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Maybe Amazon Just Doesn't Want Us to Gift Kindle Books

This is stupid.  Just flat out stupid.  I'm talking about the fact that you can gift a print book to a friend on Amazon but not a Kindle book.  This article talks about the issue and suggests one workaround is to have all your friends in your Kindle network and share the books with them.  The key, of course, is that you're limited to 5 "friends", which means it's not much of a workaround for most folks.

Another workaround is to give your friend an Amazon gift card.  The popular spin is, "that way your friend can buy what they want, not what you pick."  Woo-hoo.  Aren't gift cards mostly intended for givers too lazy to think of (and shop for) a good gift?

Amazon undoubtedly loves gift cards though.  First of all, just like every other retailer offering gift cards, they get their money now, well before they ever receive an order against it.  Secondly, there's a good chance the recipient will never use the full value of the card.  That's a tiny profit on an individual basis but adds up quickly if you're talking about millions of partially-used cards.

So why is it that I can gift a Kindle itself but not a Kindle book? Speculate all you want about legal ramifications and DRM but what if it has nothing to do with any of that?  What if Amazon just doesn't want to encourage Kindle book gift-giving?

Someone receiving a gift card might buy something other than a Kindle book with it.  Don't forget that Amazon loses money when it sells many of those Kindle editions.  From a profitability point of view, Amazon is much happier selling you the print edition of that book than the Kindle edition.

Here's the problem with all this: Before too long one ebook retailer will decide that gifting is an important customer feature.  I forgot to include this in my list last week but I believe it's something every retailer will have to offer to remain competitive.

So, Amazon, why not take the lead on this?  Let everyone gift Kindle editions to their friends and family.  If you don't do it soon someone else will and you'll be perceived as a follower.

P.S. -- Kudos to Amazon on the dictionary feature they added to the latest version of their Kindle app for the iPad.  It's a much better service than the clumsy dictionary offered on my Kindle v1. 


Mike Ferrari

Hi Joe,
I highly doubt that the lack of ebook gifting on Kindle and all the other platforms is due to a lack of interest. If this were easy to offer, than one of the ebook ecosystems would have done it already. The shopping cart has to be reconfigured to accommodate gifting. Also, there is the question of identity; what if the email address of the gift recipient you provide is not their account email? Can the recipient turn down the gift if they use an unsupported device, say? I think if you mapped out all the business rules, they would not be inconsequential. If anyone can build this, it would be Amazon, but the project would be huge.
Mike Ferrari

Joe Wikert

Good points, Mike. But if they're going to lose money on most of the transactions, and that's certainly the case for the $9.99 titles, they have even less incentive to invest in a solution.


Hi Joe,

According to this article in PCMag, Amazon is actually working on a gifting function for ebooks.


Gifting Kindle books is available on Amazon. I suspect this was at least one of the primary drivers in developing Kindle readers for various devices -- create for Kindle editions a ready market in non-Kindle device owners.

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