iPad as Kindle Killer is more storyline than reality

There are a few easy ways to tell that the iPad isn’t really meant to be a Kindle Killer -

  1. On the iPad features page iBooks is the 9th feature highlighted – surfing the web, email, photos, video, YouTube, iPod, iTunes and the App Store are all featured before iBooks.
  2. At $499 for the cheapest WiFi model and $629 for the cheapest 3G model the iPad is way more expensive than dedicated ereaders which are clustered around $259. 
  3. The color back-lit screen doesn’t compare to reading on eInk – regardless of what LCD compatible humans think.
  4. iBooks wasn’t even mentioned until Steve Jobs had trapezed through dozens of other features. It got a few minutes out of an hour long presentation.

Most ‘iPad is going to destroy the Kindle‘ posts cite the Kindle DX and its $489 price.

That’s the wrong comparison because people are going to decide between the $259 eReaders and the various models of the iPad – you don’t need a 9″ screen to read books.

iPad is not built to be an eReader

You get two categories of people who want a Kindle Killer -

  1. Those who hate the Kindle and want Apple or another company to create a dedicated eReader that kills the Kindle.
  2. Those who can’t comprehend ‘wasting’ $300 on a device that does nothing except read. They hope a multi-purpose device will kill the Kindle and save the poor lost souls wasting money on dedicated eReaders.

It should be apparent to both categories of people thirsty for Kindle blood that Apple did not target the Kindle or reading.

In fact Apple doesn’t seem to view eReaders and eBooks as a big deal -

  1. Apple doesn’t think reading is important enough to warrant a separate device or even any allowances i.e. No eInk Screen, no Pixel Qi magic display, no color ePaper. 
  2. Apple is assuming eReader Apps and color and books with video in them can overcome the fact that the hardware is not optimized for reading.
  3. Apple is assuming that people will prefer a device that can run movies and play games and read books over a device optimized for books.

The truth is, Apple is behaving exactly the way someone who doesn’t read books would -

Why are you so obssessed with eInk and battery life? Why do you care about a device being optimized for reading and readable in sunlight?

Look – here’s a shiny, bright iPad.

Look – you can play games on it and put video in your books and make them exciting.

Look – there’s color so books aren’t boring any more.

Apple wouldn’t even care about eBooks and eReaders if they didn’t see the opportunity to make money with (they expect) minimal effort.

Readers want a device built for them and optimized for reading

This might come as a surprise to some Apple lovers -

Readers are just as passionate about reading and devices built for them (devices built to be great for reading books) as Apple fans are about Apple products.

Reading is to eReaders as being cool (and showing high status and great usability and multiple functions) is to Apple devices.

The New York Times’ Bits Blog gets it right -

the Kindle (and other devices with E Ink screens) will continue to be the best device for lovers of long-form reading, period.

(And they do love it; check the Kindle forums for the passion of Kindle owners.)

The iPad’s backlit screen, higher price and more limited battery all make it a poorer choice for curling up with a novel.

Quite simply – the iPad is not excellent for reading.

This will be met with two arguments -

  1. The irrational ones i.e. you don’t know what you’re talking about, LCDs are better for reading than eInk. 
  2. The ‘we aren’t really readers’ argument i.e. why does it have to be excellent for reading when it does 10 other things.

There’s just one response to that – Look at things from the perspective of someone very passionate about books and reading.

  1. Assume you only care about reading and assume you want a device that is excellent for reading.
  2. It’ll help you understand why people are ‘wasting $300′ on eReaders.
  3. It’ll also help you understand why ‘being excellent for reading’ is more important than ‘being able to do 20 other things’.

Multiple Functionality is a negative when you’re focused on reading

A lot of people don’t understand that some people view reading as positive and non-reading (i.e. games and YouTube) as negative.

Things that are not reading related are to eReader owners as Microsoft Windows is to iPhone and Mac owners.

  1. It seems like such a big deal to Apple iPhone owners that they can do 20 different things.
  2. It’s a cognitive calamity for them to even try to imagine that multi-purposeness might be a negative.
  3. However, people who love to read don’t want to do other things.
  4. Reading is +1 to them.
  5. Things like YouTube and Games are a negative.

A device that only lets me reads books is a boon – because there are no ‘just wasted 2 hours of my life playing a stupid game’ moments.

Bits Blog mentions the distraction factor of multi-purpose devices. It’s HUGE.

Let me spell it out in simple English -

  1. For some people being able to do 20 things is a negative.
  2. For some people YouTube is the curse of the devil and they want no part of it.
  3. Some people are under the misconception that reading makes them smarter and Games make them dumber.
  4. There are people who are not evolved enough to appreciate the wisdom of the crowds that is YouTube.
  5. Worst of all – some people want to do productive things with their time. Like read books and read work documents.

Yeah, I know! It’s SO uncool – but these people exist.

They walk amongst us – people who don’t check their Facebook every 30 minutes and are not on Twitter and don’t watch music videos on YouTube and don’t know what ZOMG means.

