Dangers of assuming Amazon will destroy B&N

A long time ago I’d joked about the ridiculousness of B&N thinking their new CEO William Lynch could hold a candle to someone like Jeff Bezos who has a very proven track record.

Amazon may very well still destroy B&N – However, B&N has been the more impressive technology company when it comes to eReaders and Tablets. Read on if you find that hard to believe.

I owe William Lynch an apology. He and B&N have done a lot of things that everyone thought Amazon would do first.

B&N’s ability to compete with Amazon

This is some of the stuff B&N pulled off in the last year -

  1. Released a Reading Tablet a year before Amazon.
  2. Released a touch-screen eReader months before Amazon. Almost eliminated the page-turn problem.
  3. Turned Nook Color into the #2 selling Tablet after iPad. You can argue technicalities, but the bottom line is that Nook Color has sold more than any other non-iPad tablet.
  4. Showed that there is a market for non-iPad Tablets. This is a HUGE thing. It has given everyone else hope and will lead to the end of the iPad’s domination in Tablets. The biggest lesson it has taught everyone is – Don’t compete on your enemy’s strengths. A lesson that Amazon has learnt very well.
  5. Released a Nook Tablet that pulls off some impressive things – 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB RAM, HD support, IPS screen, 16 GB memory. That’s a LOT of goodness for $249 – Tablets and smartphones with comparable specifications retail for $400 to $500.
  6. Built up a very interesting Nook Color App Store. 1,100 Apps aimed at Tablets.
  7. Added Email support and lots of other features to Nook Color and morphed it from a Reading Tablet to an almost full-fledged Tablet.

These are all things that no narrow-minded person expects a bookseller to be able to do. Glad to learn from that mistake.

Of course, the two most impressive things are -

  1. It Stayed Alive.
  2. It Built the Nook division into a $2 billion a year business.

B&N could just spin-off Nook into a separate company – Suddenly it’d be a company with a very good chance at surviving and thriving. It could also transform itself into a store that sells everything. It has options and it’s in a position of power.

The Main Stream Press are counting out B&N

Reading through people’s thoughts on Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet, it’s hard not to notice two interesting assumptions -

  1. Kindle Fire is $50 cheaper and it will destroy the Nook Tablet.
  2. B&N is a bookseller that can’t compete with a software company like Amazon.

The first is an interesting assumption. If it’s the iPad, then the $500 price doesn’t matter because it has better features. If it’s the Nook Tablet, then a $50 higher price will kill it – because price matters so much.

It almost seems that the Press is married to two stories -

  1. iPad’s glory will continue to increase forever – until people use it instead of paper plates and credit cards and kitchen towels.
  2. Kindle’s glory will continue to increase forever – until Amazon is selling Prime subscriptions for pet kittens that come with one free baby mouse a quarter.

The truth is that the Press is constantly wrong – it was wrong about the Kindle, it was wrong about the Nook Color, and it’s likely to be wrong about the death of the Nook Tablet.

$50 is not going to destroy Nook Tablet

Firstly, we have a few million Nook Color owners.

Secondly, we have a few million tech-savvy people who want a powerful Tablet they can hack and run Android on. For them, things like 1 GB RAM mean a lot more than saving $50. They know exactly how valuable that 1 GB is going to be by end 2012.

Thirdly, we have a TON of people for whom $250 is not a big deal but $500 is a big deal. These people will have Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet as options – but not the iPad. Perhaps 75% choose Kindle Fire – that still leaves 25%.

Fourthly, we have lots of small groups that will pick Nook Tablet – people who want/need an SD Card slot, people who prefer the Nook Tablet’s screen, people who love B&N or are B&N members, people who MUST see the device in person, people who prefer the Nook Tablet’s design, and so forth.

There will be millions of Nook Tablets sold.

Nook Color is now at $199

One very important factor is that B&N has now priced Nook Color at $199.

Nook Color is a very solid and compelling device. It’s also battle-tested. While Amazon’s ecosystem gives Kindle Fire an advantage overall (though I haven’t done an in-depth analysis), there are lots of people who will find things like ePub support and expandable memory more compelling.

Neither company is making Space Rockets

There’s a pretty strong bias against B&N. The assumption that because it started off as a bookseller, it couldn’t possibly compete with a company that started off making a website to sell books.

It’s delicious irony.

Tech journalists love to spout nonsense – It’s really, really tough to do hardware. It’s really, really tough to do software.

It’s not. There wouldn’t be 5,000 different companies doing it if it were that difficult.

We aren’t building a rocket or mapping the human genome. We are taking things that have been done thousands of times and refining them a bit. The real problem is that most companies do a shoddy job. They try to provide $10 of value and charge $100.

The tech media says – B&N can’t compete with Amazon.

Let’s add some facts to that statement and see how ridiculous the complete assertion seems:

B&N built a Reading Tablet and shipped it 1 year before Kindle Fire. B&N proved there’s a non-iPad Tablet market. It sold a few million Nook Colors. B&N shipped a touch eReader before Amazon did. B&N has around 20% of the ebook and eReader market.

B&N can’t compete with Amazon.

Dear Tech Journalists,

You are absolutely right. Apart from a few little things like releasing Nook Color last year, building Nook into a $2 billion a year business, and releasing a very impressive Nook Tablet, B&N has shown zero ability to be able to compete with Amazon.

Quite frankly, the tech journalists are just upset that Nook Color was obstinate enough to survive.

There is no purity and there can be no clean endings

What are Amazon’s aims with eReaders and Tablets – expand, sell other things, sell digital products, sell kitchen sinks, sell books, create more Amazon customers, prevent Google from being the middle-man, prevent Apple from becoming the dominant tech religion, profit at some later point of time, grow Amazon, annoy WalMart, beat WalMart with a stick, poke Google in the eye, show Google how to make actual money from Android.

You know what’s missing – purity.

B&N’s aims are pretty convoluted too – survive, offset the decline of brick and mortar stores, compete with Amazon, show Amazon it can compete, evolve, sell books, sell rugs, capture children and families as customers, make fun of Borders, morph into a monster, survive in the digital age.

Again, the purity is missing.

We don’t have any company that is aiming to make the best possible Tablet, with no compromises. If there were, it would wipe out everyone else. Perhaps itself too.

Since there is no purity, there is not going to be a clean-cut winner.

Let’s see why -

  1. Amazon wants to sell other things so it builds a Tablet + mini Amazon Store.
  2. It bundles Prime.
  3. It uses a closed ecosystem.
  4. It focuses on selling other things when it constructs the UI and design. Ratio of Time spent on buying movies UI vs Transferring files to PC UI = 10:1.
  5. It closes off certain formats and certain features. Limited storage has more to do with pushing people to buying Amazon content than saving price. Do we really think Amazon was super concerned about the extra $5 to go from 8 GB to 16 GB?

At every step, it loses a small subset of customers looking to buy a Tablet.

It’s the same with Nook Tablet – However, it is making other cuts. So it’s losing other subsets of Tablet customers.

Because each and every Tablet maker has multiple goals and is lacking purity, we will have a market with multiple winners.

Amazon only knows two directions to attack in

Another factor in B&N’s favor is that Amazon seems to be wedded to two things -

  1. Very Strong Ecosystem.
  2. Very Cheap Device.

There are lots of things it isn’t even attempting i.e.

  1. Aesthetics. It could try to steal away Jonathan Ive – give him a chance to get all the credit and live in England. Let’s admit it – He could design the most magnificent TV ever and people would just say it’s Steve Jobs’ last gift. Jonathan Ive has a chance to show that he was the real genius behind the designs. If he goes to Microsoft or Google or Amazon and designs the next big device, then he becomes the real design genius. Do it in a company other than Apple and everyone will know who’s the man behind the magic. Right now, he’ll be forgotten in all the idol-worship. It’s sad in some ways. All these amazingly talented people like Steve Wozniak and Jonathan Ive and no one will ever remember them because one person will get all the credit.
  2. Validation. Lots and lots of kids who want to show they’re cool. It’s hard to understand that everything you need is inside of you. Let them ease their journey to self-validation by sporting the SuperValidatingKindle_Status++.
  3. Religious stuff. The current crop of technology people seem to be almost feudal in their need to have some Tech Overlord they can bow down to. Provide it.
  4. Social Connections between Readers. Social does not mean Book advertisements on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Making a Tablet that will be the very best Tablet – even without the ecosystem.

Apart from a golden stretch with the Kindle 3, Amazon has never had the best eReader. It’s always the website and ecosystem that have been the difference makers. It’s the same with Kindle Fire. Silk Browser and Amazon Prime are the difference makers.

It’s as if Amazon has decided to completely ignore Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy and focus only on what it currently knows best – the Cloud and the Website and Scale and Low Prices. Not a bad strategy to focus on its core competencies – but it leaves a lot of opportunities for Amazon’s competitors. Can B&N take advantage of those opportunities?

Well, the solid technology in the Nook Tablet suggests it can.

We have already passed the Inflection Point

We passed the inflection point for B&N’s death with the launch of the Nook Color. Mr. Leonard Riggio must have seen those 700,000 Nook Colors being sold every month and felt Tiger Blood coursing through his veins.

We’re talking about a company that everyone claims is dying and it’s built a completely new business that’s worth $2 billion a year. You know what company would love to be able to do that – Google.

There are very few companies that can build multiple billion dollar businesses. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, … and a few more. It’s not a long list.

B&N has done it. It’s at around 20% in eReaders and perhaps at 10% to 20% in Tablets. It’s tasted blood. Right now, we are seeing the beginnings of a very long climb up. B&N went through its death rattle and survived. This fact is lost on everyone because people mis-understand inflection points.

If a company has 20% of the eReader market, and has one of only two viable competitors to the iPad – it’s neither dead nor endangered.

Look at the $99 Nook Touch. The $199 Nook Color. The $249 Nook Tablet. These aren’t the product offerings of a company that is on its deathbed. These are products from a company that has survived and is reborn.

Amazon is going to regret not buying B&N. It had a chance to snap up the only credible threat to the Kindle, and it didn’t. Now it is faced with a company that is a threat to both Kindle and Kindle Fire. Amazon is going to have a lot of opportunities to think back to when B&N was almost dead and was available for a billion dollars or so. Instead of buying Zappos and its ‘feel good and sell shoes for no profit’ strategy, Amazon should have bought B&N. You probably couldn’t write a Mother Teresa meets Dalai Lama book about it, but you’d have one heck of a business.

22 Responses

  1. I think you are right. B&N should not be discounted. I think it is good to have competition, makes both companies better.

    But I think that people’s first ereader (especially if it is Amazon since it is more difficult to move books away from Amazon) makes a huge difference. If people have a couple hundred books, $50 or $100 are not anywhere close to the sunk costs of the books. I am approaching 2000 between kindle and audible.com books. I am not buying a Kindle Fire because it seems like a weaker product, but I am not buying a Nook Tablet because I am committed to the Amazon ecosystem.

    The question is do people want to rely more on Amazon as the largest name or Barnes and Noble as the trusted local book store. My family and friends are fairly split on why they bought their respective readers. And it mostly comes down to either referrals or their comfort buying online.

    • That committment to the Amazon ecosystem is a big thing for me too. I have so many books and so much money that it’s hard to move away. The rooted Nook Color runs Kindle App – but it looks positively hideous.

      Amazon’s lock-in is a very good strategy. For Amazon.

  2. I agree that B&N has likely survived its near-death experience. But Amazon may have made the right choice in passing up the chance to buy them — imagine Amazon hamstrung by anti-trust lawsuits and the like. I’m guessing that, in the long run, they’re better off with a viable competitor helping to grow the market for both books and low-end tablets.

    Do you have a take on Apple welcoming the Fire to the tablet market, because it further fragments Android?

    • That’s actually a very good point. Amazon benefits from having B&N as the 20% market share competitor that saves it from anti-trust. I hadn’t thought of that.

      I’ll have to think more about fragmentation of Android.

  3. I do think you made some great points in here. The one that I think is the most important one is if you’re already in one of the ecosystems, then staying with that ecosystem may be the best option. If you already have a thousand nook books, then you’re probably best getting something that can read those (a nook of some sort). If you already have a thousand kindle books, then you will probably want something that can support the kindle books.

    I’ll admit that I’ve been holding off for months on getting a tablet because of the rumors of Amazon releasing a tablet. I’m a heavy kindle user with lots of books, I get my music mostly from Amazon, I use cloud drive, and I’m a prime member. I also buy most of the apps for my phone from the Amazon appstore… :) Therefore, for me, there’s no contest between the kindle fire and nook tablet. The kindle fire meets my needs and wants the best, and actually has absolutely everything I want/need already included!

    That’s just me, though. I’m enough of a heavy amazon user that I knew before the Fire was launched that it was what I wanted, and nothing else would do as well for me. I was honestly ready to pay 300-350$ for an amazon-branded tablet, so I was thrilled that it came in at 199! :)

  4. I like the Kindle, but I think it’s great to have strong competition because at the end it’s us the users who most benefit from it.
    Same goes for Android, I love it, but I really want Apple and Microsoft to succeed because they will only make Android better.

  5. Abhi, you’re so brilliant, and so courageously willing to be contrarian, that I hate to be a wet blanket. But there are a few points that undermine your case. The first I was going to mention, before others beat me to it, was that Amazon couldn’t have acquired B&N due to antitrust factors. Second, I’m dubious about the following:

    “B&N could just spin-off Nook into a separate company – Suddenly it’d be a company with a very good chance at surviving and thriving.”

    But the Nook is being sold at a loss, and if it were selling it through B&N as a separate company, it would being sold at even more of a loss.

    The Nook is dependent for its credibility with many customers on being part of the B&N ecosystem. If it weren’t, even if its tie were just a looser one, it would lose some sales. And the viability of both enterprises would be less if each had to survive on its own.

    “It could also transform itself into a store that sells everything. It has options and it’s in a position of power.”

    Sure, if it had a ten billion dollar warchest and it was ten years ago. For now, it’s only hope is a merger with Walmart. (Hey, that actually would give it a fighting chance!)

    “We’re talking about a company that everyone claims is dying and it’s built a completely new business that’s worth $2 billion a year.”

    In sales, not profits. It’s losing money, I think, or close to it.

    “You know what company would love to be able to do that – Google.”

    Hey, there’s another merger partner! (Hmm … maybe Amazon’s lowball pricing is intended to scare off such potential partners. If so, JB is seeing around corners again.)

    “We don’t have any company that is aiming to make the best possible Tablet, with no compromises. If there were, it would wipe out everyone else.”

    This is what frustrates me about Amazon, although I’m very positive about it on balance. There are so many obvious areas where its software could be improved–but nothing has been done for over a year (since I started deluging their kindle-feedback address with suggestions). Likewise there is a dream-machine Kindle that’s crying out to be built, and that could be sold at a profit to experienced Kindle owners. (I’ve described this in earlier posts here & on Bufo’s blog, and in part in e-mails to kindle-feedback.) I have an image of an NIH fortress filled with fatheads who THINK (as fatheads tend to) “we know better.”

    “Perhaps itself too.”

    What’s hurting Amazon is that it’s now been forced to compete on price because it LACKS that technological edge, which it could have had if it had only listened to me (and to you and Bufo, etc.).

    • I do think Nook by itself would survive. There’s lots of money waiting to be invested. If people are willing to invest billions in Groupon, then why not in an actual business with recurring revenue like Nook?

      Yes, agree with you that Amazon could and should have done a lot of improve the Kindle. It’s so strange.

    • There are so many obvious areas where its software could be improved–but nothing has been done for over a year

      I suspect they’ll roll out improvements when they have some strategic impact — i.e. sales are getting hurt without those improvements. I’m thinking about the MP3 player; it could use a megaton of improvement and could even boost music sales. If (say) Sony were to make some headway by offering “great reads, great tunes, good times,” I suspect the Kindle would catch up quick.

      • FARfetched said:
        “I suspect they’ll roll out improvements when they have some strategic impact — i.e. sales are getting hurt without those improvements.”

        That’s how the average US company thinks—reactively. But then they’re always playing catch-up. The basic motivation is that it is a career-risk for an executive to be proactive.

        Regardless, the more foresighted policy is to “reason not the need” (don’t be a beancounter), or continuous incremental improvement, unending perfectionism, aka Kaizen. In a fast-moving field like cutting-edge mobile computing, it pays to have all the “edges” one can, even if they are minor and/or intangible. They aren’t moats, individually, but a dozen ditches can serve nearly as well.

  6. PS: When I said “fatheads,” I didn’t mean to imply they aren’t technically brilliant. But that just makes them worse, because such folks are often unable to imagine that their left-brained obtuseness when confronted with creative suggestions is a bug, not a feature. Design-flair and user-friendliness are not among their strengths–but they can’t see it (naturally!)

  7. PPS: Here’s the most insignificant of the suggestions I’ve sent Amazon (on May 1). It would cost $10 to implement, at a generous estimate. If it won a nickel in customer-goodwill (a conservative estimate), it would benefit the company to the tune of $500,000 this year alone (based on ten million sales e-ink Kindle sales). It could have been put into the recent 3.3 software upgrade. But was it? NOO. Hence my suspicion of NIH-ism and worse.
    =========

    Insert a down-arrow after “Slide and release the power switch”

    As soon as a buyer takes his Kindle out of its box, this message under the screensaver stares him in the face: “Slide and release the power switch to wake.”

    But it’s baffling and frustrating to him (BAD), because there is no slider on the keyboard, and no OBVIOUS slider under it (assuming he even thinks to look there). So he might start by poking the volume rocker-switch, or sticking a pin into one of the holes (BAD). Next, he might call your tech support line (BAD) and inquire, in effect, “Where is this power switch of which you speak?”

    Why not give him a clue? (GOOD)

    That’s what inserting a down-arrow at that position in the sentence would do. It would, by a happy chance, point directly down towards the actual power switch.

    It should cost virtually nothing to perform the programming to make this change. (GOOD)

    • That’s a really good suggestion.

      It’d also be a good way to avoid the Patent Apple got for Touch and Slide.

    • If the buyer got to the screensaver, he had to have turned the thing on which means that he found the on/off switch. The guide that comes packaged with the Kindle explains what everything is.

      Besides, would you really want to take away from future “dumbest tech calls ever” e-mails? What would the people who forward such things to their 10,000 closest friends do for material?

      • Irish wrote:
        If the buyer got to the screensaver, he had to have turned the thing on which means that he found the on/off switch.

        No, the screensaver, along with its “slide” message, appears onscreen even when the Kindle has gone into sleep mode, which is its status when the user opens the box.

        The guide that comes packaged with the Kindle explains what everything is.

        The fold-out leaflet is the only physical thing that comes packaged with the Kindle. It doesn’t (or didn’t, when I got mine) contain an illustration showing the location of the slide-switch. (There is such an illustration in the User Guide, which is a digital product, available online and inside the Kindle—the latter being a catch-22.)

        I wonder if the person at Amazon who dismissed my suggestion (assuming it even got passed along from the suggestion box at all) had one or other of the misconceptions above. Or maybe he/she thought this way:

        “Not my job.”
        “Don’t rock the boat. If I endorse this it’ll rile someone else—someone who should have thought of it in the first place.”
        “Who’s this uppity outsider telling us what to do?”
        “This falls into the category of ‘minor tweak.’ Put it on the back burner and we’ll deal with it after everything else.”
        “This is too trivial to be worthy of my attention.”
        “Who cares if the user gropes and scratches his head for half a minute? He’ll find the switch eventually.”
        “It’s just obvious where the switch is. I find it every day. So anyone can do the same.”
        “I don’t like ‘reaching out’ to be helpful to people. It goes against my nature.”
        “Adding ‘helpful hints’ conflicts with an aesthetic of hip minimalism and implies that the gadget isn’t as self-explanatory as it should be.”

        BTW, another benefit of including a down-arrow is that it will help secondary users of the Kindle like the owner’s relatives. So, even if Amazon adds an illustration to its fold-out flyer, the down-arrow will still be beneficial. Certainly worth the $10 (plus the byte of storage) that it costs.

      • PS: I wrote above, “The fold-out leaflet … doesn’t … contain an illustration showing the location of the slide-switch.”

        It’s possible that it mentions that the slide-switch is at the bottom of the Kindle (I don’t have my flyer at hand), but I don’t think it mentions that it is “along the bottom edge of the Kindle,” as it ought to. That is what confused me—I was looking at the bottom of the front of the device.

        Even if the flyer’s wording were revised to mention the switch’s being on the lower edge, it still wouldn’t say where on the edge. It’s not obvious to everyone who looks at the edge, especially technical neophytes, what a slider switch resembles. They could mistake the volume rocker switch for it. (I did.) This is why the down-arrow would be a help even if the flyer were improved—because it points to the exact location along the edge.

      • PPS: Another point in favor of having the down-arrow is that, even with an ideal flyer (one containing an illustration), some significant %age of consumers won’t read it. They want to plunge right in.

      • Roger,

        I just got my quick start guide to check it. The first illustration is of the bottom edge with arrows to: USB/Power Port, Power Switch, and Charge indicator.

        When I took my Kindle out of the box, I had to charge it for three hours before I was able to turn it on. It wasn’t in sleep mode. In fact, instruction #1 starts with “Charge your Kindle by plugging…”

        Step #3 says, “Power on your Kindle by quickly sliding and releasing the power switch…”

        The guide wasn’t the only physical thing in the box with the Kindle. It came with a USB cord and a power adapter. It sounds like the guide that you have is an older one.

        You’ve said that you have deluged (your word not mine) them with suggestions. That could be where the problem lies. Have you considered asking them for an e-mail address that you could use for your suggestions so that the inbox used by everyone isn’t overwhelmed by mail?

        …and something just hit me…maybe Amazon DID act on your suggestion by including a illustration in the Quick Start guide with the power switch clearly labeled as such and added step #3 telling people how to turn the kindle on.

      • Irish, on November 9, 2011 at 5:44 am said:
        “… maybe Amazon DID act on your suggestion by including a illustration in the Quick Start guide …”

        Far out! That’s not how it used to be, so it’s possible you’re right. Or it could have been someone else’s suggestion, someone who suggested that the flyer itself be revised, rather than the on-screen message. That’s more likely, because it’s a closer match.

        The guide wasn’t the only physical thing in the box with the Kindle. It came with a USB cord and a power adapter.

        I misspoke. I should have said the flyer was the only physical documentation in the box.

        When I took my Kindle out of the box, I had to charge it for three hours before I was able to turn it on. It wasn’t in sleep mode. In fact, instruction #1 starts with “Charge your Kindle by plugging…”

        Mine was in sleep mode and thus partially charged. If it hadn’t been, the screensaver and its message wouldn’t have been showing (right?). I didn’t charge it first, or not by much after sliding the on-switch; that was only a pro-forma recommendation (in my uninformed opinion—so I stupidly ran the battery down to near zero).

        Have you considered asking them for an e-mail address that you could use for your suggestions so that the inbox used by everyone isn’t overwhelmed by mail?

        First, their Kindle-feedback@amazon.com address is already dedicated to receiving suggestions, general “feedback,” and complaints specifically about the Kindle—so it isn’t an all-Amazon suggestion box. So I don’t think my ideas were being overlooked because they got lost among feedback about other products. (And I think it would confuse users if the company were to split out a separate address for Kindle suggestions alone.)

        Second, I’ve sent them 58 e-mails over the course of 58 weeks (I just checked), or one a week. It’s sold a lot of Kindles, and I suspect their Kindle feedback line gets over a hundred inputs a day. Supporting that idea, the acknowledgement-response e-mails I got were signed by many different people, so it seems to get high volume, similar to that of a call center. Thus, I don’t think they were getting swamped at their end by my input in particular.

        Third, I suspect my suggestions—and those of others—were getting the brush-off at a higher level because of the way one particular suggestion of mine was completely ignored. It was a 20-some-page collection of over 200 “copy-edits” for the Kindle User Guide. (I was formerly a proofreader and have informally copy-edited several books, so this was a well-done job. I sent a copy to Abhi, who also has a good eye for typos, etc., and he thought it was impressive.) The 2nd edition of the Guide contained so few of the changes I’d suggested that they had obviously been fixed only by their coincidental discovery by the Home Team. (Some of the uncorrected items were real “boners.”)

        Surely the initial recipients of my e-mail would have forwarded it to the Home Office, so that must have been where the fault lay. (Hence my sour speculations above about what went through the mind of the rejecter there.)

        Fourth (being facetious—but not really), I love the idea of having my suggestions go direct to a dedicated “hotline” at Amazon—ideally to a “red-telephone”-type arrangement on JB’s desk. That would keep ‘em hopping—and on the ball!

      • PS: Here are reasons why the down-arrow would be useful even though the in-box documentation has been improved:

        * By the time the Kindle has charged, it will be three hours after the users have read the flyer and some of them will have forgotten exactly where the on/off slider was supposed to be. Why make them reread it?

        * Some users will forget where the slider is on a subsequent date. Why not give them a helpful reminder?

        * Some users won’t be the original purchaser, but his/her relatives, so they won’t have read the flyer at all.

        * Some users won’t even read the flyer a first time. (They’ll charge the Kindle once they see the on-screen reminder to do so.)
        =======

        The flyer also ought to warn users that the battery in the Kindle is not the type that benefits from being recharged after being run down to its lowest level. Some users may make that unwarranted assumption. (I did.)

  8. Thanks for the laugh! I know that wasn’t your intent, but you make Kindle users sound like a bunch of idiots by saying that they might forget where the power switch is in three hours. If a new user cannot find the power switch, hand the Kindle to a five-year-old. Within three minutes, the device will be turned on.

    • Irish, on November 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm said:
      Thanks for the laugh! I know that wasn’t your intent, but you make Kindle users sound like a bunch of idiots by saying that they might forget where the power switch is in three hours.

      Not a bunch; I said “some.” I’m sure at least 1% (i.e., some) will forget, or have to grope around a bit.

      And 1% is an underestimate; 10% is more likely. Remember, these users didn’t actually use the switch previously; if they followed the directions, they just plugged in the charging cord (right?). So they have no “muscle memory” of where the switch was, just a vague recollection of seeing it in an illustration—an illustration that probably also confusingly contained other buttons and switches.

      If a new user cannot find the power switch, hand the Kindle to a five-year-old.

      Why not just include a down-arrow on the screen? What makes it so objectionable? Is it costly? Wasteful of space? Intrusive? Does it amount to rewriting the documentation in baby-talk, or saying everything twice, or dumbing things down? Not at all. The down-arrow does none of those things.

      Taking an unbending, unaccommodating attitude toward the dopey end user is characteristic of a system programmer; it shouldn’t find its way into the design of a user interface. (As Apple has shown the world.) If a company wants to give Joe Sixpack the cold shoulder, he’ll return the favor. 1% of ten million buyers in the next 12 months is 100,000 people; 10% is 1,000,000. That’s a big enough bunch to cater to, even if they ought to know better.

      Within three minutes, the device will be turned on.

      Implying that the low-end end-user is sillier than a five-year-old is more high-end hauteur. Face it: He IS that dopey, at least somewhat, sometimes. So are we all. (I behaved in a silly fashion, as I described above, even though I had once been a systems programmer myself.)

      I’ve gone on at length about this minor bit of unhelpfulness because it illustrates, I suspect, a systems-programmer-attitude that infects the decision-makers on the Kindle team (i.e., I suspect they’d have enthusiastically agreed with Irish’s post above), and that it negatively affects the more momentous decisions they are making as well.

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