Are Kindle sales going to see a boost now that the iPad is out?

Given how the press are fawning over the iPad this might seem a strange, contrarian question. It isn’t.

It’s very valid because there’s a big contrast -

  1. January and February – Something magical is going to arrive. 
  2. March - Look it’s pretty and it does a lot of things.
  3. April – The WiFi version of the iPad is good and it isn’t necessarily better for reading than the Kindle. It’s in people’s hands so it’s no longer advertising and influence talking.
  4. April end/May – The 3G version of the iPad is out and it isn’t better for reading than the Kindle either.

Until the announcement of the iPad in January the Kindle was, arguably, the best choice for a reading device. Then, for over 3 months, there was this unknown of the iPad and its suitability for reading. 

Now, finally, we have the iPad and we can hold it and read on it and fall in love with the night-time reading and get upset at it turning into a mirror in the sunlight and find it heavy or find the 2 pages lovely and hate the lack of books and love the animated page turns (well, almost everyone).

It’s mortal and it’s real and familiarity is breeding contempt for some and love for others.

The Stark Contrast between Competing against Perception and Competing against Reality

On April 2nd had written about how competing against an unknown product is more dangerous.

It applies across all areas of life. It applies especially to products and it definitely applies to eReaders.

Dedicated reading devices are primarily competing against two perceptions (perhaps illusions would be the more appropriate word) -

  • A dedicated reading device for $259 is too expensive. 
  • The qualities that set dedicated reading devices apart (eInk, portability, battery life, focus on reading, lack of distractions) are not vital to reading.

It’s very easy to propagate these perceptions when you have some as yet unreleased product (that supposedly provides a better reading experience) about to come out.

When that product is actually available people get to see the reality.

Real, tangible issues that make reading on the iPad non-optimal

These are all examples that people have written about. Reasons for preferring a Kindle -

  1. Price. For people who want a dedicated reading device paying double price to do things other than reading doesn’t make sense. 
  2. Size and Weight. The iPad is just too unwieldy. Holding 1.5 pounds gets pretty stressful pretty soon. It almost completely rules out one-handed reading.
  3. Lack of eInk. Reading on the iPad for longer stretches bothers people some (headaches, eye strain) including me. eInk has more pixels per inch and is easier on the eyes. There are some people who find no difference and that’s fine - In a few years we’ll know what reading books on LCDs does to the eyes and it might be nothing or it might be a lot.  
  4. Reading in sunlight. On the beach, in the park, and just when you’re out and about. The iPad apologists’ just go and read in the shade argument is nonsense – that defeats the whole purpose of getting some sun.
  5. Losing Sleep. Sleep experts think the iPad’s backlight can lead to insomnia. There are no studies on this so take it any way you like.
  6. Focus on reading and lack of distractions.
  7. Reading related features. Things like WhisperSync and multiple Kindles shared on one account.

There are lots of other things – free 3G connection with the Kindle for example.

There are obviously lots of iPad advantages too – color, apps from multiple companies, animated page turns in iBooks, being able to do more than just read. However, we knew all of these before release and knew none of the disadvantages.

Before Release we only knew the good things 

The crucial difference was that we didn’t know any of the disadvantages – No one knew you couldn’t read in sunlight (in fact, some of the press still haven’t realized this).

Not many people realized just how difficult it would be to hold a 1.5 pound device (that is the size of a large hardcover) for a long time.

Seriously – How many of us read a book while holding it in our laps?  

Now that the iPad is out it’s like moving in with someone and realizing they have flaws. Little things that you didn’t even notice (LCD would mean non readable in sunlight, you don’t really have much in common) now become a pain. Things that seemed absolutely amazing (animated page turns, that cute little smile) suddenly don’t hold as much weight.

The Kindle gets to compete with a real, physical, mortal enemy

People underestimate the huge difference in the buying decision -

  1. In March and early April it was the Kindle with its strengths and weaknesses against some unknown device that only had strengths.
  2. In May it’s the Kindle (still with its strengths and weaknesses, also with the folders update) competing against a device that isn’t Perfect.

