Kindle’s last 2.25 years

Had the opportunity to construct a list of some of the most important things that have happened over the life of the Kindle.

Kindle Beginnings – November and December 2007

Debuts to almost universal skepticism. It sells out and the skepticism actually increases.

Lots of people take the time out to leave a 1 star review and talk about how the Kindle is doomed. Actual owners love it.

The Kindle Out of Stock Era – January, February, March, April 2008

In January the wait times to get a Kindle were 35 to 50 days.

  1. People begin to discover neat tricks like the Kindle 1′s GPS capabilities, Minesweeper, and various shortcuts – IgorS’s excellent Blog Posts on Reverse Engineering the Kindle.
  2. The Kindle is also ripped apart for the first time and we get to see what’s inside – Igor S’s Disassembly with step-by-step photos.
  3. In February we see lots of Kindle free books as Publishers begin to realize the options the Kindle presents them.
  4. We see companies begin to make Kindle cases as they realize there’s strong market demand.
  5. Amazon hits 100,382 books in the Kindle Store.

Around this time we begin to hear concerns about how books might die. On April 23rd the Kindle is finally back in stock.

Before Oprah – May, June, July, Aug, Sept 2008

Some interesting events -

  1. Mr. Bezos says Amazon is committed to the Kindle – right up to Kindle 10. Here are the exact words -

    “There will be a second version, a third version, a 10th version and so on,” he said, but “a second version is not that near.” It may take a decade to get the product where Amazon wants it, he said.

  2. Amazon cuts Kindle price from $399 to $359.
  3. In June people begin to start giving away Kindles in contests.
  4. Penguin sees an eBook spike and attributes it to eReaders like the Kindle.
  5. August sees lots of interest but no hard information on Kindle sales figures.
  6. On September 14th Target starts selling Sony Readers in its stores.
  7. Plastic Logic Demo their then unnamed eReader (now called the Que). Yes, that’s 1 year and 7 months ago.
  8. Verizon use the Kindle in one of their ads.

Oprah’s Kindle Endorsement – October, November, December 2008

The biggest event is Oprah’s endorsement of the Kindle -

  1. Oprah says it’s her favorite gadget.
  2. There’s also a $50 kindle coupon thrown in. 
  3. Oprah creates the most interest the Kindle has had since launch.
  4. On November 1st Kindle goes out of stock. Delays are initially 2 to 3 weeks.
  5. On Nov 24th Kindle delays reach 11-14 weeks hinting that Kindle 2 is set to arrive in February.

There were a few other notable events -

  1. Sony launches the new PRS-700 reader.  
  2. Liquavista start showing their color displays.  
  3. BGR leaks Kindle 2 screenshots. 
  4. NY Times internal document leaks and shows 10,000 Kindle subscriptions of the NY Times.
  5. Random House say their ebook sales increased over 100%.
  6. Google shows its hand and hints at Google Editions.
  7. Amazon starts selling refurbished Kindles.
  8. Details about Lab 126 start coming out – it’s the stealth Amazon subsidiary that made the Kindle.
  9. NCSU Libraries start lending out 18 Kindles and ignite a Kindle in Libraries trend.
  10. Sony announced in December that it had sold 300,000 Sony Readers.
  11. Reading apps on the iPhone begin to make some noise.

Also worth reading -

  1. Snippets about the Kindle from Mr. Bezos’ interviews in 2007.
  2. Kindle snippets from Mr. Bezos’ interviews in 2008.
  3. This post on Kindle’s 1st year of existence.

We were just over a year into the life of the Kindle and Oprah had helped make it a great Christmas.

Waiting for Godot – January 2009

The Kindle is still out of stock.

  • Rumors of an Apple 9″ device start circulating.
  • Verizon says it’s dying to help Kindle rivals.
  • Readers of the Blog correctly predict the reason for the Kindle being sold out (see first poll).
  • Publishers make first furtive attempts to fight $9.99 – simply by testing higher prices.
  • Kindle Store gets to 7,000 free books.

The Arrival of Kindle 2 – Feb, Mar 2009

This is the time of the Kindle 2 -

  1. February 9th the Kindle 2 is announced. It’s available for preorder and surprisingly doesn’t sell out.  
  2. Almost instantly there’s controversy as the Text to Speech feature gets attacked by Publishers. Amazon lets Publishers keep it on or turn it off. 
  3. The lack of Folders in Kindle 2 doesn’t go unnoticed and it becomes and still is the #1 Kindle pain point.  
  4. Kindle 2s arrive on February 24th and the reviews start pouring in - Kindle 2 is more 1.5 than 2 and it’s a hit.  

