Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Amazon Kindle Buzz – Was that a Hype?

May 28th, 2008 by and

Amazon launched Kindle November 2007 following its predecessors much trodden path. It uses the Sprint EVDO network to read over 110K Books + Newspapers, magazines & blogs. Immediate to its release “Kindle” grabbed enormous attention in the blogosphere – which weaned in the subsequent weeks. Surprisingly, kindle was out of stock in only few days after its launch.

This May, Citigroup Analyst Mark Mahaney claimed they expect that Amazon would generate between $400 million and $750 million in revenue from the Kindle by 2010, or 1% – 3% of Amazon’s total revenue.Citigroup backs their predictions partly by reviewing the public data as provided on Amazon’s customer reviews.One can clearly throw doubts on the value of customer reports on Amazon, the exclusive retailer selling Kindle. So whats’ the truth about Kindle? If the blogosphere can reflect a success – and we believe that it most certainly does, one can observe the low vibes Kindle is generating since its launch.

To generate a better understanding on how kindle is being perceived by the public, and to unfold the mysterious kindle phenomena, we have presented this observed trend at forums dedicated to e-book readers and tech & gadgets hard core users. Note that our questions concerning Kindle were not focused on the products characteristics, rather we intentionally kept that open to free flowing discussions.

Once again we were overwhelmed by the amount of valuable information we received. Evaluating the responses, we wondered who are kindle’s true competitors: palm based PDF readers? Sony reader? Or is the iPhone crossing territories once again?

2530571667 c7693311c8 Amazon Kindle Buzz   Was that a Hype?

We have categorized the responses according to the core feedbacks

  • Visibility, Convenience and Design Factors
  • Technological Factors
  • General Feedbacks

A. Visibility, Convenience and Design: E-book experienced readers reported the convenience of reading books using palm size devices. Kindle with its large screen holds a distinct advantage. Most of the critiques we observed primarily wails on its poor design and Kindle as a single purpose single source device (versus the iPhone).

1. Screen Size – Visibility :

“The Sony Reader is much easier on the eyes if you’re going to do a lot of reading but can’t beat the convenience of something palm sized when you’re standing waiting for the train.”

” The screen [ iPhone ] is rather small for an ebook reader, however, I find it works great for me.”

“…the iPhone is a poor e-book reader because the screen is too small.”

2. Convenience on the go, multipurpose devices

“Before my iPhone, I used a PDA. I find the iPhone to be significantly better. I have not used or even considered any of the dedicated ebook readers such as Sony’s or Kindle simply because they are too big. If I wanted to carry something that big, I’d care the actual book”.

” A Sony or a Kindle being as big as the book, the advantage is that it is as big as one book, but can hold dozens. So if I am going to spend, say, 3 months in China I can take all of my books in the space needed by one book…OTOH, when spending 1/2 hour standing on a NY (or Beijing) subway the PDA or iPhone is much more convenient. “

” Today’s wired or is it wireless, world prefers the convenience of a single device containing all the technologies that users require in terms of social networking, business tools (outlook, excel et al) and entertainment. So, give me facebook mobile, my pictures, videos and cool im/text messaging on my iPhone and I’m golden “.

3. Design & Product Attractiveness:

” It just seems that the ‘promises’ of “ease of use”, space savings,e-book outlet etc are not enough to overcome it ‘s somewhat unattractive shape and the ‘love for the real thing’ (i.e. book) that people have…”

” poor product design “

” problems with the design of the Kindle hardware “

” (1) accessing menu items & turning pages is a bit slower than on the Palm TX I was used to, (2) difficult to read in dim light so like a real book, (3) the cover is poorly designed in that it presses the scroll wheel when closed “

B. Technological Factors :

Going by 2007 most popular e-book format PDF is the most downloaded E book format. Kindle currently does not support PDF nor can their conversion service change it to a compatible format.

“It’s lacking some key features that are preventing me from purchasing one, namely the ability to natively import and display PDFs as well as potential DRM challenges”.

“The strength of the Kindle is its e-paper technology (granted, not unique to the and the free & widespread wireless access”.

“Since all of the Kindle ebooks you purchase from Amazon are in their proprietary DRM format , you are not able to share them with friends, there is no way to move them to another device or a computer. You are locked into the Kindle and you are locked into Amazon.”

“It’s weakness is DRM, DRM, DRM.”

“Kindle is a rather static device as opposed to the iPhone which is hacked a new way every month.”

C. General Feedbacks:

“inadequate vision, poor product design and lack of adequate marketing strategy led to the creation of a mediocre unsuccessful product.”

“Kindle is a neat device. Everybody likes it but nobody needs it. And nobody buys it. Kindle’s doesn’t address any need that paperback and hardback books don’t already address perfectly well. And books don’t require a reader device that costs a lot of money, eats batteries, and will be discontinued some day, rendering your entire library obsolete….Good idea .. just a little too late in my opinion”.

Evaluating by the responses, it emerges that Kindle could not get associated into an iPod / iPhone- like emotional bonding with its potential users. Even among the existing users – we found constrained reactions. The fact that the overall discussions were focused on technological features and design critiques, hardly on the fun and experience can teach us that Amazon will have to work hard to raise the excitement it needed as part of the brands promise.

