Most people think that Kindle, Amazon’s own ebook reader, is just that – another ebook reader. But it is so much more. Unless something very stupid happens Kindle is set to change the face of publishing for reasons that few commentators seem to be shouting about.
You will find much discussion of the relative merits of Kindle as a book delivery device compared to other book delivery devices, such as Sony’s Reader, and it is true there are a number of devices that are better than Kindle – but this isn’t the point. The ever imminent ebook revolution isn’t about hardware, it's about content and how it is marketed, delivered and consumed.
And while everyone else seems to want to talk about how Kindle isn’t quite like reading a “real” book there are two good reasons why it is the future.
The first big thing that makes Kindle special is that it has the support of Amazon’s shop window. Millions of users, even not particularly computer literate users, have grown accustomed to getting their book fix from Amazon.
Amazon is thought to be trusted and reliable and more importantly second nature. A large force of people really do regard Amazon as an institution and buying from them is natural. As a result being able to buy a Kindle book from Amazon is an extension of the customer's existing habits. It is not strange, new or scary – well perhaps a little bit scary the first time you do it, but not as scary as signing up to some new untested service to use another reader.
It even overcomes the problem of keeping your downloaded books safe - Amazon does it for you. You can download any book you have bought any number of times you care to and it even keeps track of where you have got to in reading the book - the web is the backup.
Then there is the implication that one day all of the books that Amazon offers will be available as Kindle editions. This might never happen but Amazon is still regarded as providing a single source for published material – it's just some aren’t available on Kindle, just yet.
Then we have the really big second reason why Kindle is the solution – Whispernet. While this doesn’t sound exciting it is the breakthrough that ebooks have been waiting for – more exactly it allows emagazines and enewspapers to enter the picture for the first time.
Whispernet uses the 3G phone network to download anything that the Kindle user has purchased – if you order a book then you don’t have to mess about with a PC. The book simply arrives on your Kindle – as long as you are in range of a 3G phone signal. You don't have to pay for a 3G connection, or sign up to a service, as Whispernet digital delivery is included in the purchase price of any books or publications you buy.
This is a welcome simplicity but Amazon takes it a step further – you can buy subscriptions to periodicals and have them delivered in the same way. This means that the morning newspaper can be read over breakfast and on the train to work and you can still have the novel and the technical book you are reading (and more than a 1000 alternative titles!) in case nothing much happened.
While this might be the lifesaver that the big newspaper corporations have been praying for, it’s the miracle that the magazines, especially niche magazines, didn’t expect to happen. Now a magazine on custom-built PCs in wooden cases can reach a worldwide market without having to invest in a $20,000 initial print run. Not only could such a publication succeed in attracting an audience it could even make money with the help of low subscriptions which go directly to pay for content and a revitalised advertising media willing to pay for space in something that seems to be so much more than a web page.
So when will this all happen?
A good question as few seem to have caught on to the idea just yet. Even of the few who have a fair number are making mistakes in pricing, delivery, format and general awareness that this is the future – and probably their only future.
It is early days yet – there aren’t enough Kindles in users' hands to create the sizable niche markets needed for a take off point. But it will be soon. By the time you see the man next to you reading the newspaper on a Kindle and the thought occurs “why don’t I do that” the revolution will already be over.
Kindle is the answer.
(Kindle International orders are currently being taken via Amazon.com. Simply sign in with your local Amazon account and place the order.)
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