Yet Another Example of Statistical Lunacy

A blog/site called Asymco that calls itself ‘Curated Market Intelligence’ exhibits its special brand of intelligence with a claim that ‘Apps are 15 times more popular than ebooks’.

It throws in a few more gems -

Books are a 400 year old medium. Songs only 100 years old and apps a mere 10.

For three centuries, the book medium had a monopoly on solitary entertainment. The download data shows how quickly new media displace the old. Therefore, in this context, it’s perhaps fair to say that Steve was right three years ago when he said “People don’t read anymore.”

My brain is overwhelmed by the number of mistakes -

  1. Songs are only 100 years old? Guess all the people singing songs through the centuries had no idea they were just imagining things.
  2. Books are a 400 year old medium. Obviously. The Bible really wasn’t a book. Neither was the Aeneid or the Bhagvad Gita or The Art of War.
  3. Apps are a 10-year-old medium. Really? What about software – If you remove the ‘lication’ from application does that make it something else entirely?
  4. Books had a monopoly on solitary entertainment for three centuries. So true. It’s not like you could walk down to the park or watch the waves or go fishing or hunting or paint something or write.
  5. People don’t read anymore. Yes, that would explain why over 10 million people have already bought a dedicated reading device. It makes a perfect paperweight. It would also explain why Apple is trying to kick out other reading apps - it wants to keep the zero book sales to itself.

Luckily for us we can focus on the most beautiful mistake of all, for else we would be stuck here all day discussing Asymco’s special brand of intelligence.

Comparing iBooks sales with iApps sales is lunacy

Surely, even for Apple fans, it’s a bit hasty to assume Apple is the whole wide world.

Apple isn’t the biggest ebook retailer. That would be Amazon. It isn’t the second biggest ebook retailer. That would be B&N. Apple isn’t even the biggest ebook seller on its own platform – that would be Kindle for iPhone.

Apple probably has 5% or so of the ebook market. So, it makes perfect sense to compare 5% of the ebook market with the Apple App Store which is the largest app store.

To confuse things further, a large percentage (somewhere between 10% and 20%) of apps in the App Store are books. What percentage of app downloads are book apps? Perhaps 5% to 10%.

There’s absolutely no way to make this comparison with a straight face.

Let’s make our own illusions

Let’s assume there have been 1.25 million Kindle Apps sold since launch of the Kindle App Store. In the same time period 375 million Kindle books were sold. That means that eBooks are 300 times more popular than apps.

That sounds pretty stupid doesn’t it. Perhaps we should put up some charts to make it look less stupid.

What about time and money?

Surely, we have to figure out amount of time devoted and amount of money spent.

A typical app is $1 or $2 and is discarded after 30 minutes. The 30 minutes average is after including the really good apps that give people 20 to 30 hours of playing time.

A typical song is $1 and lasts 3 minutes. If we assume it’s listened to 20 times, that gives us 1 hour.

A typical books costs between $5 and $10 and takes 3 to 6 hours to read.

How can you compare the three?

If someone pays $20 and spends 15 hours on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – Is that the same as buying 3 Tower Defence apps for $1 each and playing them for 3 hours?

Obviously, in Asymco’s world it is.

Apple sure isn’t behaving like a company that thinks people don’t read any more

Let’s look at all the ways Apple is displaying its strong conviction that people don’t read any more -

  1. Introducing iBooks software.
  2. Touting 100 million book downloads. Note that Apple doesn’t mention whether it’s paid downloads or not.
  3. Kicking out Sony.
  4. Getting ready to levy a tax on Kindle and Nook reading apps.
  5. Getting Random House on board.

Wow – that’s exactly what we would do if we thought a market had no future. Not.

People who don’t read LOVE to pretend that everyone else doesn’t read either

If there’s any sure sign that playing apps all the time, and not reading books, leads to a special type of intelligence – it’s this article by Asymco.

You can imagine the author taking a break from Angry Birds and thinking – Throwing birds at pigs is getting boring, let’s throw some mud at books instead.

It’s not enough for people who are not into books to spend their time developing special intelligence from apps - they also need to demonstrate how apps are so much better, so much more popular, so much more artistic, and so much more fulfilling than reading.

While we readers are wasting our time reading Virgil and Shakespeare (we are obviously under some sort of delusion since books didn’t exist until 400 years ago), the true Renaissance men of our age are discovering new ways of throwing Birds at Pigs. They are floating in the sea of perfection that is apps, savoring these delicious little morsels of special intelligence, while we waste our brains reading and thinking.

