Amazon, Profits, DNA

Spring Birth

Gorak was the name its mother gave it.

It was like its father – an Apex Predator. Born almost self-sufficient. Within a few weeks it had left its mother’s side. It hunted alongside its father.

It was Spring and there was prey everywhere. It killed when it was hungry, and ate its fill. It never stored anything. What was the need. It had not known anything except Spring.

It met others of its kind and they always talked about how plentiful the prey was. No one ever talked about the future. No one talked about seasons.

Summer Floods

Things got even better in Summer. Migrating herds came in from the North. Summer made spring seem sparse.

Gorak ate its fill. It considered killing for sport but deep inside it was an instinct that respected the lives of its prey. It watched as others of its kind killed for the thrill.

The herds became thinner as summer passed. Gorak wondered what would be next. It had only known the generosity of Spring and the limitlessness of Summer. What wondrous seasons were next.

At the very end of Summer, the floods came. The herds disappeared. Many of the Spring animals disappeared too. Gorak had a hard time. Its father made sure Gorak didn’t starve. Prey was hard to find and there were far too many of its kind to compete with.

Fall Despair

Fall was cold and wet. Prey was so rare that it saw others of its kind become cannibals. It took to sleeping in trees at night.

Gorak was smart. Prey was extremely scarce but Gorak found a way to survive. Its father left for the South.

It watched countless of its kind perish. Often at each other’s hands.

The despair of Fall and the loneliness of its father’s departure left a deep mark on Gorak.

Winter Revival

Gorak was one of a handful of its kind that survived the Fall.

Winter was bitterly cold. Winter was harsh. Winter saved Gorak. Animals reappeared. They were different. They were still meat.

Gorak and the remaining of its kind flourished. They walked about proudly once more – the Apex Predators.

Winter passed slowly. Gorak was worried. Unsure what would come next.

Second Spring

Spring and its bounty arrived with a flourish.

The others of its kind went back to their ways. Killing freely. Not thinking about tomorrow.

Gorak still thought of the Fall. The Fall when its kind had fallen on each other. The Fall when hunger had been its best friend.

Gorak set about preparing for Fall. Elaborate measures that its own kind mocked.

It trained itself to be disciplined. It set up hunting spots and hideaways. It scouted others of its kind and learnt their weaknesses and strengths. They were not prepared like Gorak was. Some were not prepared at all.

Summer of a Different Shade

The herds arrived in summer. Things were wonderful and others of its kind forgot all their worries.

Gorak waited for the inevitable thinning of the herds. It never happened.

It was a different summer. The herds didn’t thin out. There was more prey than Gorak and its kind could dream of.

In the midst of plenty, Gorak still remembered the lessons of the last Fall and Summer. It remembered and waited.

What will Fall bring?

Gorak sits and waits. Prepared for the Fall season that nearly killed it.

Its preparation has set it free. Its fear has kept it prisoner.

Others of its kind mock it and wonder.

Gorak often wonders too. But it wonders different things.

‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory

The biggest shock to me, after delving into marketing and selling actual things, is the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory.

This is very appropriate for indie authors and developers and for pretty much anyone who ever has to sell anything. It also applies to most other areas of life.

What is the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory?

It’s three intertwined realities -

  1. The Best Strategies are ‘orders of magnitude better’ than the good and bad strategies. If you don’t get too attached to your own ego and existing strategy, then this is easy to recognize.
  2. The Best People/Companies/Persons in a field are often ‘orders of magnitude better’ than everyone else.
  3. Things constantly evolve. So a strategy might go from ‘orders of magnitude better’ to not very good. Note: However, the people/companies themselves don’t become worse. They just need to evolve a better strategy, and the best people/companies are uniquely qualified to do that. Add-on Note: However, if they don’t evolve a better strategy, or copy the one that beat them, then they are dead.

The third point is the most critical. Going into the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory, it’s absolutely critical to understand that it’s temporal. Strategy A might be the ‘Absolute Best’ strategy and orders of magnitude better than all other strategies. However, someone somewhere is hammering out Strategy 23B which will be orders of magnitude better than Strategy A. It might even make Strategy A useless.

Another point worth noting is that this is true across nearly all fields.

Outliers and Talent is Overrated talk of something similar (the amount of time required to attain mastery). However, they don’t delve into the strategies and masterpieces that ‘true experts’ create. That’s what we’ll discuss in this post. The absolute best strategies, usually made by the absolute most talented and hard-working people, and how much better they are than all other strategies.

How is an ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy created?

There are lots of ways. A few are -

  1. Running through 1,000 strategies that don’t work, until you find one that works spectacularly well. Think of the invention of the light-bulb – it’s that level of effort.
  2. Lucking into one relatively quickly in your experimentation. This really is luck. You can’t filter out theories and strategies to improve your odds because sometimes the very crazy theories are the best ones.
  3. Learning from others and distilling that knowledge to derive a strategy. This comes with a caveat – since the best strategy changes with time, the lessons from the past aren’t guaranteed to work today.
  4. Copying a successful theory. The downside is that you are unlikely to beat the first person who successfully implemented the strategy. The upside is you can become a strong #2.
  5. The ‘Instincts’ based approach. To trust your instincts. It helps if you’ve honed your instincts and your skills over time.
  6. The ‘Analytics’ approach. To analyze and test and see what people react to and then tailor things based on that. The downside is that this leads to evolution, not revolution.
  7. The ‘Big Data’ approach. To gather loads and loads of data and analyze the mega-trends.
  8. Trying multiple strategies and picking the one that works. This is very difficult to execute unless you have scale.

Apart from 2 (lucking into one) and 4 (copying/cloning a successful strategy) the others require a lot of work by people who are very, very good in their work.

