Amazon Kindle vs. Apple iPad: Could Chris Brogan Be Wrong?

by | Aug 3, 2010


Last week I read an interesting post by Chris Brogan about Amazon’s continuing march toward distribution dominance. (Amazon and the Kindle Conspiracy) Chris knows what he’s talking about, and I learn a lot from his writing. (By the way, don’t miss his post, How Not to Write a Book. It’s right on.)

But does he have it right here? Is Amazon “winning” by doing what Apple did with the iTunes store: taking hold of the means of distribution regardless of the device on which the content is played?

This is a key concept for any self-publisher, now that ebooks have become hotly-contested properties in the digital merchandising wars.

Why? The one thing self-publishers could never achieve, the one thing that held them back from having a real impact on the world of publishing, was the lack of distribution. Always has been, still is today.

In the world of ebooks, distribution is changing radically. Self-publishers can now distribute through the Kindle store, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and myriad other ebook retailers. In many ways, the playing field is more level than it’s ever been.

Chris points out that Amazon‘s push to put its Kindle Reader app on every platform, from the iPad to the Mac, the PC, and on mobile devices, is smart. They’re trying to make it a kind of go-to standard.

But on the iPad, on the Mac or the iPhone, I have lots of readers, lots of portals onto ebook content. From here Amazon looks big, yes, but just one of the crowd. Ebookstores are springing up like mushrooms after a nice rain. Amazon has none of the dominance it has with print books.

If I want the ebook of a new Carl Hiaasen novel, I become a commodity shopper, buying at the lowest price from pretty much equal vendors. That’s a bad place to be, and that could be Amazon’s ebook sales without robust Kindle sales.

iPad’s Got the Books, Too

On top of that Apple, as Steve Jobs pointed out,

. . . was selling an iPad every three seconds . . . 5 million books were downloaded during the first 65 days of sales from the iBookStore, making up 22% of eBook sales.

iPad has only been out a few months. It’s such a radical departure from anything that went before, we still haven’t seen its real potential. It could create a whole new kind of computing. Many of the other tablet makers have pulled back their products, leaving Apple in the perfect position to continue taking market share away from Amazon, establishing iBookstore as a real competitor for Kindle.

The Next Generation

The iPad has also stimulated an explosion of interest in “enhanced” ebooks, multimedia publishing on a whole new scale. The iPad looks like it may become the one and only delivery vehicle for an entirely new form of digital content that’s simply out of Kindle’s reach. Maybe Apple doesn’t sell table saws and gourmet food (yet) but they understand how to establish powerful monopolies in technology better than anyone.

Textbooks, magazines, trade manuals, video instruction, tactile-feedback applications are all looking to exploit the iPad. They are using the iBookstore for distribution, but also the App store, where a lot of hybrid book products are already on sale.

I’m not convinced Amazon is in such a great position for the transition to ebooks, despite their head start, and despite their loyalists, who are many. Both companies are jockeying for position and change is in the air.

So, is Chris Brogan wrong about Amazon? What do you think?

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by jblyberg, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jblyberg/;

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

50 Comments

  1. schoonheidssalon

    After I originally commented I appear to have clicked the
    -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is
    added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a
    way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Duncan

    How about re-visiting this topic with the current devices and e-books

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    I am in the process of having my book converted to kindle and plan to distribute through Amazon along with the existing print format. The conversion is quite tricky because of latrge number of illustrations and captions.

    The question is whether I should convert to other formats and where would I be able to distribute other formats (e-pub)?

    Thanks Joel for great blog!

    Reply
  4. Andrew

    No question that e-pub is the way of the future both from the societal standpoint and technology that will continue to evolve. The question I am struggling for the moment is whether non-fiction book with large number of illustrations, such as maps, photographs, which I am planning to publish next month would be useful to the reader in e-format (in addition to traditional format)? I hear extreme views ranging that not having in parallel e-book makes no sense in today’s publishing world to the opposite that illustrations will be detriment in e-book.

    If I missed prior posts on the topic, I would appreciate link. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Billy

    E-pub is legible to all hardware, computers and tablets alike. Why would an author want to publish his or her book in any other format? As a wannabe writer, it is difficult for me to understand what publishers are doing for writers and I see little reason to give them a cut of the action. They did at one time provide copy editing, publishing and marketing services. They no longer do any of that. I am running LibreOffice on my machine. It has a plug-in that will convert its .odt format straight to e-pub format. It also has a plug-in that prints straight to .pdf. All I need is a company that specializes in selling e-pub books on the web and, perhaps, some help with cover design. The way I see it, publishers are bringing next to nothing to the party and big booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble are simply trying to hog the profits for themselves by trapping the work of authors in their proprietary formats.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Bill, while I’m an advocate for self-publishing, I think the hundreds of editors, designers, marketing and sales staffs that work hard for publishers to make their books a success would take issue with your statement that publishers “no longer do any of that.”

      Whether self-publishing is right for any particular author or any specific book is a decision best made—as you have—by the individual themselves. There is still no way for a self-published author to duplicate the distribution available through traditional publishers.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.

      Reply
      • Billy

        Oh, I’m sure that there will always be printed books–especially if those books have to do with detailed instructions for something. There are also the type of books that rely on the heavy use of graphics, cookbooks, coffee table books, etc.

        But, i am talking about works of fiction. Take a look and you will discover that the changes going on in the fiction market as this is being written are more profound than any of us have imagined.

        Can you imagine any situation in which a typographical error could have major consequences for a reader? I can. And that is in the realm of publishing tutorials for programming languages. A publisher can miss one tiny mistake and it will lead to major