Kindle with Special Offers Review

Kindle with Special Offers is $114, which is $25 cheaper than the normal Kindle WiFi.

The following Kindle with Special Offers review is based on around 9 months use of the Kindle 3 which is basically Kindle with Special Offers without the offers (ads) but with 3G.

The Kindle 3 Review covers all the features of Kindle with Special Offers except there is no 3G on the Special Offers Kindle and it has ads (Operation Special Offers). This post covers the pros and cons of the special offers part plus a quick list of major pros and cons of the Kindle itself.

Are the Special Offers just Advertising?

Yes, though to be precise they are more accurately described as Groupon style offers. The newest member of the Kindle family is basically Groupon in your Hand. A way for Amazon to leverage the Kindle as an offers portal and to sell Kindle owners everything (as opposed to just books).

A few examples -

  1. $10 for $20 Amazon Gift Card.
  2. $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 store.
  3. $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop.

There are also going to be offers from other companies such as Buick and Olay.

Where will these special offers be shown? How often?

  1. They will be displayed as screensavers.
  2. They will be displayed on the main page.
  3. They will NOT be displayed in books.

My understanding is that the screensavers are always special offers and the main page special offer is always present.

By not having ads in books Amazon has saved itself from an avalanche of criticism. At the same time, adding ads to the Kindle is not really the best move. A lifetime of ads for a one-time saving of $25 is not exactly a great deal.

Is $25 worth the pain of advertising on the Kindle?

 It’s hard to say.

You get – A Kindle for $25 less. Some offers which seem pretty decent.

You lose – Your screensavers are now ads instead of dead authors. You have an ad (aka special offer) on your main home page.

The Saving Grace – The purity of books themselves is left untouched.

You could always hack your Kindle and get other screensavers. You could develop screensaver blindness and learn to totally disregard the offers.

Kindle with Special Offers Review

Do check out the Kindle 3 Review for a detailed list of pros and cons. The difference with Kindle with Special Offers is that you get Kindle for just $114, do not get 3G, and have these ads (special offers) built-in.

Main Pros of Kindle with Special Offers

  1. Just $114. A very impressive price. 
  2. Some of the offers sound pretty good.
  3. Kindle is the best dedicated reading device.
  4. Kindle has an amazing eInk screen that is great for reading books.
  5. WiFi support.
  6. Kindle with Special Offers is very light and compact. It weighs just 8.5 ounces.
  7. Kindle Store has the best range of books, and the best prices for non-Agency Model books.
  8. There are regular free offers though they are mostly romance, business, and religion related.
  9. There are millions of free public domain books available in Kindle format through Project Gutenberg, Many Books, and the Internet Archive.
  10. Kindle has up to a month of battery life with wireless off, and up to 3 weeks of battery life with WiFi on.
  11. There is enough memory for 3,500 books (total memory is 4 GB, out of which 3.3 GB is available).
  12. There is text to speech – unless the Publisher of a book has turned it off for that book.
  13. There is a very limited lending feature – If lending is turned on by the Publisher then you can lend a book once, to one person, for 14 days.
  14. Kindle is very simple to use.

There are definitely a lot of pros.

Main Cons of Kindle with Special Offers

  1. There are ads instead of screensavers and ads on the Kindle Home Page.
  2. $25 is not a very big amount given you will have to put up with a lifetime of ads.
  3. The eInk screen does not have a backlight so you will need a reading light at night.
  4. You need access to a WiFi network if you want to browse the Kindle store, browse the Internet, or download a book. You can buy books through your PC and then transfer them to your Kindle. Note: You do not need WiFi when reading – you can read books without wireless.
  5. There is no color and no touchscreen.
  6. It is only good for reading.
  7. PDF support is decent but not exceptional. Also, the 6-inch screen is not ideal for PDFs.
  8. There is no ePub support – which means no support for library books.
  9. The battery is not replaceable.
  10. There is no memory card slot.
  11. It’s rather delicate.

The cons are the regular cons of the Kindle 3 with the added negatives that there is no 3G and that you will have advertisements instead of screensavers.

A Strange Move by Amazon

Kindle with Special Offers is a rather strange move by Amazon.

$25 is not much – In fact, $114 is a pretty unremarkable price. A $100 price, on the other hand, would have been a huge difference maker. You almost feel as if there is more to come. This release seems to be a hasty, cobbled together offering.

Is this move an indication that Amazon is positioning Kindle as a personal shopping device? Is Amazon just introducing ads to lower the price and thus sell more Kindles? Is this the first step in turning Kindle into Groupon in Your Hand?

Perhaps the strangest part of this strange Kindle with Special Offers release is a Kindle app and website that will let users vote on ads and pick their favorites.

Will update this Kindle with Special Offers Review once more information is out. For the moment - You get $25 off the price of the Kindle if you are willing to have ads on your Kindle. Thankfully, the ads are not in your Kindle books.

17 Responses

  1. I would suggest to anyone that travels to be sure and get the 3G version. I have had the pleasure of the morning paper on the balcony of a hotel in the Dominican Republic, a train departing from Venice and from a hotel in Macau…all without ever leaving the room to search for it! The extra $50 will quickly be forgotten with the pleasure of the morning paper and coffee without leaving your room.

