Top 10 Kindle differentiators

The Kindle 3 has two big differentiators according to Barclays Capital analyst Douglas Anmuth – WhisperSync, Apps. He feels these, along with the low price of the Kindle WiFi and retail availability, will help Amazon sell 5 million Kindles this year.

The question that’s been stuck in my head is – What are the top 10 Kindle differentiators?

Well, let’s take a look.

Top 10 Kindle Differentiators

Kindle Apps – Not at the Moment

At the moment it’s not a differentiator. Nook has Chess and Sudoku and Kindle has word puzzles and Scrabble and Minesweeper and Gomoku. There’s no differentiation. Perhaps as more apps come out we’ll see a true differentiator but at the moment there’s none.

At ZDNet someone’s asking whether Scrabble changes everything and quite frankly it doesn’t. Once we have 100 apps with at least 20 killer apps then Kindle Apps will be a differentiator. Perhaps even one of the top two. For now, it’s just an experiment.

WhisperSync – Perhaps

Being able to synchronize your place in a book is great as is the ability to sync notes, highlights, and more. However, Nook has this feature and other eReader makers and eBook stores are adding it in.

Kindle has the most complete implementation and some unique things like Popular Highlights but don’t see WhisperSync remaining a true differentiator for long.

WhisperNet – Ever since Kindle 1

Amazon has three big pluses here – 60 second downloads, free 3G internet, international 3G.

The 60 second downloads were a big reason Amazon Kindle beat Sony Reader. Nook and Sony (with Daily Edition) have matched the first but not the second and third. This will continue to be a huge differentiator for Amazon.

WhisperNet might very well be the most important differentiator at this point.

Ease of Use – Yes, and continues to be

Kindle is still the easiest to use eReader. Nook’s two screens and sluggish touch screen cause issues and Sony makes a mess of its touchscreen interface.

Kindle also doesn’t require a computer. Nook doesn’t either but Sony does.

Not sure how big of a differentiator Kindle’s extreme ease of use is but it’s certainly present.

Range of books, magazines, and newspapers

Kindle Store has more new books, more magazines, and more newspapers available than B&N, Sony, and Apple. This is a pretty big differentiator and Amazon continues to maintain a healthy lead over its competitors.

By expanding worldwide it’s added to this differentiation.

International Support

There are three aspects here -

  1. Amazon offers books in lots of countries – 150+ at the latest count.  
  2. Amazon ships the Kindle to lots of countries – 150+ at the latest count.
  3. Amazon offers 60 second downloads and WhisperNet in lots of countries – 100+ at the latest count.

Nook is US only. Sony is expanding out to various countries but it isn’t close to matching Kindle’s availability. Apple’s book availability outside the US is even worse than its limited book range in the US.

This is a pretty big differentiator for Amazon.

Exclusives – Not so far, but threatens to become a differentiator

It’s unfortunate that people are signing up exclusive deals with Amazon but they are. At some point all the exclusives might add up to be a differentiator. Thankfully, it’s not a big deal so far.

Accessibility

Yes when it comes to other eReaders which don’t support accessibility. No when it comes to Tablets which do support accessibility.

It’s interesting that neither B&N nor Sony has tried to match Kindle’s text to speech feature.

eReader = Kindle Association

There are lots of ways in which we see the Kindle’s association with the terms ‘eReader’ and ‘eBook’ manifest as a differentiator -

  1. People think first of Kindle when they think eReader. 
  2. Every new eReader and every new device targeting reading gets compared to the Kindle. 
  3. It’s close to becoming a verb – Is that a good book? I’ll read it on my Kindle. 

It won’t be long before people will be Kindling books.

eBook Prices – Huge Differentiator earlier but now is threatened

Kindle Store’s low book prices were a huge differentiator. The advent of the Agency Model has reduced that as has B&N’s attempts to match Kindle Store on prices.

Kindle Store still has the lowest prices on books that fall outside the Agency Model – However, it’s a much less significant differentiator now.

Kindle Lighted Cover

You have to use the Kindle Lighted Cover to see how well it does. It instantly makes reading Kindle at night far more convenient and it’s just a cool, cool cover+light. Sony Reader and Nook need an equivalent or Kindle will become the default reading choice for night.

Also, Kindle + Kindle Lighted Cover is a better choice than a back-lit LCD screen in my opinion.

Value for Money

The $139 Kindle WiFi is better value for money than any other reading device. You could even throw in the ‘does more than just read’ argument and you still wouldn’t be able to get more value for money.

Sony has given up on this front – it’s claiming it’s focused on quality. Nook WiFi is a generation behind.

