Rethinking "Rich Content"
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Amazon's Next Move

Amazon blackLet's say you're Jeff Bezos and you're heading into the office this morning.  It's the first day back to work since the iPad launch.  We're talking about the most significant gadget launch since, well, since the iPhone.  Suddenly the feature set of your ereader, the Kindle, looks pretty lame.  No color display.  No wifi connectivity.  Approximately 149,999 fewer apps than what the iPad supports.

What do you do?  My advice: Turn the Kindle for iPad app into the most exciting reader app in the industry.

You might have noticed that Amazon has released several "Kindle for..." apps up to now.  There's a Windows one, a Mac one, an iPhone one, etc.  They're all intended to complement the Kindle, not replace it...and that's the problem with the iPad version.

It only took a couple of hours of iPad use to realize I'll never touch my Kindle again.  Ever.  All my Kindle books are now on my iPad.  Do I mind that the iPad's backlit display isn't as easy on my eyes as the Kindle's?  No.  I read off that iPad display for about 10 hours on Saturday and my eyes felt the same as they did the day before.

And while I love the Whispersync technology Amazon uses to keep my place across devices, I really don't see myself reading books across devices now.  I can't put the iPad down.  I used to read a bit in bed on my iPhone but now I'll just do the same with my iPad.  The Kindle for iPad app is brain-dead compared to the iBooks one though.  Even the dictionary feature on the Kindle is missing from the app.  Then there's the glaring issue with no sample support.  That's right.  I can't preview Kindle books through the iPad app, so how do they expect me to buy anything from them?!  (UPDATE: I stand corrected.  You can download Kindle samples to the iPad app.)  Amazon has apparently also conceded the newspaper/magazine segments to Apple as there's no way to read your Kindle subscriptions through the iPad app.

As long as this app is nothing more than a bare-bones reader Amazon is giving me zero incentive to buy ebooks from them.  Why would I make my content investment in a dead-end technology when I could probably get the same title through the iBookstore?

So Jeff, resist the temptation to limit the functionality of the Kindle for iPad app.  Make it as rich as possible.  Make it extensible so that new types of content can be added to it.  Reach out to the community and see what features excite them.  Experiment and innovate!  Don't let it rot on the vine like the "Experimental" features have on the Kindle.

Kindle sales are already going to take a hit because of the iPad.  You'll continue selling to people who are convinced the Kindle offers a better reading experience than the iPad.  It doesn't though.

You can afford to lose the hardware battle but you really don't want to lose the content battle.  Focus on your reader apps and make them world class, OK?

P.S. -- The iPad is great but it's not without its flaws.  Click here to read the details of my first day with this very promising device.

Comments

Eoinpurcell

Joe,

I completely agree with your thoughts, though I have to admit, at a remove of a) no ipad and b) even once we get them here, no iBooks app.

One question though, do you really see all your reading shifting to iPad? From what I've read so far there seems to be some concern about the weight of the device and how that would affect say commuter reading etc.

One other point of concern, how do you find the device in terms of distraction, is reading holding up or are other uses cutting down your reading time?

Eoin

Patrick

Amazon can't include the dictionary lookup because that is an API that Apple has not released to third party developers. I guess they could include their own dictionary, but they are probably just waiting for Apple to make the API public.

http://gizmodo.com/5510678/apples-ipad-apps-wouldnt-have-been-approved-by-the-app-store

Patrick

Also, I often read at night before bed, and I can definitely tell a difference in eye strain on the two devices. The iPad screen is too glossy, especially when the Kindle app is set to use white text on a black background.

Despite this, I still prefer to use the iPad for reading. It's more responsive and has the added capability of being able to display technical material in PDF's in a way that doesn't seemed hacked together.

Joan Price

Excellent post, Joe. I'll be buying the iPad soon and selling my Kindle. I've loved reading the Kindle because of the convenience of carrying a whole library in a 10-oz device. However, at age 66, my eyes do much better reading a backlit screen. The Kindle's eInk doesn't provide enough contrast for me, and I'm always trying to make the ambient light brighter to compensate. I'll be happy to switch to the iPad.

I agree with you that Amazon must make itself essential as an ebook provider, since it has lost the hardware competition.

Andrew

Right now the Kindle platform still has my vote over iBooks out of necessity since Apple in their infinite wisdom decided to make iBooks an iPad only proposition. So if I get the urge to buy the new Brandon Sanderson for my iPhone I have no choice but to go through Amazon. I'd say that the "Kindle for" line is already inadvertently showing more promise than iBooks just by being available cross-platform.

Amazon News

The dictionary can’t include for Amazon the reason behind it is that the Apple don’t offer third party developers.

guy

Really, you'll do best with both. The iPad is hands-down the winner for viewing PDF and other docs, but I'm sorry I cannot agree that reading for 10 hours on an iPad is anything more than a headache. Highly reflective screen, inevitable fingerprints swiped across the screen, inability to hold the 'book' and turn the page without using your other hand, active-screen which is always either too bright or too dark for extended reading in any particular lighting, and most of all...it only lasts 10 hours compared with over a week before you have to recharge it. I own both and use both, neither is remotely positioned to replace the other.

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