It’s rather strange, isn’t it. There are never any articles from people who read, attacking people who play apps. We readers don’t really care – Reality is far too interesting to worry about what the price of corn is in Farmville. But there is something about reading that upsets people who don’t read - something that forces them to constantly attack anyone who reads, and reading itself. It’s almost as if in the midst of feeding candy to monsters and bypassing the laws of physics with birds the appficionados worry that all the unreality they are swimming in might pull them under.

Reviewing two new ‘Kindle is going to die’ articles

The Kindle might have sold 8 million units this year. Perhaps it was just 5 million. Perhaps just 3 million. Perhaps 11 million.

The only certainty is it was ‘millions of Kindles’.

You’d think that would get Kindle haters to stop predicting the death of the Kindle. No such luck.

Success of eReaders only Hype?

Lars Paronen at Reuters asks a question and answers it – Claiming that the success of eReaders is only hype.

Well, you have to admit there’s a fair bit of hype. However, it definitely isn’t 100% Hype.

The reason he feels it’s 100% hype is a survey of 755 Internet users between October 28th and November 1st.

Who are we to challenge such conclusive findings? Let’s just go through them.

  1. 65% of 755 random people paid to download/access some kind of online content. 
  2. 10% paid for ebooks.
  3. 33% paid for music. 15% paid for ringtones.
  4. 5% have paid to access online dating sites or services. That’s it?  
  5. 2% paid for adult content. There goes the reliability of that survey.

You get two classes of possible headlines. First, you have the ‘Kindle is doing very well’ type of headline -

Twice as many people buy ebooks as dating site memberships.

Kindle Books almost as popular as ringtones.

Paid eBooks 5 times more popular than paid adult content.

Of course, that isn’t what Reuters would like to discuss. Here’s what we get -

Is the success of eReaders only hype?

That’s right – ringtones are more popular than ebooks.

Let’s interpret everything negatively.

Flawless Logic. Not. 

Here are the reasons why Kindle and Nook are all hype -

  1. A survey of 755 random ‘Internet users’ says only 10% bought ebooks.
  2. 15% of those people bought ringtones.
  3. The Magazine industry is going through tough times.
  4. Kindle and Nook can’t handle ‘enhanced video content’.
  5. iPad users play Angry Birds more than they read.

The author also discusses how eBooks have ‘only’ 10% of book sales. It must have been really easy to choose Option 2 out of -

  1. Option 1: eBook sales rocket from 3% to 10% of the book market in 1 year.
  2. Option 2: eBook sales account for only 10% of the book market.

Then we get this gem -

Extrapolating from the Pew survey, for online e-book sales to compete with other media such as digital music, prices have to come down and subscriptions heavily promoted.

Guess we all forgot the rule that you have to choose one out of ebooks and digital music.

This is lovely – take an industry that has already made the shift to digital, and use it to claim that eReaders are all hype. Lately, there has been a lot of hype – However, let’s not forget that we probably have 10 million or more eReaders in play around the world.

Lack of Faith in the Kindle

At Vator News we have Faith Merino claiming Kindle will crumple under iPad. The only thing crumpling will be your hands – if you read an entire book while holding an iPad in just your hands.

To put an exclamation mark on her Kindle crumpling prediction she puts a picture of Jeff Bezos with the Kindle 1 right next to a picture of Steve Jobs with an iPad. Nothing like using a 2007 product to illustrate why the 2010 version is going to die.

She starts off with this gem -

studies have revealed that the tablet owner and the e-reader owner are two very different people.  But is that trend going to stick?

No. Those two very different people are going to merge into one.

She reduces Kindle vs iPad to price. Basically, she’s assuming once the iPad drops in price there will be zero reason to buy the Kindle. Here’s her assessment -

However Apple plans to cut the price, once it does, consumers will have no reason to prefer the Kindle over the iPad. 

With the iPad’s e-reader capability and myriad other functions, the Kindle will be rendered obsolete—that is, unless it, too, drops its price, which it likely will.

Got to give credit to that Angry Birds – teaches you to use words like myriad and obsolete. In the same sentence.

This ‘price’ thing is the favorite defence for people who don’t get eReaders.