You notice this amongst the Press too – some of them are already talking about how it’s the second or the third generation of the iPad that will be the real eReader killer. Others feel it’s the iPad Mini or the iPad Max or some unknown variant that will do the damage.

The favorite lines have changed -

  1. Earlier - A device that can do more than just read for just double the price. No one is going to buy eReaders any more. 
  2. Now – In generation 2 when it’s cut the price by 25% it’ll be so much more value for money. Only 2 million Kindles are going to sell this year. 

You can notice the subtle hedging of bets.

Decisions that had been delayed now get made

Perhaps the biggest factor is that lots of people had delayed their reading device buying decisions.

People who wanted a device primarily for reading wanted to see how good the iPad would be for reading and now that they know they can decide freely. My gut is that the Kindle will win most of these – Perhaps Kindle loses 20% to 25% of sales to the iPad.

People who’re predicting more losses are not taking into account simple criteria – price, reading in sunlight, portability, weight.

The War of Perceptions will never be fair

It’s really good for the Kindle that the iPad is finally out.

Apple has $246 million or so of advertising budget. It’s either paying the Press that for advertisements or getting good coverage from them because they don’t want to lose that money.

Apple sent the cops after a blog that wrote about a lost new generation iPhone – You can bet they would stop advertising in any Magazine or newspaper that wrote anything negative about the iPad.

You also have the promise from Apple that they’re going to save the Press. And Publishers’ fear of Amazon.

Basically, there are a lot of reasons that the Press, consciously and unconsciously, will always keep favoring Apple. They will also keep favoring any company taking on the Kindle.

Amazon needs to get actual Kindles into people’s hands (which it’s finally begun to do via Target) and it needs to figure out how to fight the war of perceptions against magical devices that claim to be perfect for 5,000 things including reading.

Finally, we have something resembling a real competition

Now it’s in the hands of people who actually read and they have both devices’ strengths and weaknesses in front of them.

This is the closest to a fair chance Kindle and other dedicated eReaders are ever going to get. My money is on them winning.

Quite frankly, it’d be better that the Nook or Sony Reader won over the Kindle than something like the iPad which would just kill reading. The Kindle will be fine though.

Kindle is competing with Tablets even though it isn’t

To fully understand this we need to start from when there were no eReaders.

Before eReaders

Publishers weren’t interested in creating or promoting ebooks – they didn’t know how much money there was, they had little interest in computers and electronics, they weren’t very interested in progress, they were concerned about piracy, they were concerned about losing their power and control, and they had no idea what would happen.

Computer and device manufacturers didn’t care about ebooks for many reasons – they weren’t into books, there was no free supply and they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of book publishers, there were enough opportunities to keep them busy, they didn’t think there was a market, the Internet and pirated books seemed to be more compelling to users, and there didn’t seem to be a need or demand for ebooks and eReaders.

Basically, there was neither interest nor financial incentive to go with ebooks.

Kindle (mostly) and Sony validate the market

By around mid 2009 the success of the Kindle (to some unknown extent) was certain. At the end of 2009 it became painfully obvious that there was a big market for both eReaders and ebooks.

At this point you ignite the two key ingredients of interest and incentive -

  1. Publishers get very interested and get huge financial incentive as they might lose control of book publishing and thus lose access to their lion’s share of revenue and profits.
  2. Device manufacturers and tech companies get very interested as they know that the eReader is a Trojan Horse that can bypass the PC and the Internet. They are also very interested financially as a $23.8 billion a year business is being transformed.

It’s easy to disregard the pull of the financial incentive – However, when everyone from Samsung (electronics) to Bridgestone (tires) to Qualcomm (chips, telecommunication) to Google (search) to Apple (devices and computers) are jumping in you have to admit they must see something other than an opportunity to save penguins in Antarctica. 

None of these companies care a whit about books. They are only here because they see an opportunity to take over a transforming $24 billion a year business.

The Press were still downplaying the success of eReaders and ebooks at the end of 2009 - because they wanted their horse to win the race. Notice how in 2010 they are talking up the iPad as an eReader while simultaneously claiming that there is no market for eReaders like the Kindle and Nook.