  2. It’s certainly an odd decision.

    I’m going to pass this on to a friend who is more price conscious, but I don’t think I would do it. I’d rather pay the extra $25 and not get ads.

    Great work as always on the site!

  3. Not making a similar offer on the 3G version would be a deal-killer for me. In my situation, I need 3G.

    One potential pro that wasn’t touched on in the article: if the special offers are offered ONLY to these specific owners, they might be getting bargains no one else can take advantage of. Therefore, their long-term savings might be more than the $25.

    Finally, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a push to sell existing stock to make way for an earlier-than-expected release of the K4.

    • Or maybe it’s a “feeler” to see how well the ads feature would be accepted, with a view to make it permanent on future models, K4 or later.

      • I think you are exactly correct, they are testing the market to see what sort of hit rate they get on the ads so they can figure out the lifetime revenue they think they can get from ads to determine what sort of subsidy they could offer on products with ads vs those with no ads. If the take rate is high enough they might offer them on 3G products but the take rate would have to be high enough to pay for the ad downloads via 3G (or they would have to limit ad downloads to when the product is connected with WiFi.

    • Very good points – both the one about ‘exclusive’ offers and ‘feeler’ for how ads in books would do. Amazon does have a patent for ads in books.

      Is this a clear-out?
      That’s a good question. Perhaps the sales in 2011 haven’t lived up to expectations after the holiday season boom and this is an attempt to clear out stock.

  4. I already have a Kindle, so I am not buying this offer, but…
    I think this is a good offer for those avid readers, who are on a very strict budget and who would like to be part of the e-reader generation.

    For someone, who lives/reads locally and knows where to get a free Wi-Fi connection and does not have extra money for travelling, so using 3G global connection not an issue for that reader.

    Yes, $25 seems like a small amount for ‘a lifetime’ of using this Kindle, but…don’t Kindle models advance and turnover, so maybe in 3 years from now, this owner will “trade up” anyways to get the latest improved version – so will be saving $25 for 3 years for this reading device.
    Anyways…for avid readers on a strict budget, this could be the deal to take.

  5. I don’t like this at all. My Kindle is my book. I read to escape from ads, not to have them forced on me. Ads on the Kindle — even as a screen saver — changes the nature of the Kindle. It’s no longer a device for content I pick, it’s a device for people to sell me things.

    I realize that ads are currently an option. But I can’t help but worry if the “optional” part will disappear from the next edition.

    Besides, I like the dead authors!

  6. If it’s not at least down at $99, I don’t see how this is going to be truly successful. I’m skeptical about how there are going to be offers on the Main Page — will there be one ‘most recent book’ that is in fact an ad on page one? One line per page? 5 lines per page, and so about half of the books in my library?

    The screensavers are probably ignorable, but the Main Page ad could be anywhere from just fairly present to incredibly annoying. Getting the $99 pricepoint will be important, though. I’ve thought the next price change would give a 99/149 pricepoint, but maybe it’ll be 99/124/174 instead. Or it’ll be 74/99/149 instead, and 25 off a hundred is suddenly quite a lot.

  7. Emily Dickinson on the Kindle sleep screen is really creeping me out. Amazon, can you give me $25 credits for me to load the ad software and get ad screens of non-dead people?

  8. Can you comment if there will be a K4? Do I get a K3 wifi, 3G, or special offers? Or, wait till K4?

    • Wait till K4.

    • Even if Amazon manages to hit a 1 year cycle, that would mean a price reduction in the next two months and a K4 somewhere nearer the end of the year. And so far they haven’t really hit 1 year cycles on Kindle, ever. DX: May ’09, DXG: June ’10, K1 Nov ’07, K2 Feb ’09, K3 Jul ’10.

      They have in fact never shipped a next version within a year, in other words K4 will almost certainly be August or later. DX to DXG comes closest, but as DXG is essentially “switch over the colour of the plastic and start buying the v3 eink screens”, that was a rather trivial upgrade from the design & manufacturing standpoint.

      It’ll be a while yet before K4, but yes, it almost certainly will come at some point. That, or discontinuing the K3, you can’t keep selling something the same forever. And I don’t see that happening. Kindle is Amazon’s long term strategic future, not just for their bread and butter book business but for everything else as well. I still think it’s weird they haven’t yet implemented an on-device Amazon Store *apart* from the Kindle Books part.

  9. I think the special offers will or should make this attractive, because if a person wants the items offered, such as any 6 audiobooks, etc., one is getting the Kindle almost free. I can see the value of the special offers for digital items being increased substantially, if necessary to boost sales, at little cost to Amazon. This is a win/win proposition.

    I think this is a way of countering the attractiveness of the Nooks to price-sensitive buyers (who are getting Nooks in order to get free library books).

    I can see other companies adopting a similar tactic, including maybe Apple. (But Amazon is best positioned for this, because of its store.) Perhaps in a couple of years such “turbocharging” will be standard. Very foresighted. Props to Bezos!

  10. I jumped. It was like a $25 coupon, and I’m actually interested in the ads–anything to feed my reading frenzy :)

  11. If the ads are offensive or annoying you can always go the the Amazon site and turn them off. It will cost you the price difference, of course.

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