Kindle 3 – What will Kindle 3′s impact be?

The stars are aligning for the Kindle 3 to take over the eReader market. Here are some of the things that Kindle 3 might mean and some speculation.

10 Best Things about the Kindle 3

This list is probably different for everyone -

  1. The new eInk Pearl screen – We know the screen has 50% better contrast and that the graphite casing helps bring out the contrast more. Amazon has also written that software tweaks and tuning (perhaps software based, perhaps hardware based) make the contrast even better.
  2. The Price of $189 and the Kindle WiFi’s $139 – This has done a lot of things. It’s scared smaller eReaders out of the market. It’s changed Kindle vs iPad into Kindle AND iPad. It’s gotten casual readers interested. It’s almost ensured the death of every rival not named Nook or Sony Reader. The $139 Kindle WiFi has kicked iPad out of the eReader conversation.
  3. It marks the next step in the evolution of eReaders – Kindle 3 has managed to do something we didn’t think would happen until color arrived. It has heralded the third generation of eReaders. You make enough improvements, including some significant ones, and you get even eReader owners excited and eager for the new arrival.
  4. eReaders are no longer dead – Well, we know they weren’t dead. However, now everyone knows they aren’t dead. Here, again, we have the $139 Kindle WiFi to thank. Everyone’s talking about eReaders and eBooks again.
  5. It gets NFB to stop roadblocking eReaders in Education – It doesn’t matter if it’s Nook with Nook Study or Kindle or another eReader that breaks through in schools and colleges. As long as it happens. Accessibility might help a million blind readers – However, by getting the National Federation of the Blind to stop their legal attacks it’ll get tens of millions of schoolchildren to discover a love of reading. A nice side benefit would be to break the textbook racket – However, that’s unlikely for a few more years.
  6. It turns casual readers into hard-core readers - Lots and lots of people want to read and they miss out because it’s 5 seconds to turn on the TV and 15 minutes to walk to the bookstore. With the Kindle a LOT of people are going to be able to read as much as they want to. We even have lots of iWhatever owners admitting that they aren’t reading as much as they thought (sometimes not at all) and deciding to get Kindles now that they are better and cheaper.
  7. It kills Publishers’ attempts to divide and conquer - Publishers were desperately hoping to trip up Amazon with the Agency Model and stall eBooks and eReaders. First, the Agency Model failed to stall Kindle growth. Next, Amazon announced its bombshell (ebooks beating hardcovers at Amazon.com) and Andrew Wylie announced his bombshell. Now, the Kindle 3 is selling very well to readers and casual readers and threatening to make Mr. Bezos’ ‘ebooks will sell more than paperbacks by 2011′ prophecy true.
  8. Kindle truly goes international - With support for CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts Amazon gets brand new markets to expand into. A LOT of companies (perhaps including Amazon) make 40% or more of their profits from outside the US so this is pretty important (China, Russia, and Japan are huge markets).
  9. It further reinforces ‘Kindle = eReader’ - Kindle was already the first thing everyone thought of when they heard eReader. That just got strengthened and it’s really important because now every time Apple mentions reading or readers walk past a Nook display or Sony gets Peyton Manning to waste his offseason time people automatically think - Oh, it’s like Kindle.
  10. It creates a lot of awareness of eReaders – There are obviously lots of people who heard about the Kindle 3 or Kindle WiFi. They might not have bought a Kindle – However, they now know what it is. Perhaps it’s the Nook 2 that will get them to jump, perhaps Kindle 4. However, they now know what an eReader is and know about the eReader value proposition.

There are a lot of Kindle 3 features that are impressive (1 month battery life comes to mind) – Yet the lasting impact of Kindle 3 might simply be to separate eReaders into their own category and kick out the pretend-Readers. That and making Amazon strong enough and dominant enough to withstand attacks from Publishers and other elements – ones that are worse than Publishers because they don’t really care about readers or reading.

7 Things We Don’t Know about the Kindle 3

It wouldn’t be Amazon if things were crystal clear -

  1. We don’t know whether Kindle 3 will end the eReader Wars. It threatens to – However, we have no idea what Nook 2 and Sony’s new eReaders will be like. Predictions are particularly difficult because we have no idea what Kindle’s eReader market share looks like.
  2. We have no idea what millions means in either of these statements – Amazon has sold millions of Kindles. Amazon expects to sell millions of Kindle 3s.
  3. We don’t know what the Kindle App Store is going to be like, when it’ll come out, and what impact it’ll have. It could do nothing or it could do what app stores did for iPhone and Facebook.
  4. No one knows whether all the improvements and the new eInk screen will come together well or not. You could put together 5 great features and get a device that is terrible. Will all the improvements in Kindle 3 combine to form a great experience?  45 minutes in, it felt they did. However, you need weeks to know for sure.
  5. What will the Kindle WiFi mean - Will people expect 3G type always-on access? Will they expect something that does more than reading?
  6. Nook 2 is a complete mystery. We know it’s going to be similar to Nook 1 in shape and design and that’s about it. Arrival date, features, and screen type are all a mystery.
  7. Sony’s new generation of eReaders are also a mystery. Sony has been selling its current crop of eReaders at deep discounts for months and we might see the new models arrive any day.