Kindle had to compete with the perception that PCs and tiny phones were better for reading

Right from its launch in end 2007 to now the Kindle has had to fight the perception that any device can be used for reading.

Here’s a small list of different beliefs and perceptions the Press and Non-readers have tried to impose on us -

  1. Reading isn’t important enough to warrant a dedicated device. 
  2. No one reads any more.
  3. Books are worthless and should be free. 
  4. It makes no difference whether you use LCD or eInk. 
  5. eReaders aren’t as good for reading as cellphones. 
  6. No more than 40,000 eReaders will be sold.
  7. eReaders are bound to fail.

The response from non-readers to the Kindle has always been – My phone can read. My PC can be used for reading. $359 or $259 is too high. It’s useless without color.

Until the last few months no one even tried to pretend reading was valuable or that their multi-purpose devices were meant for reading. Now suddenly things have changed.

2010 – Kindle has to compete with Tablets pretending to be eReaders

2010 is a watershed year. The eBook and eReader markets have become so important that both Apple and Google are jumping into selling eBooks and Apple is actually trying to pass off the iPad as an eReader.

There are basically two choices -

  1. A dedicated reading device like the Kindle that focuses on reading and reading related things. It’s built for reading.
  2. A Tablet like the iPad that can be used for reading in addition to 5,000 other things. It’s sold as ‘for reading’ even though there are no hardware decisions made for reading.

The choice varies according to how much you value reading.

The Best Possible Reading to Good Enough Reading to Zero Reading continuum

There’s basically a continuum of users going from -

  1. Users who want the best possible reading experience and nothing else matters.
  2. To Users who want a good enough reading experience and also lots of other functions.
  3. To Users who don’t really read and couldn’t care less.

To complicate matters we have the dimension of value for money.

What Tablet companies are trying to do is position themselves as better value for money with a good enough reading experience and thereby capture a portion of users more interested in reading than in anything else.

It’s an attempt to steal away some of the eReader market without releasing an eReader.

2010 – Trying to steal the eReader market without an eReader

What we have right now is an amazingly presumptuous and smart strategy.

Tablet companies and phone companies don’t know if the eBook and eReader markets are going to become big enough for them to make a full-hearted effort. So they’re seeing if they can take over the eReader and eBook markets without actually creating an eReader.

There are a few key elements of this strategy -

  1. Use the press to criticize eReaders and at the same time play up the usability of the phone and the tablet as reading devices. 
  2. Market the phone and tablet as reading devices to people interested in eReaders. 
  3. Put in some amount of effort to make the Tablet and Phone more suited for reading.

Note that companies still don’t feel convinced enough to make hardware changes – They simply want to add some software tweaks, get some reading software in, and pretend to be better for reading than dedicated reading devices.

Kindle is safe for now because there is a gap in both reading experience and value for money

There are two equally important reasons that most people interested in reading will pick the Kindle -

  1. Kindle is just $259 and most Tablets are $500 or more. Kindle Store book prices are cheaper than anywhere else – except for books from the Agency Model Publishers.
  2. Kindle provides a much better reading experience thanks to eInk, better range of books, a device focused on reading, and other factors.

Regardless of how many lies the press print a LCD screen tablet optimized for movies and games can’t suddenly become better for reading than a dedicated reader.

However, the Kindle is still competing with Tablets. People are looking at the difference in reading experiences and difference in prices and the additional functionality Tablets provide and making their decisions.

Even now some reader are being lost to Tablets. As Tablets keep improving they will be more and more of a threat.

The perception war currently being fought will be replaced by a much bloodier war – one where the Press will finally have some truth on their side.

At some point Kindle will have to compete with Tablets physically tailored for reading

 eReaders are going to continue to do well and ebooks are going to continue to grow. It might seem hard to believe because the Press are claiming otherwise – However, this is the same Press that thought less than 40,000 Kindles would be sold.

