Trying to bypass the Kindle Store? Odds are against You.

There has been some recent interest in bypassing the Kindle Store and selling directly to Kindle owners -

  1. Some company named PressDisplay sent out a Press Release that hardly anyone picked up on – They say they let Kindle owners access 1,500 newspapers in Kindle format. 
  2. There’s an article at TeleRead talking about Press Display and also about how O’Reilly sells direct to Kindle Owners. The article also wonders why Publishers don’t do it.

Contrasting the Kindle Store Experience with non Kindle Store.

Getting a newspaper via the Kindle Store

You subscribe to a newspaper.

  1. Everyday around 5/6 am you get your copy of the newspaper sent to your Kindle wirelessly.

That’s it.

Getting a newspaper via PressDisplay

You subscribe to PressDisplay’s newspaper Subscription service.

Option 1:

To download your favorite titles directly from PressDisplay.com, simply connect your Kindle to your pc or laptop via USB cable,

click the “Export to eReader” option (identified below) from the front page of any paper and then 

follow the instructions.

Option 2:

install our PressReader application on your computer,

download your favorite titles from PressDisplay.com and then

transfer them to the Kindle via USB cable (although this approach does add an extra step).

the Path of Least Resistance Vs the Path of Most Resistance

Choosing Press Display over a Kindle Store subscription is extremely inconvenient.

First, subscribing -

  1. You have to figure out what the subscription options are.
  2. You have register and enter credit card information and subscribe to a separate site.
  3. You have to figure out how the new site works.

With the Kindle you already know how the site works, there’s 1-click buying, and the subscription options are standard and clearly spelt out.

Next, getting your newspaper -

  1. Find your PC.
  2. Navigate to the Press Display Site.
  3. Navigate to the Newspaper you want.
  4. Plug in your Kindle into the USB.
  5. Click on ‘Export to eReader’.
  6. Follow the Instructions.

There are three huge problems here -

  1. The first time when a user decides to subscribe – she/he has to figure out how the site works and trust the site with credit card information. 
  2. The first time that a user download a newspaper – she/he has to figure out how the whole process works.
  3. Every time a user downloads a paper – the kindle must be plugged into the computer plus there are 5 steps to go through (possibly more).

There are lots of decisions and lots of steps.

You just can’t compare with the Kindle experience of – snap the Kindle out of sleep mode and your paper is waiting for you.

Buying a Book outside the Kindle Store is pretty inconvenient

Here are all the steps you have to go through to get a book from a store other than the Kindle Store -

  1. Navigate to the Store. 
  2. Get familiar with it. 
  3. Find the book you want.
  4. Register.
  5. Enter credit card information.
  6. Buy the book.
  7. Pick out the right format.
  8. If they have crazy DRM then do the crazy DRM stuff.
  9. Download the book.
  10. Plug your Kindle into your PC and do a USB transfer.

Contrast that with buying on the Kindle -

  1. Go to the Kindle Store.
  2. Find the book.
  3. 1 click buy – get it in 60 seconds.

Plus it makes things extremely convenient that you can do this from within your Kindle and from anywhere you can get a cellular signal.

‘We can bypass the Kindle Store’ is a pipe dream

There are a few prerequisites before users will even consider going outside the Kindle Store -

  1. The prices have to be at least 20% cheaper or The book has to be not available in the Kindle Store.  
  2. The user has to be confident enough with tech. 
  3. The user has to value their time less than whatever 10-20% savings they’ll have.  
  4. The user has to be near a PC.

After that point we still have some big stumbling blocks to navigate -

  1. User should not be in a lazy mood.
  2. The User should be able to find and understand a new site.
  3. Getting the user to trust a new site with their credit card information. 
  4. The User making their way through the whole process without help.

And at the end of it the user might feel their 10-20% savings just weren’t worth it. There are very few people for whom 15 minutes of their time is worth less than the 10% savings they’d have on an eBook. 

Perhaps the biggest barrier – Kindle Store beats nearly every other store on price.

How the heck is any store going to get a foothold?

Closing Thought – It’s a pipe-dream only tech publishers can indulge in

PressDisplay and O’Reilly are deluding themselves.

