Are Kindle 3 sales affected by negative reviews?

Given the never-ending attacks on the Kindle over the last 2.5 years and their total failure at slowing down the Kindle’s growth it makes you wonder – How can an enemy ensure the Kindle 3 doesn’t do well? How can someone attack the Kindle 3 and hurt its sales? 

The first reaction would be – Just write a negative Kindle review and attack it vehemently. However, it isn’t quite as easy.

The problem with writing a Negative Kindle Review

A strong negative Kindle review creates quite a few problems –

  1. A negative Kindle review can’t be too negative or too much of an attack or it’ll cause the opposite effect. Readers will feel you’re being unduly harsh and they’ll feel sympathy for the Kindle. 
  2. An outright attack will also undermine your own credibility and further reduce the chances you can hurt the product.
  3. The product can’t be very good at what it does. If it is then anything you write will only serve to draw attention to it. The whole cliché about all publicity being good publicity. This is obviously a problem with Kindle 3 since early signs suggest it’s going to be rather good for reading.
  4. You have to be very well qualified (with respect to eReaders and reading) to write about the Kindle. If you’re not your lack of expertise will kill the review’s impact. 
  5. People don’t like negative emotions as much as they do positive emotions. Well, most people. If you’re overly negative they’ll shy away from your posts.

This leaves us in a very spotty position. Let’s imagine we’re part of the anti-eReader press – How exactly are we to attack the Kindle if writing half-baked, vicious, negative reviews ends up helping Kindle sales?

Well, there are some possibilities.

Smart attacks on the Kindle the Press hardly ever uses (perhaps because they would be effective?)

There are a few things that would work (which is probably why the Press hardly ever use them) –

  1. Indifference. The most powerful strategy the Press could use is avoid mentioning the Kindle. If it stops doing Kindle reviews lots of people will stop wondering why Kindle evokes such strong reactions.  
  2. Damn Kindle 3 with faint praise. The Press seems to think that vicious attacks convince people to not buy a product. It’s far likelier that it is unenthusiastic recommendations that kill a product. Which one of these makes you curious – This is the most useless product ever, no one in their right mind will buy this Vs It’s sort of good and it’s quite nice and it’s sweet. The amplitude of emotion is far more important than the direction when it comes to creating curiosity about a product.
  3. Don’t attack it. An attack instantly creates a desire to find out more. We’ve also talked about the sympathy factor. Finally, you have a lot of people on the Internet who love to argue and disagree – an attack instantly motivates them to prove the reviewer wrong.
  4. Praise it and then praise a competitor more strongly. Consider the difference – Kindle is worthless when you compare it against the iPad Vs the kindle is very good for reading and the iPad is good for reading and for watching movies and for increasing your IQ and it makes you erudite.   
  5. Sow seeds of doubt. To be fair this is actually a strategy the Press has used often and to reasonably good effect. Sow doubt about book ownership, and deleting of books, and Amazon going under and taking all your books with it.
  6. Bring in a subject expert to seem unbiased. The way NY Times brought in some sort of specialist to claim eInk is no better than LCD is beautiful. It makes you cherish NY Times’ excellence at serving its advertisers. It’s amazing that this has been tried just once.
  7. Magnify an aspect that a Kindle rival beats the Kindle 3 at. It’s hilarious that the Press keeps harping about how the Kindle is great only for reading – It’s selling Kindle 3 to its target audience. People who read books generally want a device that’s great at reading and even appreciate that it sucks at everything else. On the other hand, the Kindle 3 has a marvellous weakness in the form of its lack of support for Library books. For every 20 articles talking about ‘only good for reading’ or something readers don’t even understand like ‘ePub’ there is perhaps one solitary article about library books.

The Press has all these options and yet the best it can do is write things like this –

Yes, we must agree the eInk is absolutely marvellous. However, all you can do on the device is read. It’s like Usain Bolt in a decathlon.

Well, most people who read books want the Usain Bolt of reading. They really don’t care that Bryan Clay can do 9 other things better.

Are the attacks on the Kindle a major driver of sales?

It’s not out of the question. Consider the most popular attacks –

  1. iPad/iPhone/Generic Multi-Purpose device will kill the Kindle because it’s great at reading and terrible at everything else. These undoubtedly get people who’re really into reading very interested in the Kindle.  
  2. Chinese CloneReader R2D2_Random is going to kill the Kindle even though it isn’t available and is going to be cancelled in 3 months.  
  3. Kindle is evil because it doesn’t use ePub. These articles usually decline to explain what ePub is and why a normal reader should care.
  4. Why isn’t Amazon revealing sales figures? Amazon is hiding sales figures because Kindle hasn’t sold well. 
  5. Android Tablets that won’t be available for 6 months will kill Kindle.

The two main topics the Press is obsessed with are the arrival of a messiah device that will kill the Kindle and multi-purpose devices that do more than just read. Articles focused on the latter only highlight Kindle’s suitability as a reading device. Articles focused on the former are doing nothing except highlighting the Kindle – What’s the point of comparing the Kindle against something that isn’t available and may never be available?

Talk is Cheap

That’s what it boils down to.

Lots of people attack eReaders and the Kindle and if they get the chance they’ll attack the Kindle 3 and Nook 2 too. However, they aren’t really doing anything meaningful.

They aren’t releasing a product for readers. They aren’t releasing a device that’s multi-purpose and also better for reading than LCD screen devices. They aren’t investigating the Kindle’s target audience (people who read books) and figuring out what their needs and desires are. In most cases they aren’t even taking the simple step of actually trying out a Kindle.

So we have these modern-day alchemists trying to think the Kindle to death. Releasing a better eReader or satisfying readers’ needs better is too much effort. They just want to talk people who love to read into thinking reading isn’t worth a dedicated device.

Perhaps that’s the strongest thing Kindle 3 and Nook 2 have going for them. Their biggest enemies (the Press, Apple, etc.) are trying to win through wishful-thinking and a perception war. It’s absolutely amazing – the Press has deluded itself to the point that it thinks it can hypnotize people into believing that reading is worthless. It’s especially remarkable that the Press believes this given that it can’t get anyone to pay for either of its main products (news content, its customers).

4 thoughts on “Are Kindle 3 sales affected by negative reviews?”

  1. I love my Kindle 2. Got it for Christmas from son and his wife, have read 111 books since then, and can’t wait to read more. people love to look at it – then say they don’t have time to read. My response is usually, why not?

    I also like this site, so glad I found and signed up. Keep it coming.

  2. My problem with this (though I agree with the basic premise), is that I can’t really FIND many real reviews. It’s difficult to search for them because the search terms are nebulous: ‘Kindle 3’, ‘newest Kindle’, ‘kindle 3rd generation’, etc. Most of these turn up regurgitated specs and no real, hands-on experience (unlike this site, thanks, Switch!)

    I’m a tech junkie. I like to read about the products I’m interested in and especially, the products I’ve ordered. But with the exception of the review on this site, the British video review (excellent) and the Bezos-Charlie Rose interview (along with the Amazon video), real, pertinent info is genuinely lacking. Not that it matters much; I should have one of the first units shipped…

    Still, has Amazon NOT given out units for detailed reviews, or have they forced reviewers to sign NDA’s to NOT disclose reviews until AFTER the product ships?



  3. Agreed with TR above. What a strange strawman-punching paranoid post. The coverage on Kindle 3 in the media has nearly unanimously been positive.

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