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Kindle Fire HD is going international. Kindle Fire HD is available for pre-order in a massive 170 countries.
Amazon expanding to 170 countries is very impressive. Kindle Fire HD was only available in US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, and Italy. Going international to 170 countries should do a lot for Kindle Fire HD sales and should increase the chance Amazon can keep competing with iPad and with Android Tablets.
TechCrunch had the news on Kindle Fire HD International. The key details are -
You can buy Kindle Fire HD at Amazon.
You can see all the details in the Kindle Fire HD International Press Release.
Why Kindle Fire HD International Expansion is critical to Amazon’s Hopes
Amazon is in a tough spot.
Kindle Fire HD isn’t just a Tablet, and winning the Tablet Wars for Amazon isn’t just about being the best-selling Tablet. Kindle Fire HD is Amazon’s storefront of the future. If Amazon loses the Tablet Wars, it’ll eventually lose the ‘selling digital content’ wars.
How will Kindle Fire HD International do?
Amazon’s move is interesting and the pricing is even more interesting.
I honestly don’t know how Kindle Fire HD will do. I wasn’t expecting it to be the #2 Tablet in Holiday Season 2012. It might very well end up being the #2 Tablet after iPad Mini worldwide. The only thing is, worldwide is a different kettle of fish. In the US, Amazon has a huge share of online retail sales. During Holiday Season it can really leverage its traffic and push Kindle Fire sales. It also has so many customers in the US – customers that trust it. Worldwide, Amazon doesn’t have the same advantages.
It’ll be really good if Kindle Fire HD International takes off. It’s the scrappy little fighters like Nook Color that start off trends. If Kindle Fire HD International takes off, then it pushes Apple and Google and Samsung to improve their Tablets. Additionally, Amazon’s policy of ‘price low, make money from services’ forces other Tablet makers to price their own tablets lower. Let’s hope Kindle Fire HD International is a hit, and it allows Amazon to scale up and continue to chase iPad Mini and Samsung Tab and Google Nexus 7. That’ll force the entire Tablet Market to improve and innovate. Better for all of us.
With the advent of the Kindle, Nook, the Kindle Fire, and the iPad we’ve seen an explosion in ebooks. In 2012, eBooks accounted for 25% of Publishers’ revenues. 25% of revenues suggests actual unit sales for ebooks might have been 30% to 40% of book sales.
What’s interesting to me is the sheer number of people who want cheap kindle books and free kindle books. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any way of finding the opposite type of customers – those who don’t care about price and/or are willing to pay for a good book.
If we assume there are 5 major groups of readers -
Well, there is ample evidence of the existence of the latter two groups. Go to any website or forum and you’ll find people looking for free kindle books, looking for and sharing deals, and generally focusing on finding the lowest book prices.
There is also a large group of readers who are OK with what they would consider ‘reasonably priced books’. $9.99 or less for new titles, and prices lower than $7 for older titles. They’d like ebooks to always be the same price or cheaper than the corresponding paperbacks.
The first two groups aren’t easy to locate. In fact, it’s downright hard to find more than a scattering of readers belonging to the first two groups.
The natural question that arises is - Do these two groups actually exist?
Is there a price-insensitive market in Books?
Yes, there obviously is. We wouldn’t have hardcovers if there weren’t. People were paying $15 to $25 for hardcovers, and still are. The market obviously exists.
It’s a fair assumption that there are a non-trivial number of readers who are well-off. It’s also safe to assume that there are lots of readers for whom reading isn’t measured in terms of money. Another reasonable assumption is that there is a group of readers who simply can’t wait and must get a book instantly. Yet another safe assumption is that there is a group of readers who value their time a lot more than money and don’t mind paying a high price for a very good book that’s worth their time.
If we consider these readers and other ‘not sensitive to the price of the book’ readers, there should, in theory, be a large group of readers that are price-insensitive. Perhaps even 5 to 10 million such readers in America.
Well, these price-insensitive readers exist with physical books. Where are all these readers when it comes to eBooks?
What happened to the price-insensitive readers when we shifted from Books to eBooks?
We have two groups of readers that comprise the ’Price Insensitive’ Readers.
With physical books they were snapping up Hardcovers and spending freely.
What happened with eBooks? Where are the high-end customers?
