Still not open… Kindling without fire…

Sticking to my Open Mobile theme, one of the more interesting presentations was from Ian Freed, a VP at Amazon responsible for the Kindle eBook.

The Kindle was another device touted as “open” by various folks, and again that’s a pretty absurd contention.  It is carrier independent, but hardly open.

I like the idea of the Kindle, but I can’t see buying one.  My TIBH (toddler influenced buying habits) leave me unconvinced that an eBook is a wise investment.

First of all, it’s pricey.  Secondly, if it should be jumped on, vomited on or assailed with any other kind of liquid, playdoh or WTRS (weird toddler related substance), I’m guessing it won’t remain as useable as its paper-based cousin.  Thirdly, I simply don’t read enough at present to justify the purchase.  And finally, I need another device that has to be charged like I need a hole in the head.

But it is selling, and Amazon’s library of content is growing rapidly.  They’ve more than doubled the number of available titles to 200,000.  I can’t find my notes at present, but the numbers for how many eBooks each customer bought were impressive.

When you look at sales of individual titles in the e-version versus print, they’re seeing solid revenue growth.  For the available 200k titles, every $100 of revenue breaks down 90/10 for print versus eBooks.

Aesthetically, I can’t get excited about the thing.  But, like Apple and the iPhone, the way Amazon have made it work is seamless and I believe that is what makes it sell.

Every Kindle is personalized.  When you fire it up for the first time, it (a) knows your name and (b) is linked to your Amazon account, making future purchases easy.

As soon as it’s on, you are presented with a personally addressed letter from Jeff Bezos, and in the background it will immediately start downloading whatever titles you’ve already purchased.

The presentation included quotes from happy customers.  One was convinced that the device was pre-loaded with his purchases at the factory.  But in fact, it all downloaded automatically while he was reading the welcome letter.

So again, like Apple, you have a device that is completely closed.  But consumers don’t care because the user experience is seamless.

1 comment for “Still not open… Kindling without fire…

  1. November 22, 2008 at 2:14 am

    Great point on the last two posts about the disconnect between the ideals of “openness” and the reality of the the power of closed. In a market or industry where carriers and vendors create a closed system for service, devices and applications, a closed system is the only way to create a powerful, seamless experience.

    In the US, application developers and mobile websites have tried for year to promote “off-deck” applications, but have been blocked by the carriers’ refusal to open up access, citing the need to “guarantee a consistent experience” under the guise of controlling access and additional data revenues. Apple and Google are each just beginning to pry open the wireless industry their own ways: Apple most notably by changing the relationship between carriers and device manufacturers, and Google most notably by pushing open access and lowering the barriers for device verification. It’s not just about the App Stores…

    DoCoMo, of course, created an open access and distribution model for mobile applications and data services over iMode years ago (nearly a decade?), and deployed a standard payment model that made sense for consumers and independent developers, and we can see the results today: Japan is way ahead in mobile services. It’s not just about culture.

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