Round-up: What a Week!

And then there were two…again

Less than two weeks ago, Amazon released the Kindle International.  That meant that Amazon was selling new: the Kindle DX (larger, better for professional/academic use); the Kindle 2 (which it was just calling a Kindle) which had Sprint for its US wireless; and the Kindle 2i (which has wireless in some countries outside the US (and uses AT&T in the US).

Then, BOOM!  No more Kindle 2 new.  It goes into the same retired class as the K1.  Amazon “consolidated” the K2 and K2i…even putting the reviews from the K2 on the K2i’s page. 

I’m seeing a lot of people asking if they should return new K2s for K2is.  I wouldn’t.  Here’s the thing.  Overall, Sprint has better coverage in the US.  I think they may be be sought after by people who can get a wireless Sprint connection in the US, but can’t get AT&T.

Sprint Coverage Map 

AT&T Coverage Map
 

Amazon has said they will continue to provide Sprint, and I think that’s reasonable to expect.

So, I think people may start getting more than they paid for K2s on the secondary market. 

Of course, it’s simpler to just return it for the K2i, and that’s fine, too.  :)

Stephen King’s Under the Dome to get staggered release

This one was disappointing…and there was a lot of confused response to it.   I had mentioned before that this was being closely watched.  Publishers are trying to figure out what to do with e-book releases.  E-books are more profitable than p-books (paperbooks)…but they are a much smaller part of the overall publishing market (so far).  The biggest book of the year had a simultaneous release, but a number of other prominent books (Ted Kennedy, Sarah Palin) went for staggered.

People were shocked…shocked, I tell you! that the price of the e-book was $35.00 and the hardback is pre-order selling for $9!

Um…apples and oranges.  The $35 is the list price set by the publisher…and it is the same for the e-book and the p-book.   That’s commonly done, by the way.  Whether that makes sense or not is a different question.

The $9 is the retail price, set by Amazon.  That’s two cents more than the Wal-Mart pre-order price.

Both companies are probably losing a ton of money on each one of those sold.   A typical wholesale (what the retailer pays the publisher) price is 50% of the list price, or at least it used to be.  That means that Amazon is losing $8.50 in direct money on each copy of Under the Dome that is pre-ordered at this price.  Why would they chose to do that?  In hopes you buy other things because of this purchase (or later purchases) where they do make money.

Amazon probably pays the same price for the e-book…so they lose money on a lot of e-book sales.  That’s what Jeff Bezos calls “investment mode”.  Lose money now to make money later…just what the whole Amazon website did for years.

Reportedly, Stephen King approved of this move…which surprised me a bit.  He’s been pretty forward looking before…he made an early experiment with e-books, and has talked about liking his Kindle.

I hope this was a hard decision for him, honestly.  I’ve heard that he wanted to help the brick and mortar stores…a bail-out of sorts.  I’m guessing he was thinking small bookstores.  However, they may be competing with CostCo and Wal-Mart more than with Amazon.  The big box stores can underprice the little bookstores…the big guys don’t live and die on book sales.

I do think they made a good choice in releasing the e-book on December 24.  Since it takes no time to get it, you could give somebody a gift certificate for the book, and that person could start reading it in five minutes.  I think releasing the Sarah Palin book on December 26th is a mistake.  How many people are going to buy a hardback on the last day or two?  Some, certainly…but “getting an e-book” to give to somebody would likely be more attractive to more people.

I don’t like staggered releases.  One of my main concerns is for families that have some members with print disabilites and some without.  With an e-book, both those with challenges and those without can access the same copy.  No doubt, there will be an audio version of Under the Dome available when the hardback is released…but that does mean getting two copies (one audio, one paper).   Also, text-to-speech (or an audiobook) only addresses some disabilities.  E-books have other accessibility advantages, like the ability to increase the text size and how light they are.  Have you priced larged print books lately?

I think as the e-book share of the market grows we’ll see fewer staggered releases…at least, I hope so.

The nook (sic)

Barnes and Noble revealed an e-book reader this week.  I’m happy to see more e-book readers out there: I think the rise of e-books is part of the democratization of information. 

They appear to have tried to respond to what some people have seen as deficiencies in the Kindle: customizable sleep mode pictures; the ability to lend books; color; native EPUB compatibility; wi fi; and a touch screen.

I absolutley think its a good thing that there are more e-book readers out there.  I think it’s kind of funny when people refer to things as “Kindle killers”.  My guess is that in the next couple of years, the market for e-book readers and e-books will by several times what it is right now.  There is no question that other devices can take market share from the Kindle, but that won’t eliminate the Kindle in the market. 

If you didn’t know anything about e-books (or books generally), and you saw pictures of the Kindle and the nook side-by-side, no question that the nook looks flashier.  It looks like a cooler gift.  It will also get a boost as a gift by being in stores that are in malls.  When people are despondently looking for a gift for someone, wandering from store to store, it’s going to catch people’s eyes.  More, I think, than the Sony e-reader…again, because it’s flashier. 

However, I think there will be some backlash and some returns when people figure out more about how it works.  Right now, the comparison is between the reality of the Kindle and the concept of the nook.   If you just say that the Kindle reads books, a lot of people think of audiobooks…and it’s not that.  That reality is out there for people who read up on the device or talk to someone who has one.

The same thing will happen with the nook.