Software, App Stores, and ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory

Consider the stages that app stores have gone through -

  1. Predecessor to the App Store: Expensive Boxed Software. In the beginning, before app stores routed value and profits towards devices and platforms, we had the boxed software experience. People would pay $50 for an anti-virus software or $200 for Windows or $300 for Office.
  2. App Store Beginnings (Cheap beats Expensive): Cheap Software in the $2 to $20 range. With the App Stores, the platforms and device owners turned developers into free R&D. Now software was $2 to $20.
  3. App Store Phase II – Take over by $1 Apps (Very Cheap beats Cheap). Gradually, as is wont to happen in any almost-free market (free = freedom), the cheaper apps began to win. In 2012, 38 of the 40 highest-selling iPhone Apps of all time were $1. That shows just how powerful $1 became.
  4. App Store Phase III – Take over by Paid Apps promoted via Free Apps/Trials (Free Trials beat Very Cheap). People eventually figured out that the better strategy is to let people get a taste for the app via free apps/trials. Then get people to buy the paid version. This is how apps like Angry Birds became big.
  5. App Store Phase IV – Take over by Free to Play Apps where you can pay to ‘improve’ your experience and/or ‘pay’ to win (100% Free beats Free Trials). We had the arrival of smarter/shrewder developers who thought – If users are hooked with a free app, then why just sell to them once. They began to sell items within the free apps. This led to In-App Purchases becoming big money minters.

Note: All these theories are not new. Just their use in App Stores is new. App Stores are great because we see shifts in years that in other places take decades.

We are seeing progressively better strategies. Each strategy being so much better than the prior one that it renders the prior one almost useless. It really is an example of ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory.

An Example ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy from App Stores

Consider the ‘Top-Grossing’ Charts in the Apple App Store -

  1. Most days, only 2 out of the Top 40 Top-Grossing Apps in the iPhone App Store are paid apps. The other 38, including nearly all of the Top 10, are free-to-play apps that monetize via in-app purchases. That shows how much better the IAP strategy is. It’s taken over 95% of the Top 40 Grossing Spots.

This whole shift happened in just 2 years. Of course, Zynga and other companies were already doing this with Facebook Apps. However, it’s in the last two years that the iPhone and Android App Stores have been completely taken over by the IAP Strategy.

An Example ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy from eBooks

The eBook Store Bestselling Lists are transforming -

  1. $1 Books have 20+ spots out of the Top 100 in both the Kindle and Nook Top 100 Bestseller lists.
  2. The average price of books in the Kindle Store Top 100 is falling rapidly.

We existed in a world where Publishers wanted to sell ebooks at $15 and were unhappy about $9.99 prices. Now, indie authors and smaller Publishers are using prices between $1 and $5 and are using free kindle books to completely outwit Publishers. Just 3 years ago, indie authors had no presence in the Top 100. The occasional indie author would stumble into the Top 100. However, now we have wave after wave of indie authors hitting the Top 100.

How? A Simple Strategy -

  • Combine ‘free kindle books’ marketing, with ‘$1 kindle books’ as low-friction selling.

This combination strategy is definitely orders of magnitude better than what Publishers are using (free previews + $13.99 for new releases).

There are now approximately as many $1 books from indie authors in the Top 100 as there are $13.99 books from Publishers.

Keep in mind that this is happening despite – Publishers having the big authors, Publishers having huge marketing budgets, Publishers having their magic fairy dust, Amazon and B&N favoring Publishers’ books in subtle ways.

For an indie author with no branding, a tiny marketing budget, and very little experience to get into the Top 100 shows just how powerful the combination strategy of ‘free kindle books for marketing’ and ‘$1 kindle books for reducing selling friction’ is.

‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ theory suggests that Books will go through a Cycle similar to App Stores

These are the phases we will perhaps go through -

  1. $1 and $3 Books marketed with the help of ‘free kindle book’ promotions take over 30 to 50 of the Top 100 Spots.
  2. Books that have ties with the stores begin to take over. This will happen. Then readers and/or regulators will step in and bring this manipulation to a close. Remember – If the stores are allowed to, they will fill up 80 of the Top 100 spots with books that they own rights to. They will do this whether or not those books deserve to be in the Top 100.
  3. Free Books that sell ‘In Book Purchases’ take over. These will be 100% free books, with the option to pay in the book to buy additional things like character images and secrets. 100% free obviously beats everything else.
  4. A completely new model. Perhaps one where almost everything is free, but the books link to offers for physical products and/or have in-book product placements.

Please Note: You might not see this happening because the end-point is too repulsive. However, it is a long and slippery slope. It starts off with innocent things.

One strategy completely overpowers another. Then it becomes too common and/or passes its due date. Finally, a newer strategy comes in that is now ‘orders of magnitude better’.

What is the current ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy in ebooks?

Currently, it is -

  1. Offer a few of your books for free. Use the KDP Select Free Days. Make sure you get a lot of visibility.
  2. Make the rest of your books cheap. Ideally, in the $1 to $3 range.
  3. Build your own channels and cater to customers who buy (or will buy) more than one of your books.

This strategy is beating everything else. Even Dan Brown used this by making one of his books free before the release of his latest novel. Note: His new book was at $13.99, not at $1 or $3.

As more and more authors move to this strategy, this will become weaker and less effective. By its very definition, something that everyone is doing can’t be ‘orders of magnitude better’.

Does this really apply to every other area?

To be precise, it applies to most other areas.

Consider what shows like American Idol are. They aren’t really talent shows. They are ‘get people invested in artists’ shows. They are very similar to In-App Purchase Apps. You get all these people invested in ‘free music’ from ‘upcoming talents with a human side’. Then you pick the ones most people like.

Voting = Investing more and more into these singers. More Investment = Higher chance of people buying albums and concert tickets from those artists.