Well, there are a few possibilities -
At this point, it’s worth looking at why certain readers don’t mind spending money on a high quality book.
Time vs Money
We’re swamped by authors offering free books as marketing. We are swamped by bargain hunters who want free kindle books and cheap kindle books.
This creates an environment where it’s easy to forget what a book means to people, and what the book reading experience is for people.
Different people value Money and Time differently. Mostly because they have different amounts of them and different ways of viewing them and spending them.
Let’s consider some example readers with different personal circumstances -
If you consider these readers, we can easily see why some of them would gravitate towards free and cheap kindle books, while others would focus on the ‘safest’ and ‘best reviewed’ books.
We can also see the price factor. Some readers simply don’t have much money for books. Some readers won’t spend money on untested authors. On the other hand, there are readers for whom either money isn’t a concern, or the time spent is far more important.
Jonathan might feel that $13.99 spent on a book he enjoys is worth 100 times more than getting a cheap $1 book that is a waste of his time. Worse, now he has to wait until next week to get his reading high.
Nancy, on the other hand, might think of her 1 new author a month as ‘experiment time’. Since she is already getting guaranteed good reading from her regular authors, and since she’s spending most of her reading budget on them, she doesn’t mind taking a gamble on a cheap or free book occasionally.
Jonathan and Nancy, when searching for a new book to read, will go in diagrammatically opposite directions. That’s OK. That’s the whole point of having books and ebooks and Publishers and Indie Authors. To provide readers whatever they want.
The Question becomes – Where do we find the Jonathans and Trevors and Tinas of the Reading World?
Where can we find the ‘Time is worth more than Money’ Price-Insensitive Readers?
This is the $25 billion a year Question.
The Books Industry in the US is approximately $25 billion a year in revenues. Replace it with whatever figure you prefer – it’s just meant to illustrate the point.
If the shift from Books to Books+EBooks leads to a mostly price-sensitive market, then we’ll fall to $10 billion to $15 billion a year in revenues. This will have repercussions and might lead to a decline in quality of ebooks (MIGHT).
If, however, we can find and retain the price-insensitive customers. Retain = Keep them as price-insensitive customers. Then we can ensure the market stays at or above $20 billion a year.
Finding these price-insensitive customers, and giving them a path to being price-insensitive ebook customers, is absolutely critical.
Because all the price-sensitive customers are getting addicted to free and cheap. They are going from bargain hunters to extreme bargain hunters.
Regardless of what your personal preference for book prices might be, it’s safe to say that -
If Authors can’t make a decent living from books, and chances are they won’t be able to if we end up in a world of $0 and $1 books, then the amount of time they can devote to writing books, perfecting their craft, and polishing their books decreases. As a result both the number of great books they produce and the quality of such books diminishes.
This is an Assumption. It might happen that hunger drives authors to more beautiful work.
For now, let’s assume that we need some basic reasonable book prices (perhaps $3 to $7) to keep authors going strong - writing great books and writing lots of them.
Price-Insensitive Customers drive the behavior of Price-Sensitive Customers (and vice versa)
Imagine you’re a price-sensitive customer. That book you really want is for $13.99. Yet, thanks to price-insensitive customers, it’s at #2 in the Charts. You give in and buy it for $13.99 – because you can’t wait another 7 months.
That leads to a sale from a price-sensitive customer at a very high price.
Now imagine you’re a price-insensitive customer. You notice that price-sensitive customers have driven a $1 book all the way to #5. The reviews seem good. You take a gamble and are rewarded. That author has 7 more titles. You read them one by one. You decide to take a few more gambles on new indie authors.
Now the price-sensitive customers have turned you from spending $13.99 per book to $1 per book.
Please Note: This trend of price-sensitive customers influencing price-sensitive customers – This is perhaps the reason Amazon tries so hard to keep $1 Indie Authors out of the charts.
Finding Price-Insensitive Customers and catering to them might determine the long-term viability of the Publishing Industry and Platforms
At one end of the spectrum is a world where there’s no money left in books in 20 years. At the other end of the spectrum is a world where Publishing and Books are generating a lot of money in 20 years – even more than they generate now.
For the latter to happen, three key things need to happen -
Currently, Platforms and Publishers are messing up the first, they are doing decently on the second, and they are messing up the third.
