Tolkien, Kindle – Lord of the Rings hits Kindle Store

Kindle Store just added 5 of J. R. R. Tolkein’s books, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The titles now available for Kindle 1 & 2 are -

  1. 3 in1 Lord of the Rings Trilogy for $16 approximately.  
  2. The Children of Hurin – A somewhat unfinished story by Tolkien that his son edited and polished and published in 2007.
  3. The Hobbit for $8 – a bit of a prequel to LOTR.
  4. The 3 books in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy are for $9.99 each – they include The Fellowship of the Ring,  The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. 

Tolkien’s books should be hitting the Kindle bestseller charts soon enough.

Update: It was announced 8 pm on April 19th, and already (in 4.5 hrs or so) it’s rising up the Hot New Releases Charts. Its Kindle Store sales rank is #59 overall, and The Hobbit is at #63.

LOTR climbing up the charts

LOTR climbing up the charts

Is Kindle saving Reading? Is that a good thing?

Angry White Guy in Chicago has a really good post on the kindle and calls it perhaps the coolest piece of technology he owns. He writes

… I discovered that only time I was actually reading anything other than the interwebs was on the toilet. And lack of reading = dumber.

Even though this seems to make sense there is no evidence that can be brought up to quickly prove the validity of the statement that reading makes a person smarter.

I’m actually going to find some research in this area and then leave this open … and hopefully you can chime in with what you feel.

The two points we want to look at are -

  1. Reading and whether it really makes you smarter
  2. Whether the Kindle actually encourages reading.

Does Reading Make Us Smarter ?

Here are a few good pieces of research on this  -

  1. Can reading make you smarter – http://www.arthuracademy.org/images/CanReadingMakeYouSmarter.pdf.
  2. Does reading  make you smarter – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8447247.
  3. What reading does for the mind – http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/spring_sum98/cunningham.pdf, and a nice blog post summarizing it.

What do you feel -

Do Kindle and Kindle 2 encourage reading ?

There are a lot of things that would indicate Kindle and Kindle 2 are making reading cool again and encouraging more reading  -

  1. The Convenience. 
  2. Lower cost of books (for the most part). 
  3. From numerous posts it seems that children love reading on the Kindle and more and more of them are getting access to Kindles.  
  4. Its the only device that actually lets people focus on reading (well other ereaders too – however, you get the meaning).
  5. After paying $359 for a Kindle, you are pretty much committed to reading ;) .

For me, Kindle 2 has definitely increased my reading a lot. What effect have the Kindle and Kindle 2 had on your reading?

Do you feel -

Closing Thoughts on Kindle and Reading

Overall, the impact of the Kindle, of anyone being able to publish books, and of people reading more is going to be huge and hugely important.

Our worlds are created by the words we use and understand, how we view things, and how we interpret things that happen in our lives and around us. Reading helps in all these areas and I just wish there were more research and evidence of the impact reading has on us.

For everyone who loves the smell and touch of a book

A lot of people say that the Kindle 2 or another electronic book reader can never replace a real book. They talk about the touch and the smell and the feel of a real book.

I’d simply ask them to reconsider.

First, read this comment that hints at what really draws them to books -

“Look, I’m as nostalgic as the next guy,” Bezos admitted. “… I did get curious about, why do I like the smell of a book? So I did some research on this, to find out, what is the smell of a book? And it’s mostly the ink, the glue, and a little bit of mildew. And I asked myself, are those intrinsically delicious smells and I don’t think they are.

“What it is, is … the association. You’ve entered so many pleasant places, authors’ worlds, and while you were entering them, that pleasant mental state, you’ve associated that with this smell.”

We might be loath to admit it – However, there is some truth in that statement.

All the magic that we attribute to a physical book is a function of how the words in it make us feel. And the book is just a medium – the magic is in the words.

More and more people will begin to realize this, and we will begin to see two trends -

Kindle 2 and Ebook Reader Owners will begin to associate with it feelings that they used to associate with Books

There are a lot of people who absolutely love their iPods. A lot of these people used to love their CDs and CD players and never leave home without them. Before that, they loved their cassettes, and before that, vinyl records. These are all just mediums of delivering music. It is the love of music that makes people grow fond of their music enabling devices.

As technology has progressed this love for music has manifested as an attachment to iPods and Pandora and Last.fm and other modern means of listening to music.

The world of books has not seen as many changes and this makes the current transition particularly painful.

