the 25 books sitting on my nightstand has real appeal! do they have a BOY-proof version for my sons yet? I am thinking something incased in waterproof plastic?
I posted back in Dec. 2007 that the Kindle should lower its price by allowing authors to subsidize cost by including their content in the reader.”They could have subsidized the price of every unit by charging blog and content publishers the option to opt-in to the system and pay a nominal fee for a subscription on X number of units. Will I buy a kindle priced at $399? No. Would I buy a reader that has a set number of feeds to read with a lower fee – yes.”I am willing to bet authors and bloggers would PAY to have their content on a kindle that gets into the hands of certain users, if not all users. Yes, somebody would figure out a way to “hack” the default feeds, but most would not go through the trouble.If the NYTimes took some of their advertising budget and put it towards getting defaults subs on a Kindle I think it would be a smarter move that trying to get me to subscribe to the “weekender” on TW cable for >$30K per 30 second spot (or however much it costs)
That’s new school thinking eric and someone should do this to compete with amazon
Excellent idea, very innovative approach.
kindle. great idea. why don’t you buy me one Fred?
What books would you like on it?
“the Great Crash, 1929 is a book written by John Kenneth Galbraith and published in 1954; it is an economic history of the lead-up to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The book argues that the 1929 stock market crash was precipitated by rampant speculation in the stock market, that the common denominator of all speculative episodes is the belief of participants that they can become rich without work and that the tendency towards recurrent speculative orgy serves no useful purpose, but rather is deeply damaging to an economy. It was Galbraith’s belief that a good knowledge of what happened in 1929 was the best safeguard against its recurrence” http://en.wikipedia.org/wik… I think I could probably read this for about two years. I don’t read fast
totally agree. and great for newspapers and magazines as well when i’m on the go. mostly, it’s impressive to see a willingness to admit a previous mistake. love the intellectual honesty, as always.
If you are going to shoot from the hip as much as I do, you are going to miss wildly and you have to own up to them
“… The reason Random House gave me a Kindle with a couple dozen books on it is that I spoke at their digital lunch series. During the Q&A, someone asked me about ebook pricing. I had yet to use a Kindle, but my reaction was immediate. …”NoThe reason Random House gave you a Kindle is so you will blog about how good (hopefully) it is and maybe influence a few people. Product placement. The Kindle has to overcome the “Chicken in the egg” problem of nobody buying e-books because nobody has an “e-reader”. Visa versa nobody buys an “e-reader” to read books because the choice of books is minimal.Credit card suppliers had this kind of problem and overcame it. Now plastic rivals cash. Having said that books still rule. Low tech, high-rez print on paper don’t require “batteries to be included”.
We’ll see. I was a skeptic. Now I am converted
If Kindle doesn’t provide 23,000 dpi resolution, it isn’t a book.How will we read when the batteries run out?e-Paper will have better resolution and will use batteries only to modify the display.Still, if Kindle doesn’t become a success amoung the early adopters, it won’t face obsolecence because e-books will will stall for another decade. e-Paper has already been tested on mass market magazines. It’s on the way. And, it’s closer to paper resolutions than Kindle.
Great news. More change coming!
this is a closed device.boring. (at least for now.)wake me up when they get with the new media revolution and transform it into the open platform it was meant to be.
What is closed about it? The first ten books on my Kindle 2 were from the Gutenberg project. Amazon will even send books to your Kindle you didn’t buy from them wirelessly for ten cents. Most of the books I have just added over USB.
i was referring to how it is not open in the sense that software developers cannot build applications on top of it. like how software developers can build apps on top of the iphone that let you play games and do all sorts of stuff that the iphone makers probably never even thought of. i imagine kindle will eventually let software developers make apps that can run on the kindle, but they haven’t done it yet.
Ah yes, I completely agree. I think they will get their eventually. Amazon seems to have had their hands full just manufacturing the Kindle. I bet in the next 18 months they will open the platform or at least have an API to access data on it. Like Fred, I would love to instantly reblog my highlights.It takes a lot of time to develop a platform you can open up. The iPhone is buggy as hell, we had to rewrite a ton of simple stuff to keep our app from crashing. There are a bunch of bad bugs they haven’t fixed (and who knows if they will). So, I don’t hold it against Amazon that they are not there yet.
Frankly it is amazing what apple has done with the iphone. I am vocal about a lot of thing I hate about apple. But you have to give them credit for showing the way forward for the next 10 years
I completely agree, they are my favorite to both love and hate. They do so much that is great and I hold them to such high expectations that when they do non-ideal stuff it is disappointing.Back to the Kindle, it looks like apps are already getting developed for it without Kindle being an officially open platform. http://bit.ly/4DoF5Time for another call to action like when you asked for a Blog Roll? I would for my book highlights to show up in my Tumblog as well.