It’s simple. If Price-Insensitive customers get really high quality ebooks, get them conveniently, and get them perfectly tailored to their tastes, then they will spend their money freely. They will feel it’s worth their money and time to spend on ebooks and they will remain price-insensitive readers.
If not, then Price-Insensitive customers will either cut down on their reading or they will turn into price-sensitive readers looking for $3 and $1 books.
A mixed bag of Kindle Fire and Kindle items today.
Qualcomm showing off 2560 by 1440 Mirasol Display (reflects ambient light)
Qualcomm’s Mirasol Display was supposed to be used in a Color Kindle way back in 2011. Well, there was no Color Kindle so there was no Mirasol color eReader eInk. The last we heard was that Mirasol had gotten a $2 billion investment to set up a manufacturing facility. No news after that.
Now, it seems Qualcomm is trying other things. Engadget covers Qualcomm Mirasol 2,560 by 1,440 displays demoed at SID Display Week (They have a video).
Eletronista also has some coverage and Qualcomm Mirasol photos.
Kindle Worlds – Amazon starts a Fan Fiction initiative
Amazon has stumbled upon what is either a brilliant idea or a disastrous one – let people make money from fan fiction, officially.
Geekwire has some details on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds initiative. You can write fan fiction about established books and series. You get a cut. The royalty owner gets a cut. Amazon gets a cut.
Some Warner Brothers properties like Pretty Little Liars are already available to fan fictionize.
Here’s what Amazon says -
You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.
If I’m reading this correctly, it would have meant that Stepahnie Meyer could start writing 50 Shades of Grey titles without having to pay the 50 Shades of Grey author anything.
Amazon says it will pay a royalty of 35 percent of revenue for accepted fan fiction of at least 10,000 words. Shorter pieces (5,000 to 10,000 words) will receive a 20 percent royalty. The company says it expects most of the “Kindle Worlds” fan fiction titles to sell for 99 cents to $3.99.
As it’s Amazon, an ‘exclusivity’ clause is also included.
Jealous, overprotective girlfriend/boyfriend on steroids.
Did we forget controlling?
Amazon Publishing will set the price.
Overall, it’s a very interesting move.
Amazon seems very focused on a few elements when it comes to books and content - creating new content sources that it owns, maintaining control over pricing, creating exclusive agreements.
It’s interesting. It’s almost as if Amazon thinks it can control a market into existence. A perfect market where customers behave perfectly and everything goes according to plan. You know what they say about plans – If you want God to laugh, show him your plans.
Penguin Pays Up $75 million for Agency Model Case, Only Apple left standing now
Penguin’s settlement with the DOJ means Penguin has to pay $75 million. This leaves Apple as the last company standing out of the Agency Model Cartel.
It’s quite interesting that -
Apple is also under fire for its elaborate tax avoidance schemes (avoidance = legal; evasion = illegal). This includes gems like – paying less in taxes than it reports as ‘Taxes’ in its annual reports, a cash routing scheme so elaborate that economists are calling it ‘unbelievable chutzpah’, no one being sure of how Apple pays just 2% tax in Ireland when the official rate is an already low 13%.
At some level, it seems Apple has become so big and successful that everyone is going after it. Whether it’s Microsoft in the past or Apple now, you have to wonder – Are they being punished for their actual misdeeds, or just because they got too good and too successful.
The Tax Avoidance case is just avoidance and completely legal. The only cost will be some amount of PR. Until the law changes companies like Apple and Google and pretty much every big company will keep on ‘avoiding’ taxes.
The Agency Model case would perhaps be a few hundred million dollars. That’s less than Apple makes in profits in a day.
Amazon stops selling Kindle Keyboard
Thanks to a blog reader for pointing this out. I forget who (remind me if you’d like a mention).
Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle WiFi (just Kindle) are the only eInk Kindles available to buy now.
Kindle 3 was the favorite Kindle for a lot of people. Hopefully it’s only been removed to be replaced by something else.
Kindle 3 really was the best eReader ever made. It’s sad to see it gone.
Kindle Paperwhite has a 6″ screen. Kindle Touch has a 6″ screen. Kindle 3 has a 6″ screen. Kindle WiFi has a 6″ screen. Kindle 2 had a 6″ screen. Kindle 1 had a 6″ screen.
