The NYTimes’ Bits Blog has an article using Kindle Review statistics to attack the Kindle.
It’s a perfect example of why people are losing faith in newspapers.
Here’s what the ‘Is Amazon Working Backward’ article by Nick Bilton does –
- It draws up pie-charts of the review ratings of the Kindle 1, the Kindle 2, and the Kindle DX.
- It takes the number of 1 star Kindle reviews for each Kindle and compares them.
- It points out the fact that Kindle DX has a lesser percentage of 5 star reviews.
It draws the conclusion that customer satisfaction has gone down.
There’s one small problem with this piece of non-journalism – Mr. Bilton never really checked whether the 1 star reviews were legitimate.
Most of the 1 star reviews are not from Kindle owners
If you’re going to claim that user satisfaction of the Kindle is going down you at least should read through the 1 star reviews.
This is the entirety of Mr. Bilton’s due diligence –
A quick perusal of the comments shows customers repeatedly griping about poor screen quality, unattractive device design and the constraints of digital rights management software on books and newspapers.
A quick perusal?
You’re writing an article in the NY Times attacking the Kindle (and making fun of Amazon’s CEO saying they work backwards from the customer) and you based it on ‘a quick perusal’.
Most 1 star reviews are from non-owners
Well, let’s consider these posts that are not based on a quick perusal –
- January 2008 – Kindle 1 was getting biased reviews – Only 16 out of the 130 most helpful Kindle 1 star reviews were from actual Kindle owners.
- March 2009 – Kindle 2 was getting biased reviews – Only 24 out of the 79 1 star reviews were from actual Kindle owners.
- August 2009 – 96 out of the first 500 Kindle DX reviews were 1 star reviews. Only 30 out of those 96 reviews were from Kindle owners.
There’s a clear pattern of Kindle-hating from people who don’t own a Kindle.
It’s rather amusing that Mr. Bilton would highlight 1 star reviews when the majority of 1 star reviews aren’t from Kindle owners.
How could satisfaction of Kindle owners be going down when the 1 star reviews are from non-customers?
The more appropriate theme would be – More people hate the Kindle now, than before.
There are more 1 star reviews for the Kindle 2 because it’s a bigger threat
The real truth about why there are more negative reviews (1 star reviews) for the Kindle 2 is that as the Kindle became successful more people had an axe to grind.
Here are the some of the reasons for which the Kindle 2 has been attacked (from Kindle reviews at Amazon) –
- Having DRM.
- After the 1984 incident several ‘Open’ groups had campaigns to go on Amazon.com and add 1 star reviews – People who had no intention of ever buying an eBook Reader were going out of their way to add 1 star reviews.
- Lack of PDF support – which has now been added.
- The fact that some Publishers turned off Text to Speech in their books.
- Blind Groups upset that the Kindle isn’t accessible (being addressed with a mid 2010 update).
- It’s not a real book.
A significant number of the attacks are ideological attacks by people who have never touched a Kindle.
These people are not customers and it’s irresponsible of a NYTimes non-journalist to use 1 star reviews from non-owners as the basis of a claim that customer satisfaction has gone down.
Now look at the reasons the Kindle 1 had been attacked –
- It’s not a real book.
- Too Pricey at $399.
- No PDF support.
- You don’t own the book.
- 10 cent charge is bad.
- Will not work outside the US.
A lot of the grounds on which Kindle 1 has been attacked are addressed in Kindle 2 (price, PDF support, coverage, international support). The Kindle product line (let’s leave aside the Kindle DX for the moment) is getting better and better.
The number of non-owners attacking the Kindle 2 is higher because the Kindle 2 is seen as more of a threat.
- They no longer have strong reasons to attack the Kindle 2 – it’s no longer $399, it has international support, it has PDF support.
- That means we see more and more ideological attacks.
The Kindle DX situation – it’s a different product line
TeleRead pick up the NY Times Blog article and they also point out the lower satisfaction rating of the Kindle DX.