Massive technological advances are now happening in the publishing industry and with books. Stories, plays and other magical combinations of words have been delivered to us through the physical medium of books for hundreds of years. This has made us grow very fond of the physical book without realizing that the book is meaningless without the words in it.  

It really is our brain associating the joy of reading with the physical book that makes us love them so much.

To better understand this association, imagine how you’d feel about the Kindle 2 if your first books ever were read on it. Which brings us to the second big trend that we’ll begin to see.

Kids and Teenagers will start their reading life on the Kindle 2/eReaders and associate the joy of reading with these.

What happens when we take young kids and teenagers who don’t read much and let electronic book readers become their primary means for reading? what happens when we take kids who are just beginning to read and let the Kindle 2 or the Sony Reader become both their book and their storyteller?

All the joy and wonder of reading reaches them through an eBook Reader and they associate it with the happiness and pleasure they experience. For them, its not just an electronic book reader, it literally is magic – it is their book.

In 20 years they will be the ones who will claim that the new technology, perhaps reading glasses that project a 3D hologram with words and images, can never recapture the purity of reading on a Kindle or a Sony Reader. That the 3D hologram can never replace the feel of the ebook reader.

We tend to make the mistake of attributing magical abilities to the wrong things and making physical books into magical entities is such a mistake. The paper, the ink, and the bindings are powerless without the words and the author.

If you’re reluctant to give up physical books, you should simply accept that it’s your choice how you face the transition -

You chose to derive great joy from the previous medium – embrace the new medium and it will bring you great joy too.  

Should Amazon have offered Kindle 2 discounts to Kindle 1 owners?

Mike had a comment that I wanted to highlight -

Amazon puts little “thank you for being an early adopter” messages in kindle receipts and elsewhere, but when they introduce a new model they don’t offer us “early adopters” a way to UPGRADE — no discount, no option to purchase before it’s on the market or even a “go to the head of the line” preference. Kinda sucks. “Thanks for helping us build a market but now you can just get in line with everyone else and pay full price, too.”

To be fair to Amazon, they did have a ‘go to the head of the line’ option if you ordered in the first two days. However, on every other count, they’re guilty as charged.

I feel that treating customers exceptionally well is absolutely critical for any company or business or even for a blog. Amazon generally does, and a lot of my purchases have been through Amazon (not only in the US, but also in UK and Canada). 

With the Kindle, I do feel that there are a few areas where Amazon needs to focus more -

  1. Treating Kindle 1 owners really, really well as they helped spread the word and supported the Kindle when there were a lot of questions and doubts.  
  2. Towards that end, an exchange your Kindle for $150 off Kindle 2 offer (and then selling those Kindle 1s as refurbished Kindles) or a $50 or $100 off Kindle 2 coupon would have been a good touch.
  3. Improvements that Kindle 1 customers are asking for – on the whole they’ve done a good job here with better buttons and a better cover. However, the lack of Folders in Kindle 2 bothers me (especially after seeing the Android on eInk videos).
  4. Maintaining the $9.99 price point. This might very well be the biggest thing Amazon can do to show that it appreciates Kindle owners.

I feel it’s more of a case of Amazon having to fight a lot of battles on a lot of fronts and letting a few things slip through the cracks rather than forgetting the people who made Kindle successful (to what extent – we have no idea ;) ) .

What do you think – Did Amazon mess up by not offering Kindle owners a discount on Kindle 2? Are you generally happy with how Amazon has been treating Kindle Owners?

Kindle Ecosystem + Stake Holders

I wanted to do a little thought exercise around Kindle 2, Amazon, and Zig Ziglar’s quote -

You can get Whatever You Desire if you get enough other people What They Desire. 

Let’s take a look at all the stakeholders in the Kindle Ecosystem that Amazon is building -

Amazon

Obviously. Amazon has made a significant investment into the Kindle and its beginning to pay off. The biggest risk for Amazon at this point is for a competitor to come in with a better offering and capture this emerging market that Amazon basically created.

I really feel the biggest challenge for Amazon is keeping their customers and other stakeholders happy.  As we go through the other stakeholders, I’ll talk about what I see their stake as and their importance to Amazon and to the eco-system.

Readers AKA End Users

Users are obviously the most important part and they’re looking for quite a few things -

  1. Great selection of books at bang for the buck prices. 
  2. Other great content, and again at great value.
  3. A very convenient device and a very covenient experience – easy purchases, great reading experience, good usability, etc. 
  4. Freedom and Flexibility.  
  5. Many more things.  