  1. It’s not harmful to O’Reilly since their users understand tech and are very religious about openness.
  2. It would work for other tech-oriented Publishers.
  3. It’s not going to work for PressDisplay.
  4. It’s certainly not going to work for main-stream Publishers.

It’s impossible for any store selling to Kindle owners to be as convenient and painless as the Kindle Store.

If all things are nearly equal, people will always, always prefer the option that is more convenient. It’s madness to take on the Kindle Store in an area of such obvious strength.

Using Kindle and iPhone Stores to satisfy the craving to shop

You ever get the feeling where you really want to buy something?

It’s so strong this time of year.

It doesn’t even matter what – there’s just this rush of getting something new and shiny.

Well, finally figured out a way to use the Kindle and the iPhone’s ‘super easy to buy things’ capability in a good way.

Buy $2 Kindle indie titles and $1 iPhone Apps instead of expensive stuff

Rather than $100 shoes or $200 gadgets that you’ll use once a month go crazy on a shopping spree in the Kindle Store and the App Store.

We should still buy the good, big-ticket items we need. However, when we have that spending feeling and know it’s more about spending than filling a need, we should substitute this – 

Kindle Store

  1. 2 free public domain titles. 
  2. 3 $2 indie titles. 

iPhone App Store

  1. A couple 99 cent iPhone games.
  2. 4-5 free iPhone Apps.

We just got 11 new things – and spent just $8.

Watch out for the expensive stuff – There are lots of $9.99 kindle books and $5 and $10 iPhone Apps so watch out for them.

Are we all being programmed to spend recklessly?

Everywhere there are more and more efforts to get us to spend without really thinking about it -

  1. Data and Voice overage charges. 
  2. Direct Debit recurring payments.
  3. Paypal for quick purchases.
  4. 1 click purchases. 
  5. Apple iPhone Store purchases that don’t even register until you get the receipt later in the day.

At what point is it going to become too easy to spend money – perhaps it already is.  

You know what would be a good feature – something that popped up BEFORE any 1 or 2 click purchase. It could just be a big banner that said -

Are you sure you NEED this?

Are you sure you are going to use this?

You’ve already spent $500 on books this year.

Perhaps even a feature that gave you statistics – you have bought 23 books and read 11 books this year.

A rational spending feature.

The irony is that the program best suited to this i.e. Mint.com, just got acquired by Quicken and that reduces the chances that they’ll implement it.

Mint keeps emailing me trying to get me to switch banks to save mere cents on bank fees – Why not help me make smarter buying decisions and save me a ton of money?

Kindle Store Guide

This is a Kindle Store Guide that covers the Amazon.com Kindle Store. It does not cover the on-Kindle Store (a subject for another post perhaps).

This guide will walk you through everything you can do – it’s rather simplistic so feel free to skip it if you’re tech savvy.

Introduction to the Kindle Store

While you can find and buy books from the Kindle itself, its much more comfortable to browse the familiar environs of Amazon.com and to do it on your speedy and full featured browser.

The Kindle Store is basically a section of Amazon.com where you can -

  1. Find paid and free kindle books. 
  2. Buy new and used Kindles.
  3. Get newspaper, magazine and blog subscriptions.  
  4. Find Kindle bestsellers, deals, and movers and shakers. 
  5. Find new Kindle book releases.
  6. Manage your Kindle Purchases and download books you’ve bought to your PC.
  7. Manage your digital library.
  8. Get Support and participate in kindle related discussions.
  9. Much More.

We’ll cover all of these in this kindle store guide. Let’s start with finding and buying kindle books.

Kindle Store – Finding and Buying Kindle books

Here’s one way to get to a kindle books search results page -

  1. Go to Amazon.com.
  2. At any Amazon page enter the book you’re looking for into the search bar, optionally choose ‘Kindle Store’ as the search option, and press enter (or click on the ‘Go’ button).  
  3. This will bring you to the search results page.   