Simon Cowell owns rights for everything. He’s just rigged up a great way to get people to -

  1. Figure out whose music they will pay for.
  2. Get more and more invested in those artists.

That’s ‘orders of magnitude better’ than some producer on the street who is signing up complete unknowns and trying to market them using a limited budget. You can stand on street corners handing out free CDs or you can set up a TV show that gets people voting and investing in the artists. ALL the artists are signed up with you, so no matter who the people choose, you win.

How can you counter an ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy?

This is a tough question. You can’t really. You either come up with the next ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy or you switch to another market.

Can Indie Authors take on Publishers? Won’t Publishers just clone the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategies that Indie Authors come up with?

Well, Indie Authors have to worry about more than just Publishers -

  1. The Platforms and Stores will, if possible, kill the means for Indie Authors to use their ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategies. If Amazon and B&N see $1 and $3 books begin to take over totally, they will eliminate free kindle books and free nook books.
  2. The Stores will try to offset the rise of Indie Authors. Remember that the Platforms control visibility on their platforms. The lists, the recommended lists, the promotions, the picks – these are all marketing. They aren’t meant to show readers ‘the best bang for the buck’ or ‘the best written books’. It’s marketing to suit the Platforms’ ends.
  3. Publishers will ape the indie Authors’ theories, except will try to add their ‘must make $13.99 from new books’ and ‘must save paper books’ twists. This is one big thing that makes Publishers unable to fight Indie Authors effectively. No matter what, Publishers can’t afford to sell new releases at $1 and $3.

What has happened with Indie Authors, is that over the years they have come up with ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategies, and they have won temporarily, but they have then gotten eaten by the Platforms and Publishers and other Indie Authors -

  1. The first wave of indie authors didn’t build brands or their own channels and the Platforms just hid them.
  2. The second wave of indie authors fell for the trap of signing Publisher contracts. Most of them were then unable to sell $7 and $10 books to readers who had fallen in love with them at $1 and $3.
  3. The third wave of indie authors was very strong. I didn’t think they would lose. However, the power of the Platforms came into play. The Platforms tweaked their algorithms and almost completely ‘hid’ the third wave.
  4. The fourth wave (which includes some survivors from the third wave) are rising up now. It’s a complex situation. The new wave is doing a very good job of building direct relationships with readers. However, Platforms and Publishers are at their most dangerous because they now have a lot to lose.

What will be the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy that the fifth wave of Indie Authors uses to gain 50% of the Top 100? I think it’ll be a combination of ‘free as marketing’ and ‘$1 books’ and ‘follow-on purchases or follow-on bonuses’.

What might be the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy that Publishers use to win back most of the Top 100? It might be using $1 and free back list books to hook readers to authors Publishers control.

What might be the ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy that the Platforms use to control the Top 100? It might be signing up lots of the good indie authors and then giving them 50 times more visibility than anyone else. Note: They are already doing this, just on a slightly smaller scale. This won’t be made obvious until and unless the Platforms reduce their dependency on the Big 5 Publishers.

The Future of Books (and of Indie Authors) depends on Indie Authors creating one new ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy

If Indie Authors can come up with one more ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy, to layer on top of ‘free as marketing’ + ‘$1 to reduce friction in selling’, then they will become unstoppable.

That one new ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy will complete the golden trifecta. The golden trifecta will break the back of Publishers, and will reduce the Platforms to dumb robots.

That’s what it all revolves around – One indie author somewhere comes up with the next genius ‘orders of magnitude better’ strategy, and executes on it well. As soon as that happens, other indie authors will ape it. Then the golden trifecta (free as marketing, $1 to reduce friction in selling, the new ‘Orders of Magnitude Better’ strategy) will break down the last defences of Publishers and Platforms. The most interesting thing about this is that the Platforms and Publishers have absolutely no idea – they don’t realize how close they are to becoming powerless spectators, they don’t realize that Indie Authors are missing just one piece of the puzzle.

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Review – Kindle Free Time Unlimited Review

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Review – What is Kindle FreeTime Unlimited?

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is a subscription service that offers unlimited access to thousands of apps, movies, games, and books for children between 3 and 8. Think of it as Netflix for Kids’ Movies, Games, Books, and Apps.

Like Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee. This varies depending on whether or not you are an Amazon Prime customer, and whether you want the service for just 1 kid, or for more than 1 kid (up to 6 kids).

Note: No Apps with In-App Purchases are included in Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. This means you won’t get any ‘surprise’ charges for $50 worth of purple cows. Additionally, no ads in the content you get.

What can you do with Kindle FreeTime Unlimited?

You can do the following things -

  1. Get free age-appropriate movies, games, books, and apps for your children.
  2. Decide how long you want them to be able to do each activity (reading, watching movies, playing games).
  3. Set up profiles for each of them.
  4. Decide what content each of them can access (via their profiles).

Note: There are two parts, the Kindle FreeTime App (this is a free app) and the Kindle FreeTime Unlimited subscription (you have to pay for this). You can use the Kindle FreeTime App even if you don’t get the subscription – However, it’ll then allow you to access only content you’ve bought or content that is free for everyone.

You get the following characters and games and movies -

  1. You get content featuring – Cinderella (from Disney), Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street, Curious George, Thomas & Friends, PBS Kids.
  2. You get content from – Disney, Nickleodeon, EA, PBS Kids, Sesame Street.
  3. You get 200+ apps and games including – Plants vs Zombies, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Tetris, Dora the Explorer Apps, Monopoly Millionaire, Bejeweled 2, SpongeBob SquarePants Apps, Where’s My Water, Where’s My Perry, Drawing Pad, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Thomas & Friends, Kids’ Puzzle Games, Find the Difference and Hidden Object Games (just a few), Apps and Games featuring the characters mentioned above, Arthur Apps,
  4. In all you get 1,618 total apps, movies, and books. There are 217 games and apps. There are 1,014 Kindle Books. There are 355 movies and TV shows.