Lots of interesting things happening around this time -

  1. Kindle for iPhone is released on March 3rd, 2009 and grabs the #1 spot in a few days.
  2. Kindle 2 is hacked to allow USB Internet tethering. Most people don’t care and are just happy to read books.
  3. A few complaints on screen contrast start surfacing.
  4. People point out that the Kindle might be matching the iPod’s sales trajectory. It’s obviously met with skepticism by people who don’t read.   
  5. Hearst does a little eInk magazine cover release. Who knew it would evolve into Skiff.
  6. A lot of new eReaders start arriving (or being announced) – Onyx Boox, Bebook 2, iRiver Libre, Brother, Txtr, and so forth. This is the first wave.
  7. Google partners with Sony to offer Sony Reader owners 500,000 free books.
  8. Seattle PI becomes an online only newspaper.
  9. Discovery Communications sues Amazon because they have an eReader patent (although they never built anything).
  10. Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik try out the ‘first book in a series free’ strategy for the first time. It’s wildly successful (though we find out details much later).
  11. We find out about the Fujitsu FLEPia color eReader.

It’s good times for Amazon as the Kindle 2 does very well and pretty much validates the eReader space. Once again the critics find it hard to believe that more than a few dozen Kindles have sold – This really helps Amazon at the end of 2009.

Transitions and the Kindle DX – April, May, June 2009

This transition period is marked by the release of the Kindle DX -

  1. Kindle DX is announced on May 6th and preorders are allowed.
  2. By June 5th it’s selling out with 7 day delays.
  3. By the 25th there are 4 to 6 week delays.

It seems from Google Trends that the Kindle DX did well – though nothing like the Kindle 2.

There are lots of other significant events -

  1. Mr. Bezos says Kindle has exceeded Amazon’s most optimistic expectations.  
  2. Amazon buys Stanza which is arguably the best iPhone reading app.
  3. Kindle Publishing for Blogs arrives in early May.  
  4. Savory for Kindle is launched which lets you hack your Kindle to display PDF and ePub.
  5. Vook start off with their idea of video+text+social media. 
  6. Adobe starts pushing ePub heavily.
  7. PixelQi begin to make some noise.
  8. Rumors of B&N planning a Kindle rival.
  9. Polymer Vision’s Readius starts getting lots of buzz.
  10. Penguin says their ebook sales are up 7 times.
  11. June 6th is appointed National Kindle & Coffee Day.
  12. Google formally announces Google Editions.
  13. PVI buys eInk.
  14. A patent for the Kindle Electronic Pen is granted to Amazon.

The Rise of Sony and Nook - July, August, September, October 2009

This is a crucial time period as both Sony and Barnes & Noble bring very strong rivals to the market –  

  1. Amazon cuts the price of the Kindle 2 to $299 on July 9th.
  2. Sony 600 and 300 are leaked at the very end of July.
  3. Sony Reader Touch Edition and Sony Reader Pocket Edition launch on August 26th, 2009.
  4. Amazon cuts the price of Kindle 2 to $259 on October 7th, 2009.
  5. Amazon announces the International Kindle. It’s $279 and it’s global.
  6. Nook is revealed on 20th October, 2009. It’s a veritable list of Kindle owner pain points. Luckily for Kindle it misses Folders and a few other killer features like text to speech.
  7. The Press proceed to slaughter the Kindle and praise the Nook non-stop.
  8. Amazon launches Kindle for PC and cuts the International Kindle’s price to $259 (to match the Nook’s price).

September was an exceedingly slow month. October was as fast paced as Mr. Bolt. By the end of October it seemed that the Nook would steal the Holiday Season.

There are some other major things happening -

  1. The 1984 fiasco happens and Kindle haters get something to rally around till the end of time.  
  2. Rumors circulate that Apple is consorting with Publishers.
  3. In August Nicholson Baker writes the most beautiful take-down of the Kindle ever. It makes all the ‘no one reads any more’ attacks seem infantile by comparison.
  4. Lots of devices and rumors – Dell Reading Tablet, Apple iWhatever, iRex DR800, MSI, Bridgestone, and Cool-er.
  5. Lots of interesting things happening with regards to a certain book settlement.
  6. China Mobile ties up with Foxconn to make an eReader.
  7. Taiwan News report a February 2010 Apple iWhatever release date.

Do consider reading this compilation of Kindle predictions from 2007.

Kindle Secrecy unravels the Competition – November, December 2009

We are poised delicately – Sony has two dangerous Readers (although lack of wireless severely handicaps them) and the Nook is riding the adulation of the Press.