I read your blog on my kindle because I use calibre to sync with my google reader and it will sync full-text feeds
Now that’s coolHow do I get calibre on the kindle?
You know…I think an interesting side effect would be the impact that this has on libraries. Free books (at least on loan) are one of the cornerstones of an informed democracy. I can’t imagine anyone loaning e-books, since that would certainly lead to privacy. Eventually it might end up as a compromise, sort of an all-you-can-read subscription model with books like what Rhapsody and others are with music.However, even then, you risk disenfranchising a portion of your society that can’t afford the subscription. I really hope libraries survive into the next century…
Yeah, good point. What’s an e-library? We need it
From an Independent Bookseller’s perspective, Amazon already killed the brick and mortar business several years ago. Please take a look at this article from yesterday’s NYT about my Mother’s bookstore closing after 37 years. http://www.nytimes.com/2009…Here’s the deal, she isn’t bitter about the Amazon effect. In fact she realized well before Kindle, yet she kept it going out of love for the business. Everyone assumed that the big box booksellers would be the death of the small town bookshop, but service still mattered and people still did enough business to keep them going.Amazon isn’t through yet. The combined leverage of their online business and the appeal of Kindle makes them the bookselling champ, no question. Next up – the publishers. It won’t be long before you hear Random House complaining about Amazon requiring them to reduce cost per book download, take a more favorable revenue split and most importantly, exclusive pre-release availability, only on Kindle. All of these moves, Wal-Mart’ish in nature, will serve to drive down prices for everyone, but will also put Amazon in the position of playing king-maker in what books they choose to promote, or pre-approve with publishers as to if they will carry them on kindle. I’m not suggesting that Amazon is here to impose their particular belief system/political slant or anything else that draconian, simply that they have the future of the publishing business in their controlWhat does this mean to the consumer? Not much I suppose, they will still have choice and control over how they purchase and consume books in the future. What the consumer will not have in reality is the opportunity to enjoy time in a small bookstore touching, feeling, exploring and enjoying the feel of that relic of the past, paper bound books.
Sorry, but when I think of Amazon and Kindle, I think of Monsanto and their biotech seeds. Such promise they hold to feed the world! But Monsanto, like Amazon, doesn’t allow true ownership–Monsanto sues farmers for saving each crop’s seeds to plant next year—you must rebuy their seeds each year (seed saving is a practice dating back to the dawn of agriculture). And their genetically modified crops (primarily soy, cotton, canola and corn ) lack diversity, which makes a food system vulnerable. In the developing countries where they are heavily marketed, biotech seeds shift the power over one’s livelihood away from the farmer and toward Monsanto.
“…I have a couple dozen books on it and I go back and forth between them in a way that I have never done with books. I am in the process of reading about six books in parallel and I love the way the Kindle allows me to read what I am in the mood for…”Idiot – that’s what your nightstand is for.
Idiot?I have six books on my nightstand I can never toggle back and forth between them like I do on the kindleNot sure why buts a very different experience
No way! Most readers love books — not just letters combined in a space that they scan with their eyes, but BOOKS. Having them, holding them, turning the pages.I think there’s a place for the Kindle, without a doubt, but physical books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I love books, too. I love the feel of a new book, the weight of it, the smell of it. I think that books will stay around and the books that are the most tactile/visual/difficult to duplicate on a kindle will do well, but books that are easily translated to the kindle (e.g., Dummies books) will migrate to that platform. High tech and high touch will both survive but the stuff that falls in the middle (poor touch or lousy tech) will wither.
I didn’t want a kindle when they first came out–for the reasons you gave and also, it was ugly. Saw the new one and had to have it. Not only do I read differently–I can have 100 books in my backpack!–my time expectation for when I can read something has dropped dramatically. I used to think 2nd day delivery was marvelous. Now I can have what I want in 50 seconds. PLUS they made the whole experience elegant–the box, the simple instructions right on the screen, the welcome letter from Bezos, the author photos that pop up when you power down. And I expect it will keep changing, keep getting better.On a side note—hope you’re getting everything you wanted out of being in NY. It must be an incredible experience.