You can see the entire list of Kindle FreeTime Unlimited content at Amazon.

What devices is Kindle FreeTime Unlimited available on?

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is available on -

  1. Original Kindle Fire.
  2. Kindle Fire 2. Now referred to as just Kindle Fire.
  3. Kindle Fire HD.
  4. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″.

It’s only available on Kindle Fire tablets. It is NOT available on eInk Kindles, iPads, etc.

What can you do with Kindle Free Time?

Kindle FreeTime is a free app on Kindle Fire HD and other Kindle Fires that lets you do the following -

  1. Select what Apps and Games and Books and Movies are available for your kids. You can create up to 6 profiles and then you can choose what content (out of the content available via Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, and the content you’ve bought) is available to each kid.
  2. Select daily time limits for each type of activity (reading books, watching movies, using apps).
  3. Select which categories are allowed. So you could turn off movies for one kid and turn off apps and games for another.
  4. When Kindle FreeTime mode is on, browsing the Internet and purchasing are disabled.
  5. Kindle FreeTime is available even if you don’t subscribe to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.

Kindle FreeTime is a very useful App. You can take a quick look on your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD and see how you like it.

How can you start the Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Subscription?

It’s easy to try out (or enroll for) Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.

  1. On your Kindle Fire main page, tap on Apps.
  2. On the App page, find the icon for ‘Kindle FreeTime’ and tap on it.
  3. Set up a Kindle FreeTime password.
  4. Set up profile(s) for your child (children).
  5. Tap on one of the Subscribe buttons. You get a button to subscribe to the ‘One Child Plan’ and you get a button to subscribe to the ‘Family Plan’ which supports up to six children.

That’s it. You’re ready to start. Please Note: There’s a one month free trial.

How much does Kindle FreeTime Unlimited Cost?

The costs are:

  1. One Child without Prime Membership – $4.99 per month.
  2. One Child with Prime Membership – $2.99 per month.
  3. Up to Six Children without Prime Membership – $9.99 per month.
  4. Up to Six Children with Prime Membership – $6.99 per month.

I think it’s a very reasonable amount. The price difference between Prime Member rates and normal user rates is a bit strange.

Pros and Cons of Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

There are some very strong pros -

  1. You get 1,014 free kindle books. There will be at least 50 to 100 books your child will be interested in. Note: Amazon is adding new content to Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, but the rate seems to be a bit slow.
  2. You  get 200+ apps and games. It’s skewed towards games. There are lots of hit games.
  3. You get 355 movies and TV shows. This includes a lot of very popular series and titles.
  4. The price is very reasonable for one child, and even better for multiple children. If you’re a Prime Member then you get a lower price.
  5. The content is integrated with the Kindle FreeTime App and thus you can monitor usage and select what content your kids can access.

If you have one or more young kids between 3 and 8 years of age, Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is well worth a spin.

There are also some cons -

  1. If your kid is a fast reader, then the 50 to 100 books he/she finds interesting out of the 1,014 available will be gone in 2 to 4 months.
  2. The 200+ apps and games have some big hits but 200 isn’t a very big number. iPad has a LOT more games for kids. Your kids might get bored with the included games within 3-6 months. Perhaps sooner.
  3. 355 movies and TV shows will also run out in 2 to 5 months.
  4. It’s a monthly subscription. That means you have to pay every single month, regardless of whether your kids watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, or hardly any.
  5. The price is unfair for users who are not Prime Members. The difference shouldn’t be so much.

While Kindle FreeTime Unlimited is a really good service, its value will depend on how much additional content Amazon adds to it. Around 1,800 total books, movies, games, and apps sounds like a lot – However, keep in mind that your kid(s) will perhaps like just 100 to 300 of those. That might work out very well for the first 2-5 months. After that, your kids will be engaged by Kindle FreeTime Unlimited only if Amazon regularly keeps adding new content. I would recommend trying the one month free trial first and seeing if there’s enough content to keep your kids occupied and entertained beyond the first few weeks.

Kindles, eReaders & ‘Everyone is (should be) like me’ bias

There’s a very interesting bias amongst people who don’t read much, and perhaps even among people who read a lot -

The ‘Everyone else is (should be) like me’ bias.

This is a fundamental misattribution error – where you misattribute your own personal perspective/world view to EVERYONE else. Sometimes it’s worse – You realize other people aren’t like you, but you ASSUME that they are wrong and they should be like you.