They buy dedicated eReaders because they’d rather get a device optimized for what they really love – reading books.  

The Kindle is a moving target with a large installed base.

There’s this myth that Amazon spends its time waiting for someone to show up and kill the Kindle.

Well, the Nook was supposed to be a Kindle Killer and it actually built a device for reading.

Then they made the mistake of announcing their product in advance -

  1. The Kindle evolved and improved and by the time the Nook actually came out it wasn’t a Kindle killer any more.

Bits Blog mention that the Kindle will be evolving and adding newer eInk technology and newer features. It’s a very valid point -

  1. The 3G iPad doesn’t come out until April – that’s 2.5 months for Amazon to improve the Kindle – perhaps even come out with a Kindle 3.
  2. Color eInk is supposed to be out by end of the year – which might mean dedicated eReaders with color for the Holiday Season.
  3. The Kindle App Store should be out by then and adding some amount of value.

Amazon responded very strongly to the Nook and they’ll respond strongly to the iPad.

Kindle Owners aren’t going to quit without a fight

The Kindle has lots of people supporting it -

  1. Lots of loyal users – Kindle owners, Kindle for iPhone users and Kindle for PC users. 
  2. Lot of them locked in with their Kindle purchases.  
  3. There are also lots of loyal Amazon customers – some of whom would prefer a Kindle over another reading device.
  4. People who actively dislike Apple (who would have thought).

iPad as Kindle Killer is the Perfect Story – Except it’s not coming true

iPad sweeping in on its horse of multi-purposeness and killing the single function Kindle is the perfect fairy-tale. It really is.

The Kindle upsets a lot of people and a lot of beliefs -

  1. A first time hardware maker isn’t supposed to succeed. 
  2. People aren’t supposed to read any more.
  3. Even if they do read they definitely aren’t supposed to buy dedicated reading devices.
  4. People aren’t supposed to think for themselves – How dare they make the Kindle a success when the Press told them it sucks.
  5. A closed system isn’t supposed to succeed.
  6. Books shouldn’t be paid or if they are there should be unicorns of openness circling around them.
  7. Devices that only do one thing shouldn’t be able to survive.

There’s an endless list of reasons why the Kindle’s very existence is a huge thorn in the sides of a lot of people.

The Kindle needs to be eliminated, and  

  • The iPad comes in as a savior.
  • Even without trying it kills the Kindle. 
  • It lets you do 50 different things and proves that single-purpose devices are a folly.
  • The story is so Perfect.

Except – it isn’t going to come true.

  • Why? Because its people who read who decide where they get their ebooks and what device they read it on.

These ‘people who love books’ are awfully insensitive -

they’re disregarding the feelings of Publishers and Tech Gurus and other people who don’t care two hoots about books (or, for that matter, about people who love books).

People who love books are favoring companies like Amazon and B&N that love books too.

They’re not going to jump ship to the iPad because the iPad couldn’t care less about readers or books.

The iPad Page lists books as the 9th most important feature of the device.

It’s basically saying readers are the 9th most important customers -

*Less important than people addicted to YouTube.
*Less important than social networking addicts.
*Less important than kids who have 10 hours a day to waste on games.
*And worst of all, less important than people who hate books and want to see the death of reading.

14 Responses

  1. The thing that caught my eye in the iPad announcement was that they were talking about 10 hours of battery life. That isn’t enough for me. I’ve been on quite a few 10+ hour plane flight where a recharge isn’t available, and reading is my way of getting through.

    Never mind the e-ink is a lot easier on the eyes.

    I’ll stick with my Kindle.

  2. Kindle is still looking a good for eReading. iPad = iDisappoint

    However, the iBook store does give Apple scope to release an iReader at some later point. Moreover, given the fact that iBook store supports ePub—the MP3 format of eBooks—perhaps the iReader will directly targets the Kindle reign.

    Either way I am looking forward to seeing what Amazon come up with next.

    I do believe that if Amazon do not move forward with touchscreen, color and perhaps a lower price, then Apple are more likely to move more quickly with their own iReader.

    So, the story of the mythical Kindle Killer is not yet over!

  3. I think you dismiss too easily. I think this will bit into a lot of DX sales. And I think that many who want a kindle will wait for a while because they want to really see it work. I know it isn’t an eink screen, and I am not getting rid of my kindle (or getting an ipad) but don’t dismiss it so easily. The current ipod touch is cheaper than the kindle, and there are a number of people that have bought it (and use it) as an ereader. Yes it isn’t as good, but if you have limited funds and you want something that will do multiple things, you might be ok with something that does multiple things less well than a more expensive thing that does a few things very well.

    • The post only discusses the Kindle. Just to clarify.
      Unless Amazon (and other large screen eReader makers) drastically improves the Kindle DX 50% or more of sales might be lost.

  4. I understand your point about “loving to read” first and agree, but there are a few improvements like color and remote page turner and email that may be nice to have. When improvements come along will Amazon expect us to buy new units at another $259 or do you think we may get some improvements wirelessly and automatically?

