There are a few easy ways to tell that the iPad isn’t really meant to be a Kindle Killer –
- 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.
- 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.
- The color back-lit screen doesn’t compare to reading on eInk – regardless of what LCD compatible humans think.
- 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 –
- Those who hate the Kindle and want Apple or another company to create a dedicated eReader that kills the Kindle.
- 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 –
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 –
- The irrational ones i.e. you don’t know what you’re talking about, LCDs are better for reading than eInk.
- 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.
- Assume you only care about reading and assume you want a device that is excellent for reading.
- It’ll help you understand why people are ‘wasting $300’ on eReaders.
- 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.
- It seems like such a big deal to Apple iPhone owners that they can do 20 different things.
- It’s a cognitive calamity for them to even try to imagine that multi-purposeness might be a negative.
- However, people who love to read don’t want to do other things.
- Reading is +1 to them.
- 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 –
- For some people being able to do 20 things is a negative.
- For some people YouTube is the curse of the devil and they want no part of it.
- Some people are under the misconception that reading makes them smarter and Games make them dumber.
- There are people who are not evolved enough to appreciate the wisdom of the crowds that is YouTube.
- 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 –
- 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 –
- 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.
- Color eInk is supposed to be out by end of the year – which might mean dedicated eReaders with color for the Holiday Season.
- 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 –
- Lots of loyal users – Kindle owners, Kindle for iPhone users and Kindle for PC users.
- Lot of them locked in with their Kindle purchases.
- There are also lots of loyal Amazon customers – some of whom would prefer a Kindle over another reading device.
- 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 –
- A first time hardware maker isn’t supposed to succeed.
- People aren’t supposed to read any more.
- Even if they do read they definitely aren’t supposed to buy dedicated reading devices.
- People aren’t supposed to think for themselves – How dare they make the Kindle a success when the Press told them it sucks.
- A closed system isn’t supposed to succeed.
- Books shouldn’t be paid or if they are there should be unicorns of openness circling around them.
- 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.