Is it time for Kindle to go to 7″?
7″ Kindle eInk – Benefits & Reasons to make a 7″ eInk Kindle
7″ and 8″ are much better screen sizes for reading – more fits on the page, less page turns. If you have both a Kindle Fire and a Kindle, you can test this yourself.
A 7″ Kindle eInk, on the whole, makes a lot of sense. There are, unfortunately, some drawbacks too.
7″ Kindle eInk – The Pitfalls of switching from 6″ to 7″
This is an interesting list. The switch to a 7″ screen isn’t without its drawbacks. The one about weight and ease of holding is particularly important. An eReader is held for a long time – even more so if you read a lot. It’s also held in lots of very non-ergonomic positions. Weight plays a massive part in how much strain your hands and elbows and fingers will face. As does your grip. An increase from 6″ to 7″ or 8″ might seem minor – However, if the weight is 15% more and the grip becomes uncomfortable, then the cost on your wrists and hands is too high.
7″ Kindle seems likely
Kobo has moved to a 6.8″ screen with the Kobo Aura HD. Amazon usually lets another manufacturer enjoy the pains of implementing brand new screen technology. Usually it’s B&N. This time it seems to be Kobo that’s willing to be the guinea pig. It’s quite likely that Amazon will use the same 6.8″ screen Kobo uses in the successor of the Kindle Paperwhite. It’ll let Kobo handle all the birthing pains, and then it’ll step in and use the screen once it’s more stable and the kinks have been worked out.
We’ve seen that there are lots of advantages, and also several disadvantages, of such a move. If the only size in which PVI/eINK is making HD eInk screens is 6.8″, then Amazon might not have a choice. It’s also possible (in fact, very likely) that PVI actually discussed screen sizes with Amazon before settling on 6.8″. If that’s the case, let’s hope Amazon has figured out a way to add a larger screen without sacrificing the Kindle’s weight, grip, handling, portability, and battery life.
We now have devices like Kindle Fire HD, iPad, Kindle, Nook HD that enable reading ebooks easily and relatively well. We have ebooks flourishing and continuing to grow rapidly. We have entire armies of self-published authors rising up – hungry for a piece of the reader pie.
Books are going through a very interesting Transition. Perhaps Transitions. One of the biggest challenges is ‘connecting’ Authors with Readers.
This influx of authors, who are finally getting a shot at reaching readers, leads to a very obvious problem.
Too Many Options for Readers
Imagine you are checking out the Hot Dog stands and Ice Cream stands at a country fair. You used to have -
Now we’re transitioning to a world where -
If we tune out all the noise, we can identify and focus on the two main challenges -
We have created huge problems for both Authors and Readers. Too much choice for readers. No way to know quality for readers. Too much competition for Authors. No way to convey quality for Authors.
Three of the Big Challenges for Authors
The first challenge, and for most authors the insurmountable challenge, is to get Discovered.
No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exists.
This is a core truth. A tautology if you prefer fancy words.
Users can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists.
This is the step that most authors get stuck at. It’s also the step that kills most companies, most bands, most artists, most technologies.
Discovery is Step 1. The reader discovers the book. Then good things happen.
If Authors do get discovered, there are several new challenges -
A reader finds a book. Then a reader needs data points to make a Decision.
Decision is Step 2. The reader decides to buy the book. Then the author gets read, hopefully.
Now that the author has sold a book, the challenge is – How do we delight the reader and retain the reader and get future purchases?
Delight & Retention is Step 3. Delight the reader so you retain her as a reader.
If we look at Step 1 (Discovery) and Step 2 (Decision) – There’s not very much the author can do without outside help.
The interesting thing is that both steps can be solved by Curation.
Curation – the Missing Link between Readers & Authors
We are seeing readers increase and we might see an eventual doubling of readers. We are seeing the number of authors grow exponentially.
We are not really seeing any big improvements in curation. We aren’t seeing significant increases in the number of curators.
Three Big Curation Problems
The first, and perhaps unsolvable, problem is that the number of books have increased so rapidly that curation becomes 10-100 times more difficult. It’s almost impossible for the existing curators to handle the new curation needs.
The second problem is that curators have to develop trust. They have to figure out how to reach readers. They face the same Discovery and Decision Steps that Authors do. The absolute best romance novel reviewer in the world perhaps has a blog that only 238 people in the entire world know about.