Here’s another -

  1. You can go to the main Kindle Books page by clicking on the little ‘Kindle Books’ icon on the upper left of any page in the Kindle section of Amazon.com.
  2. This main page features books that Amazon has decided are worth your time.
  3. On the left side, under Kindle Books, are a list of book genres and categories and clicking on any of these takes you to a standard Amazon search results page.

The Books Search Result Page   

  1. At any ‘books search result’ page in the Kindle Store, you’ll have the option to dig into a genre or sub-genre on the left.
  2. Below the genres (on the left side itself) will be the option to choose books based on user ratings.
  3. On the top right you’ll have the option to order kindle books by one of  – Bestselling, Low to High Price, High to Low Price, Average Customer Review, Publication Date.
  4. There will sometimes be ‘related searches’ listed right below the search bar and choose one of them if they are closer to what you are looking for. 
  5. Clicking on any book in the search results will take you to that book’s product page.

The Book Page

  1. The most important buttons to note are

    The ‘Buy Now with 1 Click’ button on the top right that lets you buy the book.
    The ‘Send Sample Now’ button below it that lets you read a free sample of the book.

  2. Right below the book cover is a strip of books that were bought by people who bought the current book. You can scroll to the sides and find more books.
  3. You can go lower down in the page and take a look at the details of the book – these include size of the Kindle file, number of pages, the sales rank and more.
  4. Scroll down further to read customer reviews.

Note: If you buy a kindle book from amazon.com, you do not get the option to instantly return the book. You have to email or call Kindle customer support to cancel your order.

How to find free books in the Kindle Store.

The Kindle Store has a lot of free books. You can find them the hard way -

  1. On the main Kindle Store Page, on the left side, in the Special Features category of links, select Big Deals on Kindle. This lists a few of the new free books.  
  2. Search for whatever book or author you are looking for and sort the search results according to Price Low to High (sort options are on the top right). You can go into any genre or sub-genre and do this. 
  3. To exclude public domain titles include -public in your search.

Or you can try the easy way -

  1. For new free books, check my list of current free kindle books
  2. For public domain books, check the Top 100 Kindle Public Domain Books List or download public domain books from ManyBooks.net.

Kindle Store – Buying New and Used Kindles and Kindle Accessories

The Kindle Store, rather unsurprisingly, sells Kindles -

  1. New Kindle 2 for $299 and Refurbished Kindle 2 for $219
  2. New Kindle DX for $489. 
  3. Refurbished Kindle 1 for $149. 

On the main Kindle Store page you have a section for Kindle Accessories. You can choose the links for Kindle 1, 2, and DX Accessories. 

Kindle Store – Newspapers, Magazines and Blogs

The main Kindle Store has sections for various subscriptions -

  1. Scroll down and close to the very bottom on the left hand side are links to Kindle Newspapers. 
  2. Below that are links to Kindle Magazines. 
  3. Last of all on the left side are links to Kindle Blogs and NewsFeeds – these are arranged by category since there are 7,700+ blogs.

Browsing through newspapers and magazines is easy as there are just a few dozen of each. For blogs, you might want to jump into categories and sub-categories or search by the name of the blog.

The page for a newspaper or magazine is very similar to a book page with an identical lay-out. The Buy Now and Send a Sample buttons are replaced by these options -

  1. Subscribe Now, which always starts you off with a free 14 day trial you can cancel anytime.  
  2. Buy Current Issue where you can buy just the current issue.  

Its a good idea to read through the reviews as newspapers and blogs vary widely in quality.

Kindle Store – Finding Books to Read

The Kindle Store also makes it easy for you to find good books. All of the following can be accessed from the main Kindle Store Page under the Special Features section on the left -

  1. Kindle Store Bestsellers. This lists the best selling books in the Kindle Store. You can dive into sub-categories and book genres.
  2. Movers and Shakers. This is a link on the top right hand side of the Kindle bestsellers page and a good place to find books that are getting a lot of buzz and attention.
  3. Kindle Store Recommendations for You Page.
  4. New York Times Bestsellers. 
  5. Editor Picks.
  6. Award Winners.
  7. Oprah Book Club Titles.
  8. New Kindle Store additions. There are three places to find new kindle titles -

    * Scroll down on the main page of the Kindle Store and in the main section below Bestsellers there is a section for New and Noteworthy Titles.
    * Under the Special Features section on the left hand side is a link titled New to Kindle that lists 20 or so of the newest titles available for the Kindle.
    * On the Bestsellers Page there is a tab for Hot New Releases that lists 100 hot releases (although these are sometimes not very recent).