Everyone is (should be) like me

Let’s look at some examples of this -

  1. I don’t read. That must mean that Everyone doesn’t read. The ex-CEO of Apple and the current CEO of Google are two examples of this. No one reads any more – By the way, we have 100 million people who are iBooks customers.
  2. I only read on LCD screens. That must mean Everyone should read on LCD screens.
  3. I think a Tablet is better than eReaders because a Tablet can do more than read. That must mean people who buy a device dedicated for reading don’t know what they are doing.
  4. I think eReaders should be $50 ($100? Free?) because reading isn’t important. I, personally, don’t think reading is important. So, a device that can’t be used for anything other than reading should be $50. Wait a minute while I fill up gas in my $23,000 car, wearing my $125 shoes and my $177 sunglasses. What were we talking about? Oh yes, there’s no way an eReader can be worth more than $50.
  5. I like Apple/Google because aesthetics/openness are so important and because Steve Jobs/Do No Evil is my hero. You are so evil and wrong because you think Google/Apple is better.
  6. I like Amazon/B&N because customer service/real people customer service is so important. You should like Amazon/B&N too because your reasons are meaningless compared to my marvellous reasons.
  7. I detest DRM because it violates my personal rights and it’s evil. eBooks are never going to take off with DRM because everyone in this world is like me.
  8. I love Amazon because it has great customer service/largest range of books/cheapest book prices. Everyone else values these exact same things. I don’t understand why anyone else would like an iPad or a Nook or a Sony eReader – so what if they are much better made hardware?
  9. I think Amazon needs to go to ePub because interoperability is paramount. Without going to ePub Kindle will be dead in 2 years. Is it 2 years already? I meant 4 years. Kindle will be dead in another 2 years.
  10. I read a lot on my iPad. 5 books a month. That must mean each of the 151 million iPad owners must also read 5 books a month. Which, in turn, must mean that ebooks are 279% of total book sales and Apple devices account for 587% of ebook sales. What is that you say? That’s more than 100%. Don’t try to overwhelm me with figures and statistics. I’m experiencing the higher plane of existence that animated page turns and reading on LCD screens in bright sunlight affords me.
  11. I think that people who bought a device dedicated for reading read less than people who bought a tablet that you can also read on. I’m basing this on my sample size of one. All those people should get Tablets instead. They could play Candy Crush Saga when they get tired of all the long words in books.

The crux is that you could take any viewpoint you believe strongly in, or any behavior characteristic, and delude yourself into thinking one of the following -

  1. Everyone else is the same as me. Everyone else will do the same things I will.
  2. Everyone else should believe/do what I do. Because I’m right and they are wrong.

This is very interesting. Why? Because our existence revolves around what we see and perceive and believe. It revolves around how we interpret the world.

That makes it really difficult, at first, to switch perspectives and try to see things from someone else’s perspective. Until you start doing it. Then it’s exceedingly easy. Because we have an unlimited capacity to IMAGINE another perspective or belief system and understand why other people think differently from us and do different things.

Guess what helps your imagination – Reading Books. So, and this is quite funny, people who don’t read books will have a harder time understanding other people’s perspectives. Which might explain why the thought of a dedicated reading device frustrates them so.

Kindle will be lucky to sell 40,000 units lifetime

That’s what one journalist wrote about the Kindle. To put that in perspective – a person whose livelihood revolves around people reading what he has written, thought Kindle would be a failure. People just don’t read anymore – except news, websites, books, magazines, newspapers, textbooks, signs, etc.

Here’s the amusing thing. Now we have 10 million eReaders sold every year. However, those journalists still can’t wrap their heads around the concept that people would want a device dedicated to reading.

They feel as if there was some tear in the time-space continuum and eReaders miraculously took off. That now the tear is mended and things will go back to how they should be. People who love to read will do their reading on a device optimized for movies and games.

People who don’t believe in eReaders, who think that it makes no sense to have a device dedicated to reading for people who love to read, now fight very strongly for certain things that will help validate their world-view -

  1. eReaders will soon die out.
  2. People who read once a year on their Tablets are more important than people who read once a day on their eReaders.
  3. Reading on a Tablet is better than reading on an eReader.
  4. Reading isn’t worth a dedicated device.
  5. Reading isn’t cool.

Notice how all of this isn’t about what is actually happening with readers and eReaders. It’s just people who don’t value reading trying to make sense of something they can’t understand.

It would be much simpler for them to simply realize that -

  1. Just like twittering and reading news articles and watching movies and playing little casual games is very important and meaningful to them.
  2. Reading is very important and meaningful to people who love to read.

That people who are buying devices dedicated to reading are no different from anyone who buys things that give them pleasure and are built/optimized for them. It’s the exact same thing.

Why does Reading make so many people defensive?

My assumption (and it is an assumption) is that Reading is something that worries a lot of people.

  1. It worries advertisers because people who read become smarter.
  2. It worries companies because then they can’t just show a pretty girl next to a car and make the car more attractive.
  3. It worries people who don’t read. At some deep level, they understand that watching After Earth and Transformers isn’t going to confer as much of a benefit as reading books and exercising your imagination will.
  4. It worries pretty much everyone who has been trained to hate reading by being forced to read things they didn’t want to read in school.
  5. It worries everyone who got taught that if they can’t ‘study’ books then they get pain (bad grades).

A large part of the population is brought up to detest books because books get associated with forced education of questionable value.

A large part of the corporate and advertising machine detests books because it makes people very, very hard to ‘influence’ via advertising.

Devices that cater to readers. Devices that result in people reading more. Devices that get more and more people to start reading. Devices that let people read, who were locked out of reading earlier.

They are a nightmare for everyone who detests books and reading and people exercising their imaginations.

People are hating eReaders even with $69 eReaders – So the problem isn’t the price of eReaders

When Kindle was $399 and people questioned the value, there was an implicit assumption that at $199 or $149 or $99 we would reach a ‘logical’ place. Where both readers and non-readers could agree that eReaders were a good thing.

Why hasn’t it happened?

Why do we have people, who are buying $199 and $499 Tablets, refusing to acknowledge that eReaders, even $69 ones, have their own unique value and benefits.

Perhaps the problem never was the price. Perhaps the problem was the perception that reading is worth a dedicated device.

If that is the case, then the problem lies entirely with people who don’t read books and/or don’t read much. For them, reading isn’t worth much. For them, a dedicated reading device doesn’t make sense. They are projecting that on to people who read. That leads to this whole ‘Everyone should be like me and read only on Tablets that aren’t optimized for reading’ circus.

I think over time, all these people who find Tablets so much better for reading books than eReaders, will read more and more books on their Tablets and develop a more mature perspective of things. Then they’ll see the value of a device dedicated to reading, just as we readers see the value of Tablets optimized for meaningless entertainment.

What is the Best Kindle for Me?

In 2009 we’d written a post on choosing a Kindle – Which Kindle is Best for You?