A few things happen that tilt the balance in Amazon’s favor -

  1. Nook preorders start getting delayed.  
  2. Sony’s wireless Reader Daily Edition is announced, gets sold out, and then orders get delayed.  
  3. By 20th November the Nook has sold out for Christmas and won’t be available until January 4th. There is little news on when and if the Daily Edition will ship.
  4. Kindle is the only eReader left standing for Christmas 2009.
  5. Kindle adds PDF support and screen rotation on November 24th.
  6. Nook preorders ship a week late and then all the reviews are terrible. The Press are dismayed to find their Kindle Killer is slow and full of bugs and crucify the Nook.
  7. Kindle has its best month ever in November and then again in December. Nook is rumoured to have sold 400,000 units by launch ( Could it really have sold more than the JesusTablet’s 350,000? ).

It’s hard to understate the importance of the secrecy around Kindle numbers. It meant that both B&N and Sony underestimated demand and left the Kindle as the only eReader.

In stark contrast was B&N’s strategy of publicising Nook’s features 5 weeks earlier than it needed to and thus giving Amazon ample time to catch up.

Also worth looking at -

  1. Spring Design sue B&N.  
  2. Vook starts taking big strides.
  3. Amazon patents advertising in books.
  4. Skiff Reader is announced and sounds more like an Advertisement Reader than a magazine reader.
  5. It becomes more and more apparent that Publishers just want to kill eReaders and eBooks.

The Reality Distortion Field and Publishers’ Last Stand – January, February, March, April 2010

What would otherwise have been months of endless new eReader releases instead become months of endless talk of the iPad’s magical and revolutionary reading capabilities. Publishers’ have their own story to write as they attempt to use the iPad to kill both eReaders and ebooks. 

  1. Amazon increases Publisher royalties to 70% ahead of the iPad announcement.
  2. Amazon also announces an App Store and starts a Beta (the Beta starts later in February).
  3. The iPad is announced on the 26th of January, 2010.  
  4. The Agency Model is announced shortly after.
  5. There’s an immediate stand-off between Macmillan and Amazon. In a few days Amazon steps back. 
  6. The Press proceed to worship at the feet of Steve Jobs. Soon it’s an all-out campaign to pretend that the iPad is perfectly suited to reading.
  7. 5 of the Big 6 Publishers reveal they are with the Agency Model Mafia (Random House politely decline).  
  8. On March 12th iPad preorders start and on April 3rd it’s released.
  9. The Press continue to promote the pretend-ereader and intensify their attacks on dedicated eReaders.
  10. On April 1st the Agency Model goes into effect. Harper Collins provides an exclamation point by mistakenly marking 28 books as free.
  11. iPad reviews from actual readers and real people start filtering in and the myth that the pretend-reader is better than dedicated readers begins to shatter.

2.25 years and not much has changed – People who don’t read and the Press (with their vested interests) insist on telling readers what’s good for them.

In the world of eReaders -

  1. Plastic Logic and Skiff get upstaged by Mirasol, PixelQi and Color eReader technology at CES 2010.  
  2. CES sees an endless stream of dedicated eReaders - see this post for details on every ereader shown at CES.  
  3. Rumors circulate claiming that the Kindle Store has 90% of ebook sales.
  4. Amazon expands the DTP platform worldwide.
  5. In February Amazon acquires a company with multi-touch patents.
  6. PVI keeps promising color while failing to deliver proper touch or flexibility.
  7. Qualcomm patents a super-cool, folding, triple-screen reading device.
  8. Numerous companies promise color ePaper in 2010.
  9. NY Times writes an article wondering about the virtues of eInk.
  10. We get a steady trickle of authors signing exclusive Kindle deals.
  11. Acer aborts its dedicated eReader plans. Asus doesn’t.
  12. Display Search claims a 417% increase in ePaper shipments and that 3.3 million Kindles sold in 2009. Making yours truly look like a genius.
  13. We hear that Apple has a 7″ Mini iPad (thankfully it’s not a bigger version) lined up for January 2011.

After 2.25 years the Kindle is again facing the wrath of They Who Do Not Read

They Who Do Not Read predicted a swift demise for the Kindle in 2007. Their bitterness at being so wrong is now revealing itself as they are pretending a device optimized for Andre the Giant’s YouTube surfing is going to be the death of dedicated eReaders.

Their confidence is so high that they are already hedging their bets with statements like this -

Even if the iPad doesn’t kill dedicated eReaders new tablets that are open will definitely kill them.

In another 2.25 years we’ll still have people incredulous that people actually love to read books and that booklovers continue to buy a device that does nothing other than read books.

2 Responses

  1. Good post. Never a dull moment. You didn’t mention the huge profits every quarter for Amazon since releasing the kindle. :-)

  2. Well, there’s a lot of interesting stuff there – revenue from the Kindle is deferred. Kindle profits are not separated out.

    Amazon could be making a ton of money from the Kindle and Kindle Book sales and it would be years and years before anyone would know.

    Perhaps just as brilliant as keeping sales figures secret.

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