As eReaders continue to grow Tablet makers will finally realize two things -

  1. The eReader market is a big, significant market in its early stages. 
  2. Readers are not going to be fooled into buying a device that isn’t optimized for reading.

At that stage we will get Tablet makers make some concessions (not a dedicated reading device because they will still not be able to get over their ‘reading is dead’ mindset) and start doing a few things to make tablets better -

  1. Pixel Qi style multiple mode screens.
  2. Make devices more portable and lighter.
  3. Use folding screens or other methods to increase the screen size to device size ratio.
  4. Start focusing on providing enough ebooks.
  5. Provide ebooks at good prices. We will see the end of the Agency Model – though perhaps not for this particular reason alone.

That will set the stage for an epic battle.

eReaders taking on Tablet-eReader hybrids

Currently readers are being tricked into believing that Tablets are as good or better for reading than dedicated reading devices. It’s simply not true.

As soon as Tablets start making actual hardware changes they will begin to be worthy eReader rivals. This won’t happen if eReaders keep improving – However, eInk has shown precious few signs of progress in the last two years.

We are a year away from Tablet-eReader hybrids that will be (unless there is an ePaper miracle) as good for reading as dedicated readers. At that point dedicated eReaders will have to integrate at least 2 and ideally 3 of the following to survive -

  1. The aforementioned ePaper miracle that brings some advanced new technology and gives eReaders back their position as the best reading device.
  2. Value for money i.e. very cheap eReaders with additional value through features like the Kindle’s free Internet.
  3. A focus on and improvement of the reading experience via rethinking and recreating the eReader.

Basically, Amazon and B&N and Sony need to imagine a 7″ iPad Mini priced at $325 and equipped with a Pixel Qi screen and 20 hours of battery life. They need to start assuming it’s going to arrive in October 2010 or March 2011 and they need to have eReaders ready that can beat this device on both reading experience and value for money.

Kindle vs iPad – Kindle, iPad comparison from iPad reviews

There are lots of Kindle vs iPad comparisons in the first set of iPad reviews - Unfortunately, their Kindle, iPad comparisons are half-baked. None of the reviewers read a couple of books each on the Kindle, iPad and took notes on the differences in experience, reading speed, eye strain and so forth.

Most of them were busy with the hard task of watching movies back to back to see how long the iPad’s battery would last. Only one reviewer (Walt Mossberg) mentions actually reading a complete book on the iPad.

This post will look at Kindle vs iPad by compiling all the reading related Kindle, iPad differences listed across the top 5-6 iPad reviews and adding on some of what’s missing.

Kindle vs iPad – iPad advantages from the reviews

  1. iPad has sizzle, flash, and looks very pretty. 
  2. iPad has a color screen. It’s IPS LCD so it’s better looking than most LCDs.
  3. The iPad screen is bigger and you can go to two page view.
  4. Easier to navigate than the Kindle as it has a touchscreen. Also, search is supposedly excellent.
  5. The page turns are applauded both for the fancy animation and the quicker speed. 
  6. The backlit LCD screen means reading at night doesn’t require a reading light. Plus you can adjust screen brightness.
  7. Walt Mossberg said he did not feel any eye strain from reading on the iPad. Please check for yourself as most/some people do get eye strain from extended reading on LCD screens.
  8. iPad is called ‘vastly superior’ for magazines and newspapers. 
  9. You can bookmark individual words.
  10. You don’t need to buy a separate ebook reader.

iPad advantages that don’t get mentioned

  1. It supports ePub books that don’t have DRM. That means free Google Books etc. ought to work.
  2. There are PDF apps that will let you read PDFs on the iPad.
  3. There are lots of apps for writing (like AwesomeNote, My Diary, Memento) that you could use to turn the iPad into eReader + eWriter. 
  4. Text to Speech via the VoiceOver feature.
  5. Automatic screen rotation with screen orientation lock button – The Kindle only has manual rotation.

Will be updating this list (and the next one) as more data trickles in.