For some strange reason, lots of people are reading that post these last few days. Guess it’s time to do a post for 2013 on Choosing a Kindle. It borrows from that post, and also from this post from 2011 – Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide.

What is the Best Kindle for Me?

Well, first let’s look at the options.

Amazon sells the following eInk Kindles -

  1. Kindle WiFi with Ads for $69. In the budget eReader market, this really is the best choice. You get a device focused on reading, at a very low price. You get access to the Kindle Store, which has the best range of ebooks. It also has the lowest ebook prices. As a bonus, the Kindle Store has the most free books from new and upcoming indie authors. The Ads only show on the screensaver, so they don’t impact your reading experience. The eInk Pearl screen isn’t as white as the Kindle Paperwhite’s, and there’s no in-built light, but the reading experience is still very good. You get Amazon’s infrastructure and customer service. There are sometimes cheaper deals – However, Kindle WiFi with Ads for $69 is easily the best budget eReader when you consider the overall package.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite with Ads for $119. Kindle Paperwhite was the best eReader since its launch, until recently. Now Kobo Aura HD has arrived and it’s hard to say which is better. Kobo Aura HD is $169 which is considerably more expensive. However, you get a higher resolution HD eInk screen, which should lead to a markedly better reading experience. You also get what should be better lighting for the screen (unconfirmed until actual use). Kindle Paperwhite still boasts the better store (Kindle Store is better than Kobo Store), the better infrastructure and services package, and considerably better customer service. My recommendation here would be to wait a few months and see what Kindle Paperwhite 2 is like. If you can’t wait and can afford $169, then Kobo Aura HD is a safe bet. If you can’t afford $169, then Kindle Paperwhite is your best option.
  3. Kindle Paperwhite with 3G and Ads for $169. If you want 3G access on your eReader, Kindle Paperwhite with 3G is the only choice. 3G access is helpful if one or more of the following are true for you – you travel a lot, you read while commuting, you live in a region without easy WiFi access, you don’t want to deal with having to look for WiFi hotspots. You get free 3G access to the Kindle Store and 60-second downloads. You also get all the other benefits of owning a Kindle Paperwhite.
  4. Kindle DX 2 for $299. I really can’t recommend this. This is the only large screen eReader available, so you might be tempted to buy it. However, the technology is 2 years old and the product line had been discontinued. Amazon is perhaps going to release a new Kindle DX, in which case you’ll regret buying something that’s 2 years old. If Amazon doesn’t release something new, then this will be the only option, but it’s an exceedingly poor one. There are a few things you miss out on – Kindle Paperwhite screen (previous generation), eInk Pearl screen (2 generations ago), HD eInk screen (latest generation), in-built lighting. Paying $299 for a device from 2 years ago makes little sense – it’s the equivalent of buying a brand new car manufactured in 1980. Just get a Tablet instead or a Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle WiFi, the Kindle Paperwhite, and the Kindle Paperwhite 3G are all good choices. It depends on what your needs are, and what your budget is. In later sections, we’ll discuss further on which is the Best Kindle eReader for you.

Amazon sells the following Kindle Fire Tablets -

  1. Kindle Fire Tablet at $159. This is a slightly updated version of the original Kindle Fire. I would very strongly recommend NOT getting this. This is very, very outdated now. If you can’t afford the $199 Kindle Fire 2, then get a Nook HD for $129 (currently on sale), or wait to see if Nexus 7 goes on sale for $149 once the Nexus 7 2 arrives. Here’s an example of why it’s outdated – Kindle Fire 2 has 1024 by 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, and is $159. Nook HD for $129 (currently on sale) has 1440 by 900 pixels screen resolution at 220+ ppi. Just that screen difference alone will make you cry if you ever see them side by side. Plus Nook HD is on sale for $129.
  2. Kindle Fire HD at $199. This is a good, solid tablet with a great screen, the best speakers of any tablet, and all the Amazon ecosystem and infrastructure benefits. If you are set on buying a Kindle Fire Tablet then it comes down to this (7″ screen, $199 price) or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ (larger screen, slightly more expensive at $269). This is better if you want a more compact, easy to carry device. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is better if you want a larger screen. Do consider the Nook HD and Nook HD+ at $129 and $149 respectively. They now seem to be on permanent sale.
  3. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ at $269. This is the larger screen Kindle Fire HD. This is very similar (almost identical) to the Kindle Fire HD, apart from having a larger screen and weighing more and being slightly unwieldy. At this price you also need to start considering the iPad Mini which offers a much richer App Store for $60 more. It also is much lighter while still having a screen larger than the 7″ Tablets. Another option worth checking out is the Nook HD+ at $149 (much cheaper since B&N is clearing out stock).
  4. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ LTE at $399. I really wouldn’t recommend this. Paying $130 more for LTE makes zero sense. It’s just a $25 to $35 chip – so you’re gifting Amazon $100 for nothing. Also, at $399 we’re competing with $499 iPads and Samsung’s higher end tablets and $329 iPad Minis. Kindle Fire HD doesn’t win any of those comparisons – unless you are very attached to Amazon’s ecosystem. Even then, it’s irrational to pay $399 for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ LTE.

Out of the 4 Kindle Fire Tablets, the best choices are the Kindle Fire HD and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″. You should also consider fire sales like the one currently going on with the Nook HD+ (just $149) and the Nook HD (just $129). The Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ are good, solid choices. Kindle Fire HD is the better choice of the two, unless you want a larger 8.9″ screen.

Let’s get into more detail below.

Should I get a Kindle eReader or a Kindle Fire Tablet?

This is a good question. It depends on what your needs are.

