Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amazon sets the e-book world on Fire



Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about Amazon's latest gadget, the Kindle Fire. Amazon announced this beauty a few days ago and since then the internet's been burning up with speculation about how this will affect the tablet business, e-books, media devices, and more specifically the Apple iPad.

I can only speculate (just like everyone else) as to how this will work, but here are my thoughts:

First, this gadget is cool. It's everything I want that a Kindle is not. It has a full color screen, and full media capabilities. It also has a touchscreen, and it has wifi. That means I can access Amazon's content just about anywhere, as long as I'm near a coffee shop, McDonald's, or a town square. Some reviewers have already bemoaned the lack of 3G. Okay, fair enough. These people don't want convenience, they want more. Being able to access the internet just about anywhere is convenient. Being able to access it anywhere, all the time, is more than convenient. And frankly, it's more than 3G provides.

For $199 bucks, that's something I'm willing to accept. I don't need to download a movie or e-book from the top of a mountain. I'll download it before I go and save an extra $600 or so over buying an iPad. I'll also save $50 a month on the data plan they've been trying to force down my throat, thank you very much.

The Kindle Fire runs an Android operating system which means it will run apps, and Amazon will have a convenient app store waiting for you. Here's another cool feature. Note the book covers lined up on the screen below, almost like a bookshelf. Full color and magnificent, almost real books on an almost real shelf. You touch them and scroll back and forth, allowing you to view your entire library with a touch of your finger, or shop for new titles just as easily. That's pretty cool.



What more can you do, besides read books, magazines, and comic books? You can listen to music, watch movies, surf the internet, and no doubt play games. There's no telling where this will go but in my opinion, the $199 price point and the extreme value of this personal media device mean that iPad may be in trouble. Eventually. Check out this quote from the Harvard Business Review:

"...for a relatively lengthy time period, both Amazon and Apple will thrive. But at the same time, both will be improving their products. Apple will continue to pump out more powerful, often higher-priced, tablets... Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire will improve as well — coming to be able to perform ever more of the functions that an iPad can perform at a significantly lower price point... At that point, it will be too late for Apple to respond and the tablet market leader will no longer be Apple. It will be Amazon.

"Students of disruptive innovation have seen this phenomenon play out in numerous industries: steel, disk drives, microchips, computers, automobiles, retail, music recordings, and aerospace to name a few. And the initial symptom is always the same — a competitor enters the market with an "inferior" product offering that the incumbent player simply refuses to worry about..."


Is Apple going to get in front of this and do something about it? It's hard to say, but there's a lot of skepticism out there. I've lost count of the articles and commentary I've read over the last few days claiming this device is a failure and that it can never compete with the iPad. Are they right? I don't know. But I know which one I'm buying.


And the ear-shattering question that nobody seems to be asking? How will this affect the paper book market?

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