Not only is the Kindle 3 full of unknowns we have absolutely no idea what it’ll be going up against.

Is Kindle 3 good or bad for readers?

There are three broad schools of thought here -

  1. Kindle 3 brings down eReader prices and increases the growth of eBooks and it keeps eReaders and eBooks alive and kicking. It guarantees the democratization of Publishing.  
  2. Kindle 3 ensures Amazon dominates. We are replacing Publishers and Stores who took 85% with a platform that takes 30%.
  3. Kindle 3 is terrible since its not open and it will kill any chance eBooks have.  

The third isn’t rooted in reality so don’t know how to answer that. Kindle, Sony, and Nook have brought us here – Of the three the Kindle has played the biggest part. Claims that ebooks and ereaders wouldn’t work without ePub and openness have been around since 2008/2009. The third school of thought is self-serving and propagated by companies using Open as a strategy and a cover for their inadequacies. 

There is a lot of truth to the first two. Kindle 3 helps continue the eReader/eBook revolution. Kindle 3 also gives Amazon immense power. It’s still a huge improvement – Authors get 55% (if they choose an Agency or a new Publisher) to 70% (if they self-publish), readers get to decide what they want to read, everyone who wants to share their story gets to share.

The third part (sharing stories) might be the most important.

Kindle 3 ensures everyone gets to share their story

A lot of people in the Publishing world and in the eReader world are beginning to start thinking that the real customers are Authors. What would you consider the stronger drive – the drive to read books or the drive to share your story through a book?

For a very long time we had Publishers decide who gets to share their story and what stories we get to hear. It was based far more on what would sell and what was marketable than on which were the most beautiful stories.

Now, all of us get to decide. We have no idea whether Publishers were keeping the bad ones out or not letting the good ones in. Now, we get to read the stories and find out for ourselves.

How do we measure Kindle 3′s impact?

Well, here are my suggested criteria (assuming we don’t see Kindle 4 until mid to end 2011) -

  1. The percentage of the book market ebooks comprise by mid 2011. If the Kindle 3 has impact then surely the most reliable indicator is the growth of ebooks.
  2. The number of Kindle 3′s sold by mid 2011. We might only be able to ascertain this indirectly - However, it’ll be pretty clear whether we are looking at millions or 5 million or 10 million. Amazon might even let us know if we hit 10 million.  
  3. How dominant Amazon becomes in ebooks and eReaders. If the Kindle 3 has impact it should not only affect total eBook and eReader sales it should also help Amazon grab a dominant and defensible position in both eReaders and ebooks.  
  4. How much evolution in eReader technology Kindle 3 triggers – Do we get competitors with Mirasol by end 2010? Do Pixel Qi Tablets recreate Kindle vs iPad? How fast and how quickly do eReaders evolve?
  5. The rate of decline of Publishers and bookstores. If the Kindle 3 does very well it is bound to start killing off Publishers and Stores built on selling physical books. If we see Borders go bankrupt and a few Publishers struggle mightily by mid 2011 then we know Kindle 3 has had major impact.
  6. The number of new readers. How many non-readers become casual readers? How many casual readers become hardcore readers?
  7. The number of children below 12 that become interested in reading due to Kindle 3 and other eReaders. Perhaps it’s a bit much to expect the third generation of eReaders to undo the damage that three generations of TV watching has done – However, if Kindle 3 can have impact here it would lay claim to the title of the most important eReader made. 

It’s the nature of things that the rise of eReaders and eBooks will be marked by death and destruction. It’s unfortunate that bookstores will be affected.

Although the Kindle 3 may, all by itself, bring down Publishers the amusing thing is that it doesn’t have to. It’s set a high bar and sooner or later competitors will meet and exceed the bar. Publishers are now only evading the inevitable – Kindle 3 is the inflection point for the death of Publishers.

The real question is – Will this be the main impact the Kindle 3 has or will Kindle 3 impact reading and books in other, more significant ways?

4 Responses

  1. You mention the impact on students in education. I teach 6th grade in Utah and last year I had two students who had Kindles. One day as we working on an art project, I logged on to my Audible and turned on the Red Pyramid by Rick Riordian and an amazing thing happened. Both students opened their Kindles and immediately downloaded the book so they could follow along with the audio. We have to remember that our students are different learners today than 20 years ago.
    I recently bought a kindle because I fought all long the need to have a physical book in my hands. I love finishing a book at 11pm while traveling and the immediate ability to download the next book in the series to continue reading into the night.

  2. It’s true that we don’t know much about Nook 2 but Amazon running out of all versions of K3s at the same time could indicate a supply problem with some critical part. The pearl screen is a likely candidate.

    It’s hard to believe that Amazon, with all Jeff’s metrics, could get their sales forecast so wrong and if they did, then we would expect staggered attrition as each model is sold-out independently.

    If PVI is having trouble meeting demand then this might mean that another big player (apart from Amazon) is in the mix.

    Could K3s selling-out be an indicator that Nook 2 uses Pearl eInk screens? A bit of a stretch but fun to try joining the dots.

    • Paul, good analysis. It’s very likely that Nook 2 is getting the new eInk Pearl screen too. The design they submitted isn’t different from Nook 1 much and that leaves the screen as the logical difference.

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