I love the idea of carrying around a small device rather than a clunky book, which makes the Kindle excellent for new books. But, what do I do with all of the clunky books I already have that I don’t want to buy twice? It would be great if I could plug in serial numbers of books I already own and then the Kindle loads them all. This would create a habit of using the Kindle (that I would take into new book-buying) and break down a barrier for me buying the hardware. (The barrier is that I have a backlogged reading list of books I already own and don’t want to ignore those books just so I can read on a Kindle.)Man, would I love to digitize The Power Broker. I would’ve finished it months ago!I would by a Kindle tonight if I could do this.
I’m just recently subscribed to your blog (love it, btw) and so I’m late to the discussion here. But I did want to quickly chime in and say that I think that having to pay to subscribe to blogs is ludicrous and something that I really, really dislike. Everything else about the Kindle is nothing short of a remarkable product/service. But paying for things that which the publisher themselves gives away for free is just dumb.I hope this changes in the future.
I totally agree colin
What’s great about your post here is your willingness to escape from the confines of conformity that so often is dicated by the tekkie tribe — you have to be for ripping every device and freeing content or else die. I hate that sort of technocommunism, which is constantly trying to destroy value and property.When vruz writes this, it’s a kind of hysteria: “It’s because of what it means to have a single point of failure concentrated in a single vendor that becomes the de-facto watcher for our cultural wealth. Of course it’s great for Amazon and for Amazon stockholders, but it’s a really fucked up thing for mankind as a whole. Really fucked up.”Breathtakingly sectarian and just plain *weird*. You would think that all the books had been confiscated yesterday and were being doled out now by amazon. In fact, there are plenty of ordinary old tree books everywhere. And Google has scanned into the Internet gadzillions of books if you want to sit and read a book online for free. And the same newspapers or services that Kindle has are online, too.So there isn’t any chokepoint of horror whatsoever. There won’t even be in 5 years. Not with all the opensource fanboyz ripping at something like this like they rip at everything, for one, but more to the point, other readers will emerge — in fact they already exist, didn’t I just see a Microsoft reader in the book store?I fail to see why each time some company adds value by making something that is proprietary and is useful to people, they have to subtract value by providing free fodder for legions of loafers who want stuff for free, and legions of widgeteers who think it is a God-given right to rip every service and hook their APIs into it they can sell then for a free or sell their consulting to marketers or companies. Seriously, this is whack, not Kindle making a buck.I think it’s a bit alarming that someone can get Fred Wilson to move off the usual opensource copyleftist dime just by giving him a free thing. But If that’s what it takes to get you to see reason, fine! Amazon should be giving more of these things to all the Twittering copyleftist A-listers who are screeching about this horrid closed system.It’s extraordinary to me, again, that vruz could scream “fascism” about a company’s simple wish to get paid and pay their workers by charing for their software-run device.Where is vruz’s grave concern about our cultural wealth tied up in Wikipedia and run by sectarian loons especially on the more controversial pages? Wher eis vruz’s profound unrest about our cultural wealth tied up in Google search which most of the time turns up Wikipedia? No concerns about bottlenecks and chokeholds, there, hmm? Is it that some companies are more politically correct than others, so they can do no wrong?Sure, the chokers of any cultural wealth are suspect, but I fail to see why Kindle is even close to doing such an evil thing, and I fail to see how vruz can be morally blind to Google and Wikipedia *already* being close to this, and not prompting a peep out of him.It’s as if private property itself is the crime, rather than the power that is in fact gaining power by destroying private property (which is what is happening with Google and newspapers).Now, finish the job, Fred, and let them post your blog on Kindle, don’t be ideological for no reason.
Well you make some good points prokofy but I’ve had an iPod for something like five or sox years now and have never bought a song from appleI buy all my mp3s from places where there is no drm or I buy CDs and rip themIf there were an open kindle, I’d buy it for sure
Most people aren’t ideological and copyleftist like you, Fred. They find it actually easier to buy i-tunes than sit and rip and fiddle with files. They don’t have the hatred of DRM that you have because they probably *only* have an i-pod and nothing else, so there’s no need to transfer files across all kinds of devices. You have to realize you are in a tiny, affluent, ideological minority with this thinking. Apple couldn’t succeed as it does if everyone in fact behaved as you do, and as you think others do. And that’s a good thing, because Apple needs to get paid, and so do artists, and putting up free stuff on Myspace doesn’t get them paid, as Andrew Keen very methodically reports in “The Cult of the Amateur”.
I read Andrew’s book. Don’t agree with it for all the reasons you articulate. But it’s good that he put it out there.Interesting that DRM is largely gone. If “nobody but copyleftists minded it” then why is it gone?I think its because it caused people to buy less music.