Kindle vs iPad – Kindle advantages from the reviews

  1. Kindle has 450,000 books as compared to the iPad’s starting selection of 60,000 titles. 
  2. Kindle books are cheaper for non-Agency Model Publishers.  
  3. Kindle is much cheaper at $259.  
  4. Kindle is lighter (10.2 ounces) and you can read with one hand. iPad is ‘much heavier’ (1.5 pounds) and ‘most people will need two hands to use it’ according to Walt Mossberg.
  5. Kindle has much better battery life (2 weeks with wireless turned off). iPad’s battery life is 10 to 12 hours.
  6. Kindle lets you add notes – iPad doesn’t.
  7. You can read on the Kindle in direct sunlight.
  8. You can use various Kindle Apps to read Kindle books on Mac, PC, Blackberry, iPhone, and even iPad. iBookstore books only work on the iPad (they might add Mac support and iPhone support down the line).

Kindle Advantages that don’t get mentioned

  1. eInk is better for longer reading spells than LCDs – even IPS LCDs. If you read in 15 to 20 minutes bursts then a LCD screen is good enough. Longer and eInk will most probably work much better for you.  
  2. Free Wikipedia access via 3G and free Internet Access via 3G. If you buy a Kindle in the US you get free Internet Access in over 100 countries. The Browser is very primitive but it lets you access the mobile email sites and Google.
  3. Text to Speech via the Read to Me feature. Publishers sometimes block it out – However, those Publishers will probably block it out on iPad too. 
  4. There’s a Kindle App Store on the horizon and it ought to add at least some good apps – perhaps even a few great ones.

The reason so many journalists feel that ‘it remains to be seen’ whether eInk is better than LCD for reading is that they didn’t really read entire books – they were too busy reviewing the iPad. Perhaps 5 to 10% of the population finds no difference between 4 hours of reading on eInk and 4 hours reading on LCD screens (including Walk Mossberg) – So please check for yourself.

A Note of Thanks and a Conclusion

First, a quick note of thanks to the reviews referenced -

  1. Ed Baig’s iPad Review which includes a lot of Kindle vs iPad comparison points.
  2. Walt Mossberg actually read a few books on the iPad.  
  3. David Pogue also included good Kindle vs iPad points
  4. PC Mag’s Tim Gideon actually wrote an entire, long section comparing iPad’s iBooks App with the Kindle

What’s the Conclusion?

The conclusion is that you have to check out reading on the iPad yourself before buying.

  1. If your focus is on reading books or $500 is too much for you then the Kindle is the easy choice.
  2. If your focus is on multi-tasking or watching movies or playing games then the iPad is the right choice.
  3. If you read less than 1 book a month the iPad is probably the right choice. 

The Kindle is focused on reading and leads to owners reading more. The iPad will have a lot of different things to do and it’s rather unlikely you will read more or even as much.

Just consider the lists above and factor in what’s important to you - iPad and Kindle are both really good at what they’re supposed to do (let’s trust the iPad reviews). Kindle vs iPad comes down to what you want to use them for, how much reading you’ll do, and whether you want to read more than you currently do (Kindle) or less.

Survey says 14% want to buy Kindle, 15% iPad

It’s a survey of 2,176 Internet users by ComScore focused on Apple iPad and eReader Consumer Attitudes, Behaviors, and Purchase Intent. It’s sub-titled ‘iPad matches Amazon Kindle in Awareness and Purchase Intent’ which you have to think is a major win for the Kindle given that the iPad is supposed to wipe out eReaders from consumers’ minds, not match them in interest.  

eReader Awareness seems to be really high

The figures really jump out at you -

  1. 65% of users were aware of the Kindle and 69% had researched it online – Wonder how that makes any sense at all. Were 4% clairvoyant and searching for eReaders without being aware of them?
  2. 6% have bought the Kindle and another 14% are seriously considering buying the Kindle in the next 3 months. 
  3. 65% of users were aware of the iPad (35% weren’t? Would’ve thought even indigenous tribes in Polynesia would be aware of the iPad by now).
  4. 1% have already bought the iPad and 15% are seriously considering buying it in the next 3 months. 
  5. 10% of users intend to buy the Nook (2% already own it) and 9% intend to buy the Sony Reader (4% already own it).
  6. 8% intend to buy the Samsung Papyrus – Which is quite amazing since Samsung is releasing the E6 in the US and not the Papyrus.

eReader awareness and intent to buy is so high it makes you wonder.