  5. After the long wait, and your intelligent analysis, it is now clear that the choice should have been easy for me. My favorite downtime activity is reading novels. I spend a couple hours per day at it. I do not consider gaming interesting at all, still prefer to listen to music on a system using speakers that blare throughout the house, watch movies on a big screen, surf the web only if I don’t have time to read something better, and look at email only when at a desk. Newspapers would seem to be a better experience on the iPad, but keeping up to date on current events is not my “passion.” Kindle it is. And since I’m getting to be a codger and need a big font, even the pricey DX is the clear winner, for being the best thing to maximize the pleasure in doing what I like.

  6. It’s about the reading experience. I need something I can spend hours on, reading books. That’s my priority, and right now, it the Kindle looks like the best bet for me. Thanks for this post .

  7. uPad is not meant to be an eBook reader. But it is too an eBook reader added value. If aré reading and suddently want to surf the web, see a movie, look for maps among others, theres the iPad… What about Kindle? An excelent ebook reader, nothing else. Dont be afraid if you are a readerholic, iPad is just a new gadget, and kindle is an ebook reader meant to be a reader not an iPod not a movie player, not mp3 player not an internet browser… you name it

  8. Perhaps I’m insane, but I could see getting an iPad. Not to replace my Kindle, but to replace my laptop. The biggest reason I would do that is coming soon from Microsoft; Office 2010 Cloud Edition. Assuming that it’s functional on an iPad, I might go back to a desktop computer (much cheaper and more flexible than a laptop), and an iPad for whem I’m away from my desk. I already use an HP Tablet, so I should adapt to an iPad.

    And I’d still use my Kindle for most of my reading. Heck, I might not want to upgrade my phone to an Android based phone, I could easily survive with just a dumb cell phone, not the Windows phone I use now.

    That’s an interesting argument I can use with my wife; I can go down to a basic voice/text plan with an iPad.

    (Yes, I’m making several assumptions about functionality.)

  9. Interesting article on Kindle sales, which Amazon has been very tight-lipped about..

    http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2010/01/06/doing-the-kindle-math-does-amazons-opacity-conceal-a-shameful-truth/

    The author of this blog–and many others–keep insisting it’s sold well…but has it? Amazon hasn’t published any numbers, and they’re the exclusive provider of the device. I know a lot of techie people, and I only know 2 or 3 with a Kindle. I know about the same number with a Sony Reader. I never see these things in public, in meeting rooms, in libraries (among students doing research), or in classrooms.

    Part of my job is evaluating academic uses for technology, and there’s lots of interest in iPod Touches and iPhones. There was even some interest in the Pulse smart pen.. but eBook readers have not been on the radar. There’s just no demand to do anything with it.

    I might sound like a big detractor of eInk eBook devices, but I’m actually a big advocate. Not necessarily for the packaged eBook part, but I want to see them able to more readily display web pages and other things. I read a LOT of stuff everyday on a computer screen, but very little of it is in eBook form. I’d love to shunt a bunch of it to an eInk screen, for my eyes’ sakes.

  10. I know well over a dozen people that have kindles. 1 with a sony. None of them think that lcd is better, or even comparable with eink. Maybe my group is self selecting, but I don’t think Scott is right at all. For instance we know numbers of people with netbooks, but other than myself I know no one that owns one. Publishers that report ebook sales are reporting lots of sales. So there are a lot more sales than the detractors admit.

  11. ok. we got it  — Kindle is for elite, superior people who doesn’t spend their life on YouTube, Twitter, blogs and other time-consuming activities and read books and work documents. Period.

    it’s about 2-3 millions of them, taking into account last year sales. What’s about the rest? People who want to read glossy magazines, surf a number of stupid blogs, write meaningless posts on Facebook? 10-30 millions? More? Ok, iPad will target this small community.

    • Not elite or superior – just people who want to do productive things rather than pass the time.
      Nothing wrong with passing the time.

      It’s just that people who want to be entertained by YouTube and games shouldn’t be trying to claim that their device is also the best ereader.

  12. I have a Kindle and love it for reading novels. The eInk is the one thing that separates the Kindle and other eReaders from something like the iPad or even reading books on an iPod touch, iPhone or even laptop. So I could never imagine trying to read for long periods of time on a device without eInk. However, as far as research or for reading textbooks, I don’t think the Kindle is a very good device. I like to do research but the functionality of a Kindle does not make that very easy. (Check this article out on Kindles being used at Princeton – http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/09/28/23918/ )Taking notes, making annotations and “flipping” quickly through the pages of a text to find something in particular is very difficult and painstaking on the Kindle. The iPad’s interface and speed makes this much easier to do and seems like it would be a great tool for university students as a replacement for textbooks. Imagine reading a textbook or scholarly monograph and being able to connect to the internet on your iPad to look up an article mentioned in a footnote to see what it says. Now, if Kindle or another company could combine the functionality of an iPad with eInk technology, I think we would have a great reading device that would be useful for those people (like me) who enjoy reading for pleasure and for research.

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