The way Amazon is building out the Kindle ecosystem it’s a precarious balance between getting customers what they want and also keeping the walled garden safe. The walled garden is going to become tougher and tougher to guard as time goes on.

The biggest imminent challenge I see is the $9.99 pricing issue. I’m not sure how Amazon intends to keep publishers from shooting thmselves in the foot by raising prices – however, it better do it fast. I’ve been amazed at the number of comments in regards to pricing and at how angry people are, and I feel justifiably so. Publishers’ big excuse about cost of converting to different formats is a bunch of nonsense.

Publishers

As I see it – publishers are looking for a bailout plan. They really are 10-15 years behind technology and are scrambling for something that buys them time – perhaps even a lot of time. They are in some ways seeing Amazon as an uninvited guest and trying to figure out how best to work with Amazon. Look for them to do stupider and stupider things as Kindle 2 and Kindle Mobile become more and more successful.  

I really don’t have any sympathy with publishers who don’t see the opportunities – guys, this isn’t a free internet model. You’re getting paid for your books. You are self-sabotaging by trying to raise prices. You really need to figure out the long term implications of not supporting lower priced ebooks and of killing the only books related market segment that is seeing healthy growth.

Authors

Authors for the most part like the changes – they are still figuring out how best to use the Kindle and the accompanying opportunities. Some better than others. I feel that Amazon isn’t really doing much for authers at this point – the DTP and 35% profits is great. However, there needs to be an end to end solution.

This is one of the biggest opportunities I see – providing services to authors. There are in fact several different opportunities and no one has a market lead in any of them. In fact some potential opportunities don’t even have anyone serving them.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers and Magazines get a new distribution channel – and one that makes them money. Its amazing to me to see how few newspapers and magazines have taken the jump so far. I think Amazon has done a pretty good job here, and that its not exactly their fault that this segment hasn’t quite taken off. The product currently available from newspapers isn’t up to par. 

The biggest challenge for newspapers is to look at their distribution costs with the new model, contrast it with their prior distribution etc. costs, and then, if it makes sense, figure out a way to spread the new model as much as they can.

A huge opportunity I see here is for entirely new newspapers born of a completely different mindset. You’d literally need just 3-4 good bloggers and 1-2 editors to come up with a very high quality online newspaper. I may very well be wrong – However, I see it as an idea worth testing out. I’ve been thinking about it myself and I wonder what it would feel like to run a super efficient, super small newspaper.

Bloggers

I’m torn here – I haven’t submitted my blog because I don’t like the idea of asking people to pay. However, there is a very strong future here. I’d actually prefer this avenue over paid advertising. I think bloggers are well served. Subscriptions are a much better way of earning revenue than things like advertisements and asking for beer money and donations. Down the line, once Kindle Mobile takes off, a lot of bloggers are going to be happy they went with Amazon.

Kindle Specific Sites + Bloggers.

I’m obviously biased – however, I feel that blogs and sites focused on the Kindle provide services to Kindle owners that Amazon either currently does not (full blown out forums, socializing) or simply cannot (a different perspective on the Kindle). Blogs in general are also critical to Amazon to get the word out and capture people’s imaginations. Online – people trust their favourite blogs more than newspapers and other sources.  

Amazon has a good associate program to reward sites and it works for the most part. I might have an update on that soon.

What I’m pretty unhappy about is Joe Wikert leaving Kindleville – it was a blog I checked regularly and him losing interest in the Kindle doesn’t bode well at all.  I have a mental picture of what I consider the top 3-4 blogs and how they help enrich the ecosystem, and seriously – if they all stopped blogging about the Kindle, I might too.

Closing Thoughts

I’m sure Amazon has thought about the whole Kindle EcoSystem much more than I have. However, I feel there are two categories of stake holders Amazon is missing -

  1. Developers that would jump in if an App Platform were to be created.  
  2. Companies that would participate in providing services if there were a better support system and infrastructure for authors and for marketing various types of content.

It’s simply amazing to me that it’s been over a year and there is no site or Amazon store for self published authors, that there isn’t yet a big company focused solely on authors, that no website has become a very popular Kindle related site (I mean >100K users). Perhaps we’re just a few months away from all of these. 

Amazon has a big advantage with WhisperNet and WhisperSync – if they can supplement that with a strong EcoSystem where the stakeholders are fully vested and well rewarded, they would be very well prepared for the Kindle 2 Vs Apple iBookReader, Kindle Store Vs Google Books,  and Kindle 3 Vs Plastic Logic wars to come.

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