TeleRead picking up the article is why I’m writing about it at all. NY Times’ reputation means people believe what they write is well-researched.
Well, we’ve already seen the article isn’t well researched.
The second problem is – You can’t really compare Kindle and Kindle DX customer reviews and ratings.
They are separate product lines – it’s like comparing a shirt with a sweater.
The Kindle DX is a completely separate product line –
- It’s $489 which creates higher expectations.
- It’s aimed at a different set of users.
- It’s aimed at a different set of uses i.e. textbooks, newspapers, so forth.
We all know the Kindle DX isn’t selling as much as the Kindle 2 and that the NFB (blind associaton) closed down some of the University trials.
It’s true that, as of August 16th, 2009, a lower percentage of Kindle DX owners are happy –
- 74% of actual Kindle DX owners giving it 5 stars or 4 stars.
- 82% of actual Kindle 2 owners giving it 5 stars or 4 stars.
However, the difference isn’t as stark as Mr. Bilton makes it seem. Not only is he comparing two different product lines he’s only using figures that support his argument.
It’s misleading to write ‘only 45% of Kindle DX owners gave it 5 stars’ – You’re ignoring 4 star reviews. If we’re tallking about happy customers we should compare 4 and 5 star review totals.
Using Kindle Reviews to attack the Kindle is rather inelegant
Perhaps my biggest gripe with the article is that it’s terrible strategy.
If you use an amorphous, hard to put into words concept you are home safe –
- Use Adobe DRM and attack Kindle for not being open.
- Talk about how Amazon is creating unsustainable prices even though you won’t reveal actual balance sheets.
- Talk about how you can share books even though only some Publishers allow it and only one single time per ebook.
You could also attack actual flaws. An attack on either front (made-up weaknesses or actual weaknesses) is understandable.
However, Mr. Bilton’s attack is comical.
By attacking customer satisfaction and doing it via Kindle reviews Mr. Bilton has attacked Amazon on its advantages.
Kindle Reviews from owners are a major strength for Amazon.
Amazon has every Kindle Review and all the statistics out in the open –
- 82% of Kindle owners and 74% of Kindle DX owners are giving 4 or 5 stars.
- Amazon don’t even remove 1 star reviews from anti-DRM people.
- Contrast with the Nook that doesn’t even have customer reviews.
- Amazon users can vote on reviews so you can check the most helpful positive and negative reviews.
Mr. Bilton couldn’t have picked a worse set of statistics to attack.
Amazon’s Customer Service is a huge strength, perhaps it’s biggest strength
Lots of people are buying the Kindle based primarily on Amazon and its customer service –
- In both the US and UK, Amazon regularly gets voted #1 or #2 for customer service.
- Check out any forum and there are a lot of people very happy with customer service.
- Read the negative Kindle reviews and the ones from actual Kindle owners sometimes reflect the level of service people expect i.e. free replacements for broken kindles and so forth.
Most Amazon customers are going to laugh at the suggestion that Amazon sucks at customer service.
Closing Thought – Amazon’s enemies need to read Art of War or something
Consider some of the mis-steps –
- Nook announcing its features 6-7 weeks ahead of time.
- Nook and Sony Reader not knowing actual market demand (thanks to bad projections and Kindle secrecy ;) ) and not having enough stock this year.
- Newspapers attacking the Kindle on issues people either don’t understand or don’t care about.
- This article from NY Times attacking Amazon on two core strengths i.e. open reviews (oh my god – Amazon is open, it’s terrible) and focus on customer service.
Trust NY Times to attack Kindle and put up pie charts that show 82% of Kindle owners are giving it 4 stars or 5 stars – even using kindle reviews from non-owners they can’t mount a decent attack.
The utter incompetence of this ‘Kindle attack’ article overwhelms me.
The Press are the Kindle’s biggest enemy and a huge threat. It’s good for Amazon that anti-Kindle attacks tend to be based on ‘a quick perusal’ of kindle reviews and such rather than actual research.