Kindle eReaders with eInk screens are good if -

  1. You read a lot. This is the main criterion.
  2. You are not looking for a device that can do more than read. This is pretty important too. An eReader isn’t good for anything else. It’s not a tablet you can read on. It’s a device you can ONLY read on.
  3. You want a device optimized for and built for reading.
  4. You already have a tablet and want a reading focused eReader to complement it.
  5. You read quite a bit in sunlight – at the beach, by the pool, in the park, etc. Note: No matter what device manufacturers claim, LCD screens aren’t readable in direct sunlight. You need an eReader if you often read in sunlight.
  6. Your eyes get tired after reading for a long time on LCD screens. Note: There are LCD-compatible people who complain loudly at the mere suggestion that LCDs can hurt the eyes. There are LCD-incompatibles who prefer eInk over LCDs. There are also studies that show that reading on LCD screens before sleeping time causes sleep problems. Your individual case will differ. See if reading on LCD screens works for you or not. If not, then you’ll love the eInk screen.
  7. You want the lightest possible device because your hands get tired from holding Tablets for long. If you read in stretches of longer than 15-30 minutes then you really need to get a 7″ Tablet or a 6″ eInk Reader. Those are the only two devices that you can hold for long stretches. Of them, the 6″ eReaders are half the weight – So, if your hands are weak and you read for long stretches, then you probably need an eReader.
  8. You want something for reading which is far cheaper than a Tablet. Note: If you can’t afford a Tablet consider the fire sale on the Nook HD ($129 now). You can also wait for the release of the new Nexus 7 2. Nexus 7 might drop to $149 after Nexus 7 2 arrives.

The two keys are -

  1. You should get a Kindle eReader if you are looking for a device optimized for reading and which can be used only for reading.
  2. You should get a Kindle eReader if you want to read more and/or love to read. If you want a device suited for people who read a lot.

If you read more than a book a month, then spending $69 on a Kindle WiFi or $119 on a Kindle Paperwhite is a good decision.

Kindle Fire Tablets are good for you if -

  1. You want a device that can do more than just read. In particular, you want a Tablet that you can do lots of things on – read books, watch movies, play games, check the Internet, check your email, listen to music.
  2. You want a device on which you can also check your email and surf the Internet. While these things are technically somewhat possible on Kindle Paperwhite, they are very inconvenient and inelegant. In effect, you can’t really do them on eReaders.
  3. You don’t read more than a book a month and/or You are fine reading entire books on LCD screens. If you are LCD-compatible, you’ll probably miss the color and shine and glimmer of LCD screens.
  4. You are an Apple or Google person. If you believe strongly in Apple products or in Google products, then the design decisions and overall user experience of the Kindle eReaders will bother you to your very core. For Apple – There’s a stark lack of aesthetics and animated page turns. For Google – there’s no openness, only a walled rainforest.
  5. You feel it’s not worth it to buy a separate device focused for reading. You also might not want to carry around both a Tablet and an eReader.
  6. You don’t usually read in the sunlight. Note: As mentioned earlier, LCD screens don’t work in sunlight. So don’t believe the marketing nonsense about anti-glare layers and such.
  7. You do one or more of these things often – watch movies, surf the Internet, check email, listen to music. You want a Tablet that allows you to do these easily and conveniently. Important: Kindle eReaders are NOT Tablets. They are devices dedicated to reading books and they don’t really do anything else.
  8. You can’t afford an iPad or iPad Mini OR You prefer Amazon or Amazon’s ecosystem. If money is no object then you should get an iPad – no matter what. If you absolutely dislike Apple then get a Surface Pro or a high-end Samsung Tablet. Kindle Fire Tablets are not high-end or luxury tablets and if you can afford a high-end tablet it will almost certainly provide a markedly better experience.
  9. You want a Tablet that ties in with Amazon’s offerings like Amazon Instant Video and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle FreeTime for Kids. Kindle Fire HD is perfect for that.
  10. You travel a lot and/or have a long commute and want a Tablet to pass the time and/or make some use of the time. The downside with a Kindle Paperwhite is that you can only read. If you want a device that also lets you play a quick game or check the news then you need a Tablet.

The three keys are -

  1. You want a Tablet i.e. a device that can do lots of things.
  2. You want a Tablet from Amazon.
  3. You don’t read a lot and/or you are fine reading for long stretches on LCD screens.

If a Tablet is what you’re looking for, your next questions is – Is Kindle Fire HD the best tablet for me? What is the best Kindle Fire Tablet for me?

The following sections will help you answer those questions.

Which is the Best Kindle Reader for Me?

That’s a tough question. The three best Kindle eReader choices each have their own unique advantages -

  1. Kindle WiFi – This is the cheapest. The eInk Pearl screen is still very good. This is the most compact. This is also really good as an add-on device dedicated to reading if you already have a Tablet.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite – This is the best option if you don’t need or want 3G. The screen is great. The device works well. It’s pretty well-priced at $119. Note: Please also consider the Kobo Aura HD.
  3. Kindle Paperwhite with 3G – This is the only option if you want an eReader that also has 3G store access and 3G book downloads. It’s pricy at $179 but worth it as the 3G is very, very convenient.

Get Kindle WiFi if one or more of the following are true – money is tight, you already have a tablet, you read just one book a month, you aren’t really much of a reader, you are buying it for your kids, you want the lightest and most compact eReader, you’ll use it only on occasional trips and vacations.

Get Kindle Paperwhite if one or more of the following are true – you want the best reading screen out of all eInk Kindles (also consider Kobo Aura HD if this is the case), you want the newest Kindle (you could wait for a few months for Kindle Paperwhite 2 if you want the absolute newest model), you read a lot, you need an eReader for your daily commute, you travel often for work, money is no object and you want the best screen (consider the Kindle Paperwhite 3G and the Kobo Aura HD too), you are OK with having only WiFi, you read a book a week or more, you read often at night and need the built-in reading light the Kindle Paperwhite has.