At the moment Kindle WiFi has the low price, high value eReader market to itself.

Kindle 3 is also pretty good value for money, especially with the free 3G Internet, and leaves the Sony 650 far behind in terms of value per dollar spent.

Top Differentiators for Kindle’s rivals

It’s worth taking a quick look at ways in which Nook, Sony Reader, and Apple iPad differentiate themselves. These lists are pretty rough.

Nook’s Top Differentiators

Nook sets itself apart in several ways -

  1. ePub support and support for Library Books.
  2. The color LCD touchscreen. It isn’t implemented very well but does provide some benefits.  
  3. In-store promotions at B&N stores plus being able to read any book for up to 1 hour per day.
  4. LendMe feature. This isn’t fully done but it’s very promising.
  5. The promise of Android.
  6. Its own retail stores and a lot of them.

These are the ones that come to mind.

Sony Reader’s Top Differentiators

The new Sony Readers do make a decent effort -

  1. ePub support and support for Library Books.
  2. Size and Weight of the Sony Reader 350 is a big differentiator.
  3. Touch Screen. This is very impressive.
  4. Perhaps looks and design. It’s definitely better looking than Kindle and Nook.
  5. Freehand drawing and ability to scribble notes.

The Sony Readers miss out by not having wireless. They also miss out because Sony is not thinking outside the Sony builds Devices box.

iPad’s Top Differentiators

The iPad has quite a few differentiators -

  1. Does more than just read. This holds a lot of value for some people.  
  2. You can get books from all stores on it. Kindle Store, B&N, and more.
  3. You can get ePub on it.
  4. The back-lit screen eliminates the need for a reading light.  
  5. Color Screen. Useful for textbooks and illustrated books.
  6. Touch.
  7. Lots of apps for different purposes – Comic Reader App, PDF App, News Apps, and so forth.
  8. You can use it to signal status and to show you have lots of disposable income.

There are probably other differentiators too. These are the ones that seem relevant to people interested in a reading device.

It’s surprising that Kindle has so many more Differentiators than Sony Reader and Nook

With the Kindle 2, Nook, and Sony Reader we had three devices that were pretty close. With Kindle 3 and the continuous improvements to the Kindle Store and to Kindle WhisperNet Amazon has distanced itself from the rest of the Big 3 eReaders.

If the Kindle App Store adds 10 to 20 killer apps by end of the year Kindle 3 might cement its position as the #1 eReader for a while. B&N is a little distracted as it fights off Ron Burkle’s unwanted advances – However, it needs a solid Nook 2 and a solid Android based App Store or it will cede this holiday season to the Kindle 3.

7 Responses

  1. “Range of books, magazines, and newspapers – Kindle Store has more new books, more magazines, and more newspapers available than B&N, Sony, and Apple.”

    Apple, or the iPad to be specific, has a Kindle app so it’s range of books, magazines, and newspapers is greater than the Kindle (because it has the Amazon store and the Apple Bookstore).

    “International Support – Apple’s book availability outside the US is even worse than its limited book range in the US.”

    Again, anything available on the Kindle is also available on the iPad because it has a Kindle app.

    “eReader = Kindle Association – It’s close to becoming a verb – Is that a good book? I’ll read it on my Kindle.”
    When I hear eReader, I don’t immediately think of Kindle, even though I own it. This is subjective. Also, you did not use “Kindle” in the form of a verb in your example; it’s still a noun.

    “Kindle Lighted Cover – …or Kindle will become the default reading choice for night.”
    Bold statement. I highly doubt it will become the default reading choice merely because of a lighted cover. The cover is $59.99, I’m not spending that much on a cover.

    re: Sony’s touchscreen, you mention Sony makes a mess of its touchscreen interface early in the article yet when you list Sony’s differentiators, you indicate it’s very impressive. You need to make up your mind.

  2. Maybe you’re right, “Kindle” will become the defacto term for an eReader, just as “Frisbee” is the defacto term for a flying disk and “Kleenex” for facial tissue.

    The most important thing though (my opinion only) for Amazon is that they get their Kindle app and bookstore content to so many MORE types of devices than anyone else.

    The equivalent here would be Gillette blades that fit any razor. Amazon’s presence in so many countries has got to have a snowball-effect at some point.

  3. Kindiling books? Ugh… They did ghastly to books in china long ago. May we never go back to the days of burning books

  4. I am concerned about the Light which occurs when turning a page … does it still occur and does it occur on Nook Color?

    • Marvin, if you mean the flash on turning pages. Yes, that happens with Kindle 3 and other eInk readers. It shouldn’t happen with a LCD reader like Nook Color.

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