Kindle 2: What’s next for Kindle?

While skepticism was heard right from the start concerning the potential of a new e-book reader to exit its small niche. Kindle has enjoyed the power of the press, following what “the One to already build a better bookstore” has to offer. Acknowledging Amazon’s ability to embrace the brand, we feel that the Kindle has much more to offer. Kindle 2, may improve not only by design but also by embracing more openness, by its ability to support multiple formats (pdf), and by providing multiple reasons to its users to carry the device around (Nokia?).

To match up to Citygroup prediction – Kindle has miles to go!!

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8 Responses

  1. Gloria Bernal Says:

    Thanks, Apurba, article was interesting and I do agree with some comments. I do hope now that the Kindle price has dropped that a few other changes may take place, but overall Amazon service is the best, they take care of their people and I believe the Kindle is here to stay. The more one uses it the more dependent we become on it. I just hope that when version 2 in unleashed someday that the clients that invested in version 1 at its onset will have the option to update some features, and not have to go out and buy an entire new unit. Remains to be seen. Keep us posted!

  2. Marcy McKenzie Says:

    I believe pdf can be emailed to Amazon for conversion. We are not tied to Amazon as we can get books from Fictionwise, Manybooks.net etc. I would not be without my Kindle!!!!

  3. Asaf Shachaf Says:

    what does this device offer? book reading option in a situatioin where internet is not available.
    now, that we understand that we need to think if next year there will be any place with no internet…
    if the answer is no, then trash kindle and open a site where you sign up and buy PDF/text formats of the book you wish (or just chapters, or a monthly fee for use with no limits…) and read it on the internet thru your mobile device being it iphone, htc, nokia, samsung, etc…

  4. andrew Says:

    Consumers want convergence.

    Technology needs to find ways of delivering books to mobile phones because these are the most ubiquitous of devices.

    The small screens of most mobile phones (iPhone included) means that technology needs to find innovative ways of displaying words. The best example of this approach is comes from a UK company called ICUE (www.i-cue.co.uk)

  5. Jinnayah Says:

    I find this article very odd in its selection of comments. Not all of them relate to the Kindle, nor are all of them well-informed. I suppose you can make a good case that if the Kindle users themselves aren’t informed, that’s valuable information about the product in and of itself, but still. The KindleKorner yahoo group, where (among other places) you posted this question, has a wealth of community knowledge that could easily clear up some of the concerns noted in this article. E.g. pdf conversion (partially supported), “DRM challenges” (hundreds of thousands of books available outside of Amazon), “unattractive design” (Kindle design is highly functional and it’s not meant to draw the eyes to itself, but to the content), “nobody buys it” (where is THAT idea coming from?).

    Kindle is not for everyone … but it is very much for readers like me who by constitution desire at least 3 or 4 books with them at ALL times. Without Kindle, that’s a ridiculous load on one’s back. With Kindle, it’s trivial–as is having 200(!) books along. I love my new portable library and I will be an ambassador for the Kindle for life!

  6. Apurba Says:

    Thanks Gloria, Marcy, Asaf, Andrew & Jinnayah !

    Great points Gloria.Undoubtedly Amazon service is one of the best.Your anxiety related to Kindle 2.0 are valid & Im sure Kindle folks are listening to it.Atleast our aim with this post aims to highlight the same.

    Marcy – PDF conversion with Kindle is so far a pain area.Not many people are aware of the solution(s).

    Asaf /Andrew- Technology is an enabler.I am sure many such manifestation would emerge with Kindle 2.0 or “convergence”.

    Jinnayah – I have answered your query in the group.However for the benefit of larger audience here it is..

    “1759 members so far in the Kindle Korner group – my assumption , thats definitely a small chunk of total kindle users.Hence a majority of online Kindle users /potential buyers are in different forums ..Our post expressed the actual comments of all those respondents..(to answer your ..where is THAT idea coming from?)..

    In a way you are right… not all “Kindle users” are aware of this group & the possible “Kindle hacks” to their concerns.

    We are pretty sure if amazon is listing to the lament of its dissatisfied customers – kindle 2.0 will come bundled with all these solutions.”

    Happy TrendsSpotting!

  7. ProKindle Says:

    It’s all about readability. Portable devices are great, but who wants to stare at a mini screen when we stare at screens all day long in this digital age! Kindle may need some improvements, but it is an outstanding product, and wins hands down against the iPhone if you want a great reading experience!

    Please visit http://www.prokindle.com for more info on the Kindle!

  8. Mary Modahl Says:

    Well, Kindle may take some bashing, but my Dad, who just turned 69, and his wife, 65, showed up on our annual sailing trip with them, raving. They couldn’t wait to show me how easy it was to change the font size to make reading easier on older eyes, and they were so happy to carry 5 or 6 books in 10 ounces of weight when traveling. It may not be perfect — one of their two Kindles seized up after getting wet — but when retirees find a technology easy to use, it usually succeeds in the end.

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