How reliable is this survey?

How on earth did ComScore manage to find a group of Internet users where 69% have researched the Kindle online and a grand total of 56% intend to buy one eReader or the other in the next 3 months?

Perhaps we’re misreading the figures and they mean a grand total of 15% of users intend to buy an eReader in the next 3 months and the order of likelihood is iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony, and Samsung.

Minonline also adds a bit of caution -

To be sure, comScore’s numbers are a bit skewed in favor of the digitally aware. It seems unlikely that 6% of the general population owns a Kindle, for instance. Most market estimates of Kindle penetration are far south of 3 million units.

Perhaps the craziest bit of the Survey results is this -

Younger consumers indicated a high willingness to pay for news and magazines specially formatted for e-readers.

68 percent of 25-34 year olds and 59 percent of 35-44 year olds said they were willing to pay for this content, representing substantially higher percentages than people age 45 and older.

You mean to tell us that the people who actually read newspapers and buy print newspapers are less likely to pay for news on eReaders than the demographic that doesn’t really read newspapers (25-34).

In what parallel universe are 68% of 25-34 year olds willing to read news on eReaders, let alone pay for it?

iPad usage intentions – 37% would read books on an iPad

The questionnaire asks this question - If you owned an iPad, how likely would you be to use the following features? 

This is a pretty flawed question because the survey should only be asking people who already own an iPad or intend to buy one. People who aren’t going to ever buy an iPad are of no relevance to the ‘reading books on the iPad’ topic.

If we put aside the flawed premise we get these results -

  1. 37% are likely to read books and 28% are unlikely to read books. The remaining 35% probably didn’t know what books were – You mean those things with scribblings in them
  2. 34% were likely to read newspapers and magazines (and 30% were unlikely to). 
  3. Internet usage and email got the highest responses with 50% of users intending to browse the Internet on their iPad and 48% using email. 

If this survey is right people are willing to pay for content

We can always hope that 68% of 25 to 34 year olds really are willing to pay for news and magazines via eReaders. It’s not the only ‘so good it’s hard to believe’ news.

The survey says that 50% of iOwners (iPhone and iPod Touch owners) who also owned eReaders spent at least $60 on ebooks in the last 3 months -

Results also showed that iOwners exhibited very different characteristics and receptivity to the purchase and use of digital content than non-iOwners.

52 percent of iOwners said they were willing or very willing to pay for newspaper and magazine subscriptions specially formatted for e-readers, compared to just 22 percent of non-iOwners.

Similarly, 50 percent of iOwners who also own an e-reader said they had spent at least $60 on e-books in the past three months compared to only 24 percent of non-iOwners. 

How widely do iPad surveys differ?

ChangeWave did a survey around 3 weeks back that had some results similar to the ComScore survey -

  1. 37% of potential iPad owners would read books on their iPad.
  2. 27% of people who bought eReaders in the last 3 months regret not waiting for the iPad (it’s similar given that the ComScore survey says 26.8% of people intending to buy an eReader in the next 3 months intend to buy an iPad).

It also had some drastically different results -

  1. 40% of people looking to buy an eReader wanted to get an iPad and only 28% wanted to get a Kindle.
  2. Only 1% wanted to get a Sony Reader.
  3. 68% wanted to use the iPad for surfing the Internet.

Two iPad vs eReader surveys and two drastically different sets of results. It probably means that asking 2,000 random people for their opinions and making predictions based on those isn’t the best idea.

The downsides of clubbing the iPad with eReaders

It’s a bit vexing that people are trying to pass off the iPad as an eReader - claiming that any device you can read on is an eReader. If they use that definition all desktop computers are eReaders. Even if they try to be clever and say – An eReader is any mobile device you can read on (which would keep in the iPad and keep out the desktops) you have 70 million+ eReaders in the form of 20 million+ netbooks and 50 million+ iPhones.