Yet, that one person could help 3 million readers a year find the best romance novels.
The third problem is that crowdsourced curation is being done as ‘sell-side curation’ and not ‘buy side curation’.
Sell-side curation - Curation done by the companies selling the books. This is a big problem because there is a clash in incentives. There isn’t any real financial incentive to be more efficient in curation – in fact, there is a financial incentive to be rather inefficient.
If Amazon & B&N are right only 33% of the time when recommending titles you end up buying. That means 67% of the time they sell you books you don’t end up finishing, perhaps not even the first chapter. They make money regardless.
Buy-side curation would be curation done by people who spent their hard-earned money on the book. It would be curation done in the right Curation Environment and within a suitable Curation Ecosystem. Yes, all reviews in the Nook and Kindle Stores are from people who bought the book. However, the system is set up to avoid things like ‘Formatting Scores’ and ‘Typographical Error Counts’. Things that would be absolutely obvious and necessary in a buy-side crowd-sourced curation model. These are completely, and perhaps intentionally, forgotten in sell-side curation.
Would a sell-side curation engine ever include ‘X% of people finished this book’?
I don’t think so. Because if readers saw ’10% of people finished this book’, half or more of the ones likely to buy it, wouldn’t.
Would anyone care to guess what percentage of books bought at Amazon and B&N are never finished?
Perhaps more than half.
What percentage are never read beyond the first chapter?
How good is a Curation Engine if it’s selling people books where 50% of the books are books the reader won’t ever finish?
A Buy-Side Reader-focused Curation Engine would include things like ’29% of people didn’t read beyond the first chapter’. That would save everyone who’s on the fence. The Sell-Side would never add this information. Well, perhaps they will once they realize that this would lead to more readers and happier readers and more sales from readers.
What is Curation?
This is a tough question.
Let’s start with what Curation is not.
Curation in ebooks should focus on connecting readers with the books and authors that are the best fit for them.
It’s part match-making and part magic.
Curation should work on both ends -
Curation is the bridge connecting empowered readers (who have more options than they can handle) with newly free authors (who now have all the freedom in the world but little clue how to reach readers).
Where does the Kindle fit in Curation? Where do devices fit in Curation?
The foundation on which a Buy-Side Curation Engine could be based is recommendations and data input and usage data from real readers.
The Kindle (or for that matter, whatever device the reading is done on) is important for many reasons -
Please Note: All the sharing and connection features would be opt-in. So users who wanted out wouldn’t be forced to participate. Additionally, it would be trends and statistics. No personally identifiable information would be provided.
Most of this can be done, albeit rather inelegantly, without the reading devices themselves. However, the most natural place to fit everything is the Kindle (or the Nook).
If a truly efficient Curation Engine were invented, Reading would Prosper Greatly
Truly efficient Curation would result in a lot of good things -
It might seem that perfect curation would lead to lower book sales, a wider distribution/democratization between authors, less reading, and a general reduction in book revenues.
However, the pleasure of reading would increase. The bang for the buck would increase. The pleasure per reading minute would improve. This would make people tend to read more. We tend to do more of what we greatly enjoy. It would make people read the authors that deserve to be read more often. It would lead to people-created superstars. Sometimes these would be the ones the Big 6 and the Towering 2 are pushing. Sometimes it would be the People’s Champions.
We needed eBooks and eReaders to allow Reading to compete with video games, TVs, movies. They have delivered. Reading is adding readers and authors. It’s flourishing. There has never been a time, ever, when so many people were excited about writing books and reading books.
The next step is a Really Efficient Curation Engine. The Evolutionary Algorithm part tracks your reading habits and your reading reality and suggests new books. The Crowd-Sourced part finds your ‘reading twins’ and helps deliver suitable candidates for your future reading. This Curation Engine really is the next big step. It would greatly increase Reading’s ‘Pleasure Per Reading Minute’ and ‘Pleasure per Dollar’ scores. It would make reading more attractive than many of the other pursuits and passions competing for readers’ time and money.
The next big Inflection Point in books isn’t when Amazon gets 90% market share or when color eInk arrives. It’s when we get an Efficient Curation Engine that pushes Reading well ahead of readers’ other pursuits and passions.