  9. Kindle Exclusives. These are a handful of early releases for the Kindle and sometimes even titles available just for the Kindle.

Kindle Store – Various Other Features

  1. Buying and Redeeming a Kindle Gift Certificate or Gift Card – This post has details on buying and using a kindle gift certificate
  2. The Manage My Kindle Guide covers the Manage My Kindle Section which lets you download books you have bought, change your subscription options, change your kindle email and do lots of other things.
  3. See a Kindle in Your City – This is a link on the left side of the main Kindle Store page under Around the Kindle Store section. Useful if you want to see what a Kindle 2 or DX handles like or want to help a prospective Kindle Owner.
  4. Kindle for iPhone – You can download the App to use it on your iPod Touch or iPhone.
  5. Amazon Digital Library – While the Manage My Kindle section is great for downloading your books, you can also look at your Kindle Store purchases in your Amazon Digital Library.

Kindle Support and Discussions Forums

If you need help with your Kindle, the Kindle Store has a few options -

  1. You can email or call Kindle Support. There is a link on the top right on every Kindle Store page that says Kindle Support. The support numbers are -

    Kindle Customer Service E-Mail: kindle-cs-support@amazon.com. Phone numbers -
    * 1-866-321-8851 (if you are calling from within the US)
    * 1-206-266-0927 (if you are calling from outside the US

  2. You can navigate to the Kindle Discussion Forums where you can ask questions and talk with fellow kindle owners. Every page in the Kindle Store has a link on the top titled Kindle Discussions.  

How to set up Kindle wish-lists and Alerts.

The best option to create a wish-list with Kindle Books is to use the Amazon Universal Wish-List

  1. Click on the link and follow the instructions to save the Add to Wishlist Short-Cut button. 
  2. When you are on a Kindle Book Page you can click on the Button to bring up a dialog that gives you the option to add details and add this Kindle Book to any of your Amazon wish-lists. 
  3. You could create a Kindle Books only wish-list.

Note: Your friends and family can not really buy you kindle books (and vica versa). That leaves the option of gifting a Kindle Gift Card.

To create Kindle Book Alerts try out Reader Alert. It’s a useful, well-designed site.

Do leave your questions and kindle store tips.

Impact of Kindle Bestsellers, Kindle Store Search

We have yet another potential lesson from iPhone user behavior for the Kindle and for authors.

This is a chart from AdMob, via GigaOm, showing how people discover iPhone Apps they want to download.

The first is Bestseller lists in the App Store and the second is Searching the App Store. The rest are rather small by comparison.

App Rankings and App Search Importance

App Rankings and App Search Importance

Does this apply to Kindles?

Yes, it certainly does. Lets look at the various categories listed above -
  1. Bestsellers – There’s little doubt these are the #1 or #2 source to find new books. Check any forum and people talk about browsing the list or using Movers and Shakers. 
  2. Searching the Kindle Store – Again this is a top 2 resource of finding new books.  
  3. Word of Mouth – Amazon, hasn’t really unfettered the power of network effects, and why would they given they’d only endanger their control over the Kindle Store.
  4. Seeing ads while using other books. That’s not present and it’s doubtful Amazon would allow if for books sold in the Kindle Store. A good idea though for authors to band together.
  5. News Articles or Blogs – There aren’t many articles about kindle books. Blogs probably do have some effect.
  6. Impact of Brands – If you count Oprah its probably huge in books. 

It certainly seems that just like in the iPhone App Store, for Kindle Books we have the bestsellers lists and kindle store search owning Discovery. Perhaps there is no incentive for Amazon to improve discoverability since the current status quo suits them perfectly.

By the way, #1 through #6 in the bestseller lists are currently free books, and 16 of the top 25 – it certainly seems like getting Amazon to let you offer a book free is the best means of publicity.