Kindles and Nooks are only selling because they’re cheap. Just wait until the JesusPad is $300. Just wait until the JesusPad is $200. And so on …

It’s amazing to see Kindle haters and eReader haters coming up with rationalizations for why eReaders are doing well.

Helping out anti-Kindle people

It’s a little disappointing to see such lame analysis.

Perhaps we can come up with things that are more precise, and things that are so imprecise that they can’t be argued against.

Here are a few things that Kindle haters should use as evidence for Kindle and Nook being a fad -

  1. Kindle is available in more countries than iPad. Once iPad arrives in Madagascar and Faroe Islands, 90% of Kindle sales will dry up, as people will have a better option.
  2. B&N and Amazon are tricking people by not telling anyone how many are sold. Once people find out actual numbers they’ll start buying iPads instead.
  3. iPad is going to add ‘smell of books’ to iBooks soon. Once that happens, it’s bye-bye Kindle.
  4. People who buy eReaders don’t know the iPad can be used for reading. Steve Jobs is going to start sending out iBooks ads telepathically to the entire world’s population. Then everyone will know, and no one will pick eReaders.
  5. A survey of 50,000 one-toed sloths showed that iPad is better for a relaxed pace of life. Only 12% of the sloths felt an eReader would help them relax, while 52% picked the iPad. The other 36% fell asleep during the survey. 
  6. Once iBooks adds more books, the wooden bookshelf and the animated page turns will force everyone to choose iBooks. 
  7. 90% of Kindle book sales are through iPhone and iPad. The other 10% are through Android. There have only been 25 Kindles sold, mostly to people with a gun put to their head. Everyone you see carrying a Kindle – that’s just an illusion. If you were to try to grab one of the Kindles you see – well, your hand would go right through.
  8. Amazon knows sales are so bad that it’s started advertising Kindle reading apps instead.
  9. Apple couldn’t produce enough iPads. If it could have produced another 8 million iPads, zero Kindles would have been sold.

Actually, there’s a very credible rationalization eReader and Kindle haters could use to keep themselves happy in the face of tens of millions of eReaders being sold in 2011.

As iPad becomes available in enough numbers, in enough countries, and with enough animated books, we will see Kindle and eReaders die out.

They shouldn’t even worry about money – Doesn’t the iPad provide a lot more value for money? Why, Angry Birds alone is worth a few thousand dollars in wasted time.

Are Kindle 3 sales affected by negative reviews?

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

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

The problem with writing a Negative Kindle Review

A strong negative Kindle review creates quite a few problems -

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

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

Well, there are some possibilities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk is Cheap

That’s what it boils down to.

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

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

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

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

New ways to attack the eReader Market

The arrival of the Kindle WiFi is absolutely great for the eReader market – Even the most anti-eReader journalist can no longer claim that the $139 Kindle WiFi is in a competition with the $499 iPad.

As a result of the $139 price we are seeing most of the Press finally figure out that these are two completely different sets of devices - that a $139 dedicated book reader is different from a $499 touchscreen tablet personal computer. It’s amusing that it takes such a huge price difference for the Press to realize the two devices are fundamentally different – Perhaps it shows how little the Press value reading. Regardless, it’s a huge breakthrough for eReaders.

Correction: It was a huge breakthrough for eReaders.

Unfortunately, Ars Technica is restarting the whole ‘there ought to be no such thing as a dedicated reading device’ movement with an article almost as poisonous as its diatribe against Ars Technica readers using ad blocking software.

Ars Technica tries to muddy up the eReader Market

There are so many mistakes in Ars Technica’s article it’s painful -

  1. It claims the iPad/Kindle combo is proving deadly to the rest of the eReader market. So iPad is again an eReader? 
  2. It claims that Android Tablets will occupy the gap in the eReader market created by the price difference between Kindle and iPad. So Android tablets are eReaders now? Given that they are called Tablet computers you would think they were multi-purpose Tablets and not eReaders. 
  3. It claims that devices based on Pixel Qi technology are eReaders. Pixel Qi enables Tablets to be better for reading – it’s not a dedicated eReader screen by any stretch of the imagination.

It basically all comes down to a sort of tech elitism.

As soon as the Kindle WiFi manages to remove confusion around eReaders the Tech Elite tries to muddy up the waters

The $139 Kindle WiFi instantly clarifies things – It’s a device focused on reading, the eInk Pearl screen is a lot better than LCDs for reading, everything about the device is focused on reading. It’s also at such a low price, compared to the iPad Tablet, that you can’t really argue on ‘more than just reading’ or ‘value for money’.