The main downsides of passing off the iPad as an eReader

Well, there are quite a few -

  1. It makes eReaders seem less successful than they are. The two devices are targeting completely different audiences - eReaders target readers and iPad targets people scared of computers and looking for tablets and those who love the iPhone and iPod. It’s completely different markets and the latter two are obviously bigger than the former.
  2. It downplays some real benefits that eReaders have i.e. the eInk screen, the focus on reading, and the lack of distractions. 
  3. eReaders are an emerging market. It’s attractive to pass off an iPad as an eReader but it confuses people about the market. If the iPad is an eReader then suddenly the definition of ‘eReader’ has been expanded into ‘any electronic device you can read on’.
  4. It skews figures – It’ll seem like people buying the iPad are dedicated readers but most aren’t.  
  5. It’s an unfair comparison because you’re comparing a device dedicated to reading with a device dedicated to multiple functionality. 
  6. It distracts authors and publishers. All these ‘there are more books than games for the iPhone’ type of articles are bad enough. Why don’t we talk actual ebook sales and actual profits.

It’s rather interesting that Apple are targeting two of the weaker markets i.e. Tablets and eReaders. They’re targeting netbooks too – However, netbooks are a strong market and that’s why there’s not much effort made to paint an iPad as a netbook. Compare iPad sales with 20 million+ a year netbook sales and it isn’t impressive. Compare iPad sales with eReader sales and it might be.

A simple test for whether the iPad is an eReader

Here’s what we should do – Any iPad owner who buys a $10 book a month on the iPad gets counted as a reader and that iPad gets counted as a reading device. You want to be generous and make it one $10 book every 2 months – that’s fine. However, we can’t be taking devices that people never read books on and calling them eReaders.

Why the push to call the iPad an eReader

There are some really interesting possibilities -

  1. Apple want to capture a share of the eReader market and of the eBooks market so they definitely want to push the iPad as an eReader.
  2. In a sense Apple is giving developers a blank slate – So they are hoping apps make the iPad as good as a dedicated eReader even though the iPad isn’t built as one.
  3. Lots of tech people are bothered that not-cool eReaders are becoming popular – they desperately want to find a way to ‘kill’ eReaders.
  4. A lot of the press are anti-Amazon and want to downplay the success of eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular.
  5. eReaders have a lot of buzz and iPad wants to use that to sell something rather different from an eReader.
  6. eReaders are still a young market so the competition and branding is fluid and weaker.
  7. eReader technology is weak.

There are some very good reasons to take a general purpose mobile computing device and play it off against Tablets (that sell a million or so units a year) and eReaders (that sell 4 to 5 million units a year).

Apple would have to be crazy to compare the iPad with the actual devices that it’s comparable to – netbooks (20 million sales a year) and laptops (hundreds of millions sold a year).

How do eReaders counter iPad’s attempts to call itself an eReader?

Simply promote the benefits of eReaders that Apple can’t match -

  1. Videos comparing eInk with LCD.
  2. Videos showing eReaders being read in bright sunlight. 
  3. Explain the amount of reading done on eReaders.
  4. Play up the dedicated reading aspects.
  5. Talk up the Kindle’s free Internet.
  6. Non-Kindle eReaders should talk up their ‘open’ qualities.
  7. Make it a point of pride – I love reading enough to get a dedicated device. I get something that is great for reading, not something where reading is an afterthought.

The biggest problem is that the Press is desperate for the iPad to succeed since they’re hoping they can sell newspapers on it and they feel it is a hedge to Amazon’s take over of ebooks. So no point looking to the Press for help – In fact, that’s why every single eReader from Kindle to Nook to Entourage Edge gets crucified in the press. For the press eReaders are the enemy and Steve Jobs’ JesusTablet is the Messiah.

eReader companies have to reach customers directly and they have to hammer on the fact that eReaders are built for reading and for readers. The iPad is trying to capture the ebooks market as an afterthought – without really caring for readers. eReader companies have to show readers they are for reading – both by talking to them directly and by stepping up the pace of improvements.


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