What about the $2.4 billion a year iPhone App Sales bombshell?

That’s the other part – Kindle Sales get pegged by analysts as 1 book per month per Kindle. Anyone who reads or owns a Kindle knows that’s utter nonsense -

  1. Most readers read a lot more. 
  2. Add in work related books. 
  3. Add in (soon) textbooks.
  4. Add in comics and graphic novels and manga.
  5. Add in newspapers and magazines and more.
Is it possible that Kindle Book Sales are a lot more than analysts’ estimates?
If it were true that Kindle book sales were huge and growing what would Amazon possibly do to keep this secret for as long as possible?
  1. Make it rather difficult to get Sales Rank for Kindle Books. It does that by only exposing sales rank velocity and never sales rank in API results.  
  2. Perhaps cut off the ability to get sales rank totally. It just did that 10 days ago by making changes to API results for Kindle Books. Perhaps its just a bug – however, there has been no official response

Amazon has basically completely removed the ability to figure out kindle book sales ranks and trends. It keeps things secret and it helps force people to the kindle bestseller lists and kindle store search.

Review Fraud in Apps – lessons for Kindle Store

Gagan Biyani at MobileCrunch has the scoop on a PR Firm, Reverb Communications, using fake reviews to boost the sales of their client’s iPhone Apps.

Its rather amazing to see the extent of the fraud -

Interns at Reverb would write 5 star reviews for apps from Reverb Clients. They straight up mention it in their client communications –  

Reverb employs a small team of interns who are focused on managing online message boards, writing influential game reviews, and keeping a gauge on the online communities.

* Reviews begin to go live on day of launch on the iPhone storefront
o Release reviews starting at launch as stretch over 14 days from release

Of course, they were stupid enough to only submit 5 star reviews and to only review apps from Reverb clients. Which is probably the only reason they were caught.

In additon to fake reviews at the iTunes store, they would post fake reviews at various forums and sites across the Internet.

Their reply is rather amusing too, as they are claiming that putting up favorable reviews for their clients’ applications is legitimate -

My office did mention that you had issues with our staff and interns writing reviews for some of our clients games, I’m sure you are aware that in order to write a review on iTunes an individual needs to purchase the game or app and can only write one review.

Our interns and employees write their reviews based on their own game play experience, after having purchased the game by themselves, a practice not uncommon by anyone selling games or apps and hardly unethical.

Its also interesting to read their claims of what they’ve managed to get done for clients i.e.

Reverb has secured the following types of Apple marketing support for our iPhone clients including:

* On-stage appearance with Steve Jobs at WWDC
* National iPhone television commercials
* Apple retail programs, Apple direct e-mail pieces
* iTunes App placement on the App Store
* Placement on the “What Hot,” “Staff Favorite,” and “What’s New”
* Premier placement on the Apple iPhone store.

So much for the idea of a level playing field in the App Store.

Are Fake Reviews a danger in the Kindle Store?

Well there are a few reasons the Kindle Store is particularly susceptible to fraud -

  1. Anyone can review a kindle book. You don’t even have to buy it (as the App Store requires).  
  2. There isn’t really much apart from reviews to go on for indie books.
  3. There are just a few other places to put up fake reviews so it’s easy – official kindle forum, a handful of other forums.
  4. You don’t need that many sales to start showing up on Movers and Shakers.  
  5. You don’t even need that many sales to start showing up in Bestsellers.  

The combination of the fact that anyone can review a kindle book, and the relatively lesser number of reviews and sales needed for a book to stand out makes the Kindle Store even more susceptible to review fraud and fraud in general. 

What about Special Placements in the Kindle Store?

Would be interesting to know the criteria for each of the following -

  1. Getting mentioned on the Kindle Blog.
  2. Being able to offer a free book or a Buy One, Get Another Free offer.
  3. Getting featured in the ‘Big Deals on Kindle’ page.
  4. Getting featured on Amazon’s Kindle Store Pages.
  5. Making it to ‘Hot New Releases’ – these don’t seem to change much.

Reverb’s claims that they can get all these special benefits for their customers makes you wonder exactly what special privileges Publishers get in the Kindle Store.

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