Everyone got it. Even the main stream press were talking about Kindle and iPad and how they are separate devices.

This has to really, really bother a journalist if he’s part of the tech elite. The tech elite were trying desperately to kill eReaders because eReaders focused on people who read books and people who were not technically savvy. That’s the exact opposite of what the tech elite want – they want devices that are the flavor of the month and are built for them.

For who other than the tech elite could truly appreciate a device?

That’s where Ars Technica steps in. As flag bearer for the tech elite, who refuse to let any device cater to a group other than themselves, it is aghast at eReaders.

How could a device that doesn’t meet our expectation for cool, new technology do so well?

We decide what’s cool and what should sell. Reading isn’t cool. It’ll make people smart and then they won’t click on our ads or, horror of horrors, start using ad-blockers.

We have to kill off these eReaders. Let’s club them together with Tablets since Tablets have color and let you do more than just read.

So, naturally, Ars Technica tries to mix together Tablets and eReaders again and try to get us back to square one.

It’s a harsh realization – No matter how good eReaders and the Kindle 3 are for reading the tech elite don’t care. In their minds the fundamental problem is that the device is meant for reading and not as some sort of offering to tech fetishists.

The Perception war has ended but Ars Technica is trying to revive it again.

New ways to attack the eReader Market

Ars Technica is not alone in wanting eReaders dead and the rest of 2010 will see a lot more attacks. Here are some ways in which eReader enemies will attack the eReader market -

  1. Try to claim eReaders aren’t measurably better for reading. Main Proponents: NY Times, Device makers making general purpose devices that want a part of the eReader market.  
  2. Try to club together eReaders and Tablets and Phones as ‘generic eReading devices’. This will be tried by anyone who’s upset that eReaders are successful. They don’t want to admit that millions of eReaders are selling so they pretend that eReaders include Tablets and Phones and try to pass off ‘dedicated to reading’ eReaders as a small anomaly.
  3. The ‘Value for Money’ argument. People who don’t value reading often try this approach. The $139 Kindle WiFi completely destroys this and we’ll see eReader haters and Kindle haters try out many different attacks to see what could work instead of this.
  4. The ‘One Device to do everything’ argument. This is the classic loser’s choice argument – Why would you want a desktop computer that’s great for working, a phone that’s great for making phone calls, and an eReader that’s great for reading when you could replace them all with an iPad that’s not great at anything except multi-purposeness? Well, what’s the use of convenience when you have to compromise quality? To be fair there is some merit to this argument - convenience is a definite positive. However, we are very, very far from a magical device that can be all things to all people without compromising quality.
  5. The ‘get a device that can do more than just read’ argument. This argument obviously won’t work on readers. However, it’s very dangerous for casual readers who would gladly try out a $139 Kindle WiFi or $149 Nook WiFi. If they read enough anti-eReader articles they will start re-considering their interest in a reading device. The only solution is to get eReaders into the hands of lots of people and show them that the quality of reading on eInk Pearl is good enough to make getting a dedicated reading device worthwhile.
  6. Disrupt the supply of ebooks. Publishers are trying it with the Agency Model. No idea what the effect is.
  7. Attack eReaders on tangential issues. Lack of Feature X, lack of color, lack of touch – All things that are irrelevant to the reading experience and yet people who have zero intention of ever buying an eReader will claim it’s the reason they aren’t buying an eReader.

At its core the eReader market is an exploding market. Some people want to attack it because they dislike reading, some want to attack it because they dislike the notion of a device dedicated to reading, and some want a piece. The latter includes companies that have no desire to contribute to reading or to help readers but would love a share of the huge profits in eReaders and eBooks.

These are companies trying to create a grand delusion -

We don’t care enough about reading to even make a device for reading.

Here’s our device that is focused on something else and you could read on it so why not get it instead of a device that is absolutely beautiful for reading.

Doesn’t that make sense – here’s your eReader that’s specialized for playing games.

A lot of companies are trying this. The ones like Apple are really smart and spinning it better. However, spin only lasts for a while.

iPad isn’t an eReader – You have to read on it to realize it

After a few months most iPad readers are realizing that it isn’t good for reading. Paul Biba from TeleRead doesn’t mince words -

It makes a lousy ereader. The machine is far too heavy to hold for any length of time. It is also very slippery which means that you have to read with it in a case, which, in turn, just adds to its bulk and weight.