* Lending books: yes, if the publisher allows it.  People are irritated that Random House blocks text to speech on the Kindle: I think the blocking of lending may be much wider spread than that.   Also, when you lend it, it is gone from your nook during the loan.  More importantly is that lending isn’t giving or selling.  People do like to lend books…but many  people actually want to give them away (to a friend, to a senior community, to a library) or sell them (to a used bookstore).   While this is a nice feature, I believe it will disappoint

* Color: only for a little screen at the bottom where you pick the book you want to read.  It’s not for the books themselves.  People certainly say they want color in their books: in non-fiction, it can be important for graphs, but I also just think people like the look in photographs and such.  However, I tihnk a lot of people will think it’s for the books.   Again, the reality may disappoint

* Native EPUB: this is a plus, although converting EPUB for the Kindle is simple.  I do think Amazon may enable native EPUB through a software update at some point

* Customizable sleep mode pictures: definitely a plus, definitely something people want…and definitely something the Kindle could have as well.  How do we know that?  There is an unauthorized “hack” out there that can make it happen now.  I don’t recommend using the hack: it violates your Terms of Service.  That’s why it would be nice if Amazon just did an authorized version

* Touch screen: a lot of people complain about the touch screen on the Sony.  They think they want one, but it is hard to keep them clean…and very distracting to have a smudge on your book

* Wi-fi: there have been some unclear reports on this, but it does appear that you’ll be able to get to purchase books via wi fi in quite a few places.  That may be faster than the cell phone like technology that the Kindle uses.  However, I don’t think the downloads speed has been a main complaint with people for the Kindle.  Typically, the cell phone type network is going to have access in more places than wi fi (in the car, on public transit, in a park), but it may be a big help in your house if you don’t have the cell phone network.  Amazon can’t fix that without a hardware update.  Right now, the nook won’t go to other places besides the Barnes and Noble store…but they could change that with software

Overall, right now, the nook may appeal more to techies and gadget lovers…and that’s a pretty good place to be during the holidays.  The Kindle may continue to appeal more to readers.

Kindle for PC

This may be the most exciting development of the week for me.  It’s not quite here yet, but you’ll be able to read a Kindle book on a computer.  Why do I care about that?   Haven’t I said that the e-ink was one of the reasons for the success of the Kindle?  Yep: e-ink is a more satisfying reading experience, more like reading a book.

However, this will be a free download that lets anybody buy Kindle books.  That’s good for me as an author.  :)  If the free books from the Kindle store are available (and they probably will be), yow!  That means everybody with a computer (in the US…availability may be limited outside the US) and the right versions of Windows can get those classics.  They already can from other sites like Feedbooks and ManyBooks…but how many people are doing that?  Getting them from Amazon?  That’s going to be much more mainstream.  Another thing: reference books for the Kindle can have links to online video, streaming audio, and so on.  You’d read the book on the Kindle, but sync on over to the computer to see the more active content!  Cool!  Also, Amazon Director of Communciations Drew Herdener says apps for the Mac and the Blackberry are coming.

By the way, that’s a a major shift.  In the past, Amazon has been well-known for not talking about future developments.  Herdener has recently revealed that the international Kindle DX is coming in 2010, and this Mac and Blackberry thing.  Change in policy?  Maybe…

So, amazing week!  Can’t wait to see what the future brings…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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5 Responses to “Round-up: What a Week!”

  1. Mark Alexander Says:

    I keep hearing that Sprint has better coverage than AT&T in the US. But in some areas (like my little rural town), Sprint is not available, but AT&T is. That’s why I sent back my DX and ordered a K2i (couldn’t wait for the DXi).

    Also, it’s not quite true that the new Kindle for PC software will allow anyone with a computer to read books. Those of us not using Microsoft Windows are out of luck.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Mark, thanks for posting!

      You are absolutely right on the Windows requirement…thanks! I’ve fixed the Flash about it to clarify that. Sorry about that, Linuxers!

      That’s also true that in some places in the US, the AT&T coverage will be better. From what I’ve seen, the Sprint coverage is better overall, but what’s going to matter to the individual is what is better where you are and where you go.

      However, if the majority of people get better coverage with Sprint, that’s part of what will make the K2 a desired item. That might be true if a single individual was better off with Sprint, but more people means a higher likelihood that there are buyers who will pay a premium to have the wireless.

  2. Al Says:

    Re: your comparison with the nook:

    1. Wi-Fi. It appears to me that the wi-fi will work only with unlocked sites. Anybody would be nuts to unlock their personal wi-fi system. I realize there are lots of unlocked systems out there, but I think they are just being run by people that don’t know any better.

    2. Kindle for PC. I want this for my Mac because there are books that have graphics that are not viewable on the Kindle, whether it is in a light color that just doesn’t show up or is a map that has such fine detail that I cannot read any of the type. I can view all my non-DRM Kindle books now, but not the crippled ones. This feature allows at least the crippled ones to be added to this availability.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Al, thanks for leaving a comment!

      B&N has had to some clarification on the Wi Fi. An Administrator from B&N posted this:

      We see there are lingering questions about Wi-Fi … So, for a point of clarity, you can connect on any 802.11b/g Wi-Fi hotspot, or wherever you have the SSID password. The exception to thie is Wi-Fi hotspots that use proxy settings (like you typically see in a hotel), where you have to enter a password or some other information before you can connect.

      That makes it appear that you could connect to your home network, as long as you have the “SSID password”. Would that fit your concern? I think you could enter the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) password…you just couldn’t do things with a proxy, which won’t tend to be home networks. SSID=Service Set Identifier, by the way.

      Kindle for Mac, according to Amazon’s Drew Herdener, will get here. :) Better display of graphics will definitely be an attraction. I see that as being particularly important for non-fiction/reference books, but would make that map of Middle-Earth or Oz easier to read as well. :)

  3. Al Says:

    Yes, if it accepts the password then that does solve the problem. In mine, that has to be done only once and then it recognizes the device from then on. Thanks for the clarification.

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