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Should The New York Times Ditch Paper, Distribute Kindle E-readers


KFRCanuk
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Kindle's competition is beginning to heat up..... a lot of positive things being said by a venture being headed by Indigo Books and Music (IDG -- yes I own it) here in Canada --- called Shortcovers.  This is their blog (but there is also a lot of positive feedback and excitement if one googles around on it):

http://blog.shortcovers.com/

 

Amazon has been fighting the publishing industry's adopted format (epub) ... and I believe this includes the newspaper industry's adopted format.  In fact there have been some who have held back from buying a Kindle as they have concerns that it could become limited in it's use in a short period of time.  Meanwhile Indigo has been co-operating with the publishing industry and the Shortcovers app will fully support their adopted formats and concerns. 

 

It's estimated that 500,000+ Kindles were sold last year but they ran out or it could have been more.  A new generation Kindle has just been released so perhaps Amazon could beat that amount by a fair bit in 2009.  The number of Kindle sales sound like quite a lot until you consider that iPhone unit sales should be about 10 million in 2008 --- with expectations that the price for an iPhone will drop this summer to $99 (versus $359 for the kindle).  If so there are projections out there that the iPhone could go mainstream with around 20-30 million of unit sales in 2009.   

 

Shortcovers will be the first app based major provider that has access to significant amounts of new content through the good relationship they have with publishers via IDG's established retail business.  It will first be launching on the iPhone through the iTunes app store.  iTunes dominates the music download business (75%) and Amazon has failed to catch them.  Apparently the new app store did 500 million downloads in it's recent first 6 months of operation (Note -- these are NOT music downloads --- those are over and above).  A lot of it is free -- but it is generating a lot of traffic and there seems to be high demand for more apps in the way of better content.  A very timely entry for Shortcovers?   

 

But the iPhone is just the first step ....  the Shortcovers app will shortly after be available on the Blackberry and possibly on to some other wireless compatable smart phones, readers and other gadgets.  Yes, Kindle definitely has it beat as far as size, quality and battery life goes at the moment ...... but the smart phone technology is catching up with the introduction of each new generation of the product.  And, for the many who either own a smart phone or will in the next short while there is no additional outlay during these difficult times ---- the projected number of smart phones far outweigh what Kindle will ever be.  The advantage of the Shortcovers app based solution is that it's convenient and always in your pocket. 

 

Amazon would seem to be making many of the mistakes that Sony made with the Betamax tape player in forcing the industry to accept their solution rather than co-operating with the format the industry has been adopting (and meanwhile AMZN has been pocketing as much as 65% of the transaction!).  Sony has obviously learned from their lessons of the past though and while their product at the moment might not be as good -- it does support epub.  In any event, things are starting to evolve very quickly in the wireless world despite the recession.  Will be interesting to watch where all this goes.  Will also be interesting to see what Barnes and Nobles strategy will be or if Indigo will be partnering with them.  Shortcovers is set to launch toward the end of this month.  Let the battle begin.

 

UCP / DD

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Amazon is not very popular amongst many of the publishers.  Like I said they take as much as 65% of the retail price of an ebook sale (the bare minimum for some big name authors and publishers is around 35%).  Some think they are tryiing to make much of the publsihing industry obsolete.  Amazon would like everyone to think that their moat is so strong that they can bully their way through this -- but can they?  This is more about new titles/content than it is about old stuff.  Something that the music and publishing industries have in common is people's appetite for new content.  Because of the way Amazon treats the people who supply their product -- many authors/publishers may be holding back releases for this Shortcovers launch.  The Shortcovers launch is much more aligned with publishers/authors interests ..... and it's headed to where the e-download traffic is. 

 

Indigo Books and Music has a monopoly here in Canada when it comes to the bricks and mortar side.  They still do a very robust business --- and are smartly run.  The excitement being generated around the Shortcovers launch is that there is about to be tons of new titles available and in addition it will be available for a massive amount of customers who carry around a compatable version of ereader in their pocket called a smart phone.  Last Friday Amazon announced that they are back tracking and will also be providing their service on smart phones --- but when or how is unknown at present.  Meanwhile the Shortcovers venture is moving ahead.  Some surprises are promised at launch -- we will have to see what they are.  The only holdup right now is the approval process to get on to the iTunes app store.

 

UCP / DD   

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The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone market. It blew away the competition.

 

The iPhone also does some things very poorly. Typing lots/long messages on the iPhone really is not practical.

 

I don't believe that people will want to read novels on an iPhone. The screen just seems too small.

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The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone market. It blew away the competition.

 

The iPhone also does some things very poorly. Typing lots/long messages on the iPhone really is not practical.

 

I don't believe that people will want to read novels on an iPhone. The screen just seems too small.

 

I think the problem with the Kindle is that it's just a device that is too reliant on one single function, especially for its cost. You can pay $350 for a Kindle, or you could pay the same price and suffer a little (with having to use a normal screen) in order to gain more features -- like with the iPhone or even iPod touch. It's a trade off, but I see it as being a big reason for limiting the Kindle's market growth. I think that the Kindle will stay with "hardcore" users for a long time unless the price drops ($100-$200)

 

It still lacks a number of key features, like color -- which will inhibit its use for replacing things like paper magazines.

 

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The iPhone also does some things very poorly. 

So did the VHS machine .... but it made the Betamax obsolete in quick order.  Why?  Because VHS was the format adopted by the content suppliers.  Amazon would like to think they are a rulemaker -- but their pushy tactics look like a big mistake.  Again, for protected content the Kindle has issues.  What do you do when the square pegs won't fit through the round hole anymore??

 

I don't believe that people will want to read novels on an iPhone. The screen just seems too small.

They already are ..... even with the limited content that exists.  It's not so much about reading an entire novel on it ..... and besides only the Kindle die-hards are likely to do that.  It would seem the appeal would be that it can be bundled with a hard copy or individual chapters can be bought.  For example you are stuck in a long wait at the Barbershop ... you have been reading a book but it's at home.  Your iPhone is in your pocket.  When you bought the book you might have bundled it with a digital copy for a nominal cost (perhaps it was thrown in free!).  And if not .... for 99 cents you could buy a chapter of the book you have at home -- reading it while you wait.     

 

The appeal would also be for professionals, students or maybe people travelling ..... they can buy individual chapters for 99 cents or have the whole thing always handy for review.  If I ever get a smart phone the first thing I will do is buy Chapters 8 & 20 of the Intelligent Investor.  If one is subscribed to a Newspaper or Magazine --- the digital version would also be handy to have if it is bundled with it for a nominal charge.  You read bits and pieces on your iPhone through out the day.... but if you want to read something from cover to cover it's still hard to beat the real thing.

 

The whole idea behind Kindle is e-ink technology and ease of reading from that screen. Not the same as iPhone, or Blackberry, or any other phone screen by any means.

Again, it's not about quality ... it's about convenience.  If it's quality you want buy the actual book.  You want something in between fork out $359 bucks and buy the Kindle --- but with your head up that it could become obsolete over time.  People will continue trading in their phones every 2 or 3 years --- thereby keeping the technology current and that technology will get better over time.  Carrying a cell phone has become habit forming -- eventually it will replace your wallet and probably your keys.

 

I think that the Kindle will stay with "hardcore" users for a long time unless the price drops ($100-$200)  

If/when a half million or more current kindle owners find out the product is obsolete for the new current stuff -- and the new one not much better -- I would question if in a few years Amazon can even give it away.   

 

UCP / DD

 

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