Also, while I have no trouble reading for extended periods from my iPhone, the iPad has just too much glare for prolonged use. I get sick of reading black text on a white background to cut the glare.

More: its pretty much useless outside (I use my Kindle there);

People who don’t read either never encounter these problems or they don’t read enough for these things to be important. In some cases they feel it’s OK because the books have animations and it’s an Apple product so you can’t ever admit it sucks at anything – you’d lose your Hipster Guild Membership.

This Christmas Season will see another set of Attacks on eReaders.

The attacks on eReaders during Christmas Season 2010 will follow this blue-print -

  1. Press will spend August and September trying to convince people that any device you can read on is an eReader and there’s not a big difference.  
  2. It will spend the latter part of September and most of October bemoaning the lack of features in eReaders and the lack of progress. We’ll see lots of vicious attacks on eReaders – including attacks on the very good ones.
  3. From now through November the Press will also build up Android devices and multi-purpose devices as ‘the next step in eReaders’.
  4. In end October and November the Press will start promoting the ‘more than just read’ and ‘more value for money’ concepts and try to claim Android based Tablets are a better choice for reading books.
  5. In end November and December the Press will go crazy. They’ll pick up whatever’s available (Dell Streak, iPad 2 if it’s out, one of the better Android Tablets) and start heavily pushing it as the ‘best eReader solution’.

This Christmas season is the last chance the Press and the Tech Elite have to slow down eReaders. If they can’t figure out something we’re going to see tens of millions of eReaders sold in 2011.

When that happens and eReaders begin to replace paper the ‘a device should do more than just read’ tech elitists will be left with nowhere to hide. That makes the next 5 months especially crucial for them and we can be sure they’re going to come up with the most absurd attacks on eReaders and readers. Ars Technica is starting it off and credit to them for sticking with their pig-headed policy of assuming they know what’s best for everyone else (this is the same blog that thought its readers shouldn’t be allowed to use ad-blockers).

eReaders, readers, and tech early adopters

It might seem at times that the Kindle is the only product that the tech Press and tech early adopters don’t understand and think ought to be killed. However, there are lots of other products that the tech press seem to hate. 

There almost seems to be a divide between the real world and the world that a certain group of people (tech early adopters, tech press, main stream tech bloggers) live in. This article will refer to them as ‘tech early adopters’ – However, the term is only meant to cover early tech adopters who are vociferous in their belief that the Kindle should and will die out (as will any technology that doesn’t match their view of how things should be).

Consider today’s Techmeme stories. Here are a few of them -

  1. Coca Cola seeing great results from Twitter Ads. 
  2. Facebook’s advertising strategy and whether it’s a threat to Google. 
  3. Steve Jobs demonstrating how to correctly hold an iPhone 4.
  4. 77% of iPhone 4 sales were upgrades. 
  5. Apple tries to break online advertising.

There’s a strange sort of fascination with death and destruction and underdog companies rising up and destroying an existing market leader.

The tech early adopters focus on how they want the world to be

It’s perfectly reasonable. However, it’s worth keeping this in mind when following most tech coverage.

There are certain things that tech early adopters want and the tech press (which caters primarily to them) covers news in a manner that makes it seem as if this has already happened or is about to happen.

Companies that the tech early adopters hate

There’s a pretty extensive list of companies that tech early adopters hate including -

  1. Microsoft due to its complete dominance of Operating Systems and Office Software. Making things worse is all its other software that, for the most part, makes a lot of money.
  2. Google when it comes to Search and Search Advertising.
  3. Apple when it comes to the App Store.
  4. Amazon when it comes to the Kindle. When it comes to the Cloud Amazon is ignored (not hated) even though it’s the #1 Cloud services provider.
  5. Any company that is focused on usefulness over technical newness or technical brilliance. Blackberry is a great example.

There are a few key trends that emerge -

  • Tech early adopters hate companies that dominate a market. Not sure whether this is some sort of deep-seated jealousy or just the feeling that dominant companies hinder innovation.
  • Tech early adopters absolutely hate any company that makes products focused on non-technical users. The only exception is when the company is an underdog in that space.
  • Tech early adopters hate products and companies that value functionality over cool new technology.

It’s almost like fashion. There’s the ‘in’ technology and/or company for the season/year and everything else is considered terrible.

