Dear Jeff Bezos,
Congratulations on launching the Kindle reader. I wish you the best and I would love to see this initiative succeed. I’m just one guy with a little known blog, but I’m probably right smack in the middle your target market: educated, bleeding edge tech adopter, and voracious reader with available disposable income. So I should be eager to pick up a Kindle. Heck, I even poured theough Engadget’s review with holiday glint in my eye.
However, I’m ambivalent about Kindle, because it seems the device benefits Amazon more than it benefits me. I’m drafting this open letter to tell you why I won’t be buying one, and more importantly, what you can do to change my mind. Robert Scoble was nice enough to give it a week at least; I don’t think I need that much time.
Here’s why Kindle isn’t going to stuff my stocking this Christmas.
1. The wifi and built in wireless connectivity is awesome, but I already have the ability to punch in a blog or wikipedia entry on my iphone. So I’m not eager to buy yet another browsing device; It has to pack more punch than that.
2. “No more lugging around tons of books” isn’t convincing. At best, I can plow through 3 books on a trans-pacific flight. Not a big deal – give me a real advantage to dead tree format, and I’ll buy into it.
3. Now having an RSS feed of all the blogs I follow would be great, but I can only get to blogs you’ve indexed. Not a problem with Michael Arrington, but what about my fiancee’s blog? Why not just use a generic RSS aggregator?
4. The whole 1980’s Radio Shack vintage flair doesn’t work for me. I’ve held it my hands and I’m not convinced it’s comfortable to spend hours on.
5. I can’t share a book I’ve bought – this is my biggest pet peeve. Now I know what your suppliers are thinking.. “OMGBBQ PIRACY!” Well, here’s a thought – if I purchase a dead tree format book, I can pass it along when I’m done with it without drawing comparisons to Captain Jack Sparrow.
7. While we’re at it, I’m also used to inuitive interfaces with polished pictograms which are easy to interpret. I’m disappointed in the unwieldy Kindle UI.
8. My second-biggest pet peeve: cost. So let’s do a break even analysis here: 9.99 per ebook, competing with an average price of say, $15 per book. That means I have to purchase 80 books to reach cost parity, and that’s assuming you don’t jack up the price of ebooks once we’re hooked. While we’re at it, I expect you will, because it’s smart business.
So now that I’ve told you why you won’t earn my business, what you can do to get me excited about it? I’m glad you asked. Here’s what you can do:
Change the paradigm.
Apply the cell phone model to the purchase of reading content. Provide the device at a reduced cost (perhaps half of what you’re asking now), and charge me a monthly fee. Give me access to your entire library as long as I’m a subscriber. Yes, all of it. Allow me to share “links” to good books with other subscribers, the way I’ve socialized sharing links to blog posts I like. If you’re worried about me “farming” content, limit me to say, 10 books a month. I’ll be ok with that. Then add a legitimate RSS reader, and keep the wifi/mobile network connectivity as part of the membership plan. Finally, make the device as slick as the iphone, both inside and out.
I think you’d have a hit on your hands if you do this. You’d probably sell out – and I don’t mean in a marketing sense, where you ship too few devices and use the “sell out” as a marketing gimmick. I mean you’d really cash in beyond your wildest projections. The biggest reason why you’d succeed is because this model gives me as a buyer a huge benefit: I would be willing to take a chance on books I’d normally pass up if they are only a click away with zero marginal cost. Think about it – you would not only dominate the book selling market, but you would truly open the floodgates for more esoteric authors to reach a wider audience who normally wouldn’t buy their books. Now that would be something.
So how about it Jeff? Are you bold enough to change the way people buy books?