Get Kindle Paperwhite 3G if one or more of the following are true – you will read books often while travelling or commuting and don’t want to bother with finding WiFi (Note: WiFi is only needed to download books and to shop for books, not for reading books that are already downloaded), money is no object and you think 3G will help.

Kindle Paperwhite is perhaps the best fit for most people. Do consider waiting a few months to see what Kindle Paperwhite 2 will be like.

Which is the Best Kindle Fire for Me?

If you’ve decided on a Kindle Fire Tablet, chances are that the Kindle Fire HD or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is the best choice for you. The two best choices have their own unique advantages -

  1. Kindle Fire HD – This is the 7″ Kindle Fire HD. This is a good choice if you want a compact, light Tablet with a very high quality screen and great speakers and decent usability. If you can afford the iPad Mini, get that instead – it is easier to use and has a lot more apps. Kindle Fire HD at $199 is perhaps one of the best choices after iPad Mini (also consider Nook HD at $129). This is the best choice if you want a lighter, more compact 7″ tablet, or if your budget is only $200.
  2. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ – This is the 8.9″ Kindle Fire. This is $269 and a good choice if you want a larger screen. Perhaps you want to increase font size in books. Perhaps you want a larger screen for magazines and Internet surfing. Perhaps you want the larger screen for HD movies to have more room. The downside of having a larger screen is that the device is slightly heavier, it is larger, and it is a bit awkward to hold for long periods. Also consider the Nook HD+ at $159.

Get Kindle Fire HD if – you want a 7″ tablet, you have a limited budget (consider the on-sale $129 Nook HD if that’s the case), you want a lighter tablet, you have arthritis in your hands or have weak hands, you have smaller hands and want an easier to grip tablet, you want something you can throw into your purse or handbag easily (the larger model won’t fit smaller purses), you have good eyesight and don’t need a 8.9″ screen for large size font in books and websites, you want a more compact tablet.

Get Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ if – you want a 8.9″ tablet, you have weak eyesight and/or you like reading in larger font sizes and want to be able to see more of the large font size text on pages in books and websites, you don’t mind a slightly heavier and a larger tablet, you won’t be travelling with it and it doesn’t have to be small OR you don’t mind it being less compact, money is no object and you don’t mind the $70 higher price, you prefer it over iPad Mini (I think iPad Mini is a better choice than Kindle Fire HD 8.9″), you want a device better suited for magazines and newspapers, you don’t like the much cheaper but equally good Nook HD+ at $149.

Unless you have a need for a large screen device, I would recommend the Kindle Fire HD or the cheaper $129 Nook HD.

Is there a better eReader than the Kindle eReader?

For the moment, you have the Kobo Aura HD as a serious contender -

  1. Kobo Aura HD offers a better resolution screen than the Kindle Paperwhite and, at 6.8″, the screen is a bit larger than the Kindle Paperwhite’s 6″ screen.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite offers a better store and better services and infrastructure.
  3. Check out our Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD comparison for further details.

It depends on what you value more. If screen resolution and clarity and sharpness of text are most important to you, then you should get Kobo Aura HD or wait for Kindle Paperwhite 2. If the largest ebook store with the best prices (and the most free books) is important for you, then get the Kindle Paperwhite.

Is there a better Tablet than the Kindle Fire HD?

Yes, there are several. My rough ranking would be -

  1. iPad Mini.
  2. Surface Pro if you want a good keyboard and Windows 8.
  3. iPad.
  4. Samsung’s higher end Tablets.
  5. Surface RT.
  6. [Tied] Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD and Nook HD+ (the latter two are on sale for $129 and $149).
  7. Nexus 7.
  8. Other Android Tablets.
  9. Other Windows 8 Tablets.

Kindle Fire HD is, however, the best Tablet under $200 (tied with Nook HD). It’s also tied with Nook HD for best 7″ Tablet.

  1. If you’re looking for a smaller 7″ tablet, at a price below $200, then Kindle Fire HD is perfect for you. Note: Nook HD might be a better fit if your budget is tight.
  2. If your budget is higher, get an iPad Mini or Surface Pro or iPad. If you need a larger screen, but are short on money, consider Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+.

Well, that brings us close to the end of our ‘Best Kindle for You’ article.

What is the Best Kindle for Me? Only you can decide

We’ve walked you through all the choices and it’s pretty clear that -

  1. You need to decide whether you want an eInk Kindle or a Kindle Tablet.
  2. If you want an eInk Kindle, then Kindle WiFi, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Paperwhite 3G are all good choices. Kobo Aura HD is also worth considering.
  3. If you want a Kindle Fire Tablet, then your choice depends on your budget. If your budget is tight, the $199 Kindle Fire HD and $129 Nook HD are your two top choices if you want a 7″ Tablet. If you want a larger Tablet but have a tight budget, the $269 Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and the $149 Nook HD+ are your two top choices.
  4. If your budget is more expansive (or limitless), then iPad Mini, Surface Pro, and iPad are your best three choices. The new Kindle Fire HD 2 will arrive by end of this year. At this stage, however, it’s hard to say if it will beat out iPad Mini and Surface Pro. It’s somewhat unlikely.
  5. You could get a Tablet and an eReader. A good combination for the budget conscious would be a $149 Nook HD+ and a $69 Kindle WiFi. For those with more of a budget, you could get an iPad Mini for $329 and a Kindle Paperwhite with Ads for $119.

Best of luck with your decision on ‘What is the Best Kindle for Me’. If you can wait 2-3 months, you’ll have a much better choice of eInk Kindles – perhaps even a Kindle Paperwhite HD. If you can wait 4-5 months, you’ll have a much better choice in Kindle Fire Tablets.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,815 other followers