Companies and technologies that tech early adopters love

Tech early adopters mostly love companies that promise a new future or simply destruction of an existing giant. The list of tech early adopters’ favorite companies includes -

  1. Apple except when it comes to the App Store and lack of openness. 
  2. Twitter. 
  3. Facebook except when it comes to privacy.
  4. Any company that is an underdog and taking on a dominant competitor.
  5. Any company that is or seems to be not worried about money and favors some ethic or principle instead – especially if it’s intangible or related to openness.

Again we see some trends emerge -

  1. Tech early adopters love underdogs who are taking on a giant competitor despite odds being against them.
  2. Tech early adopters love companies that have an allergy to profits.  
  3. Tech early adopters absolutely love any company that focuses on ‘new’ technology over usefulness.

There’s a strange transition where a company goes from ‘underdog we think should win’ to ‘doing very well, should we still support it’ to ‘evil, successful company making a lot of money’. If you look at the trends in tech coverage carefully you’ll notice that Apple and Google are on the verge of being labelled ‘evil’.

The Kindle bothers tech early adopters on multiple levels

To truly understand all the criticism of the Kindle and why the tech press are so fervently hoping that the iPad will kill the Kindle you have to consider all the things the Kindle is doing wrong -

  1. It’s running away with the market. This is a total no-no since early adopters feel domination results in a lack of innovation.  
  2. It’s a closed system and books have DRM. This is blasphemy since most tech early adopters don’t like paying for things unless they have the option not to pay for them (pretty strange isn’t it). 
  3. Amazon are a giant, very successful company.
  4. The Kindle is built for readers. How dare a product not be built for the tech intelligentsia.  
  5. Most tech early adopters don’t read much so they don’t understand the Kindle or the need for a dedicated reading device. 
  6. Amazon is making money from the Kindle (or at least it was) and from ebook sales. This is doubly vexing for tech early adopters – forget an allergy to profits, Amazon’s Kindle eco-system seems built for profit. 
  7. Amazon is also dominating in ebooks.

Basically, the Kindle eco-system takes the ‘underdog wins, makes zero profit, creates cool new product meant only for tech early adopters’ view of the world early tech adopters have and totally goes against it.

We also get this pattern from some other companies like Oracle and Microsoft and they get either ignored or hated. When it comes to search Google is disliked and Apple will almost certainly become public enemy number one if they manage to upend Nokia and Blackberry.

Tech Early adopters expect more than just performance and value from a tech product

A reader buys a Kindle and expects good value for money, a good reading experience, good customer service, and a product that provides reading related features and services. Readers are basically looking for a good book replacement.

Tech early adopters on the other hand are looking for a completely different set of things (especially if they don’t read much) – a cool device, new technology, what they think a device should be, and something that does more than just read. Basically, something that matches their view of what a revolutionary new device should be.

There’s a wish-list of bullet points and the reading experience is at the very bottom. For some tech early adopters reading isn’t even on the list.

There was a very natural conflict between what the tech early adopter wanted in a reading device and what the average reader wanted (the latter is what the Kindle provided very well). This conflict is even more intense now because the Kindle managed to succeed based on Amazon’s book reading customers – they were the early adopters. If you look back to 2007, 2008. and even early 2009 the tech early adopters were always against the Kindle.

How it must bother them that a device they never put their support behind has prospered and is doing very well. To make things worse it threatens to give Amazon the opportunity to take over all of Publishing. Not only would tech early adopters be wrong about the potential success of the Kindle they would get to see it revolutionize reading, publishing, and everything related to books.

So what happens next – Will tech early adopters and the tech press EVER stop hating the Kindle?

Well, it’s pretty unlikely.

The more successful the Kindle is the more it bothers tech early adopters. That’s why they talk up every single product as a potential Kindle killer – even if it isn’t really a reading device.

In a way it’s almost their job to hate any company that takes the lead - to instead put their weight behind potentially dangerous upstarts. This helps these products reach mainstream users. At that point the real users take over and decide whether the product really is worthwhile.

It’s a double-edged sword – all the constant cries of Kindle Killer and ‘Kindle must die’ are a bit annoying. However, if and when a better reading option comes around we’ll be glad that the early adopters supported it and that news of its existence reached us. In some cases purchases by tech early adopters are the only thing keeping a product alive during its struggles to reach the mass market.

There’s a lot of randomness and serendipity involved - it’s entirely possible that even though tech early adopters don’t understand eReaders or readers they will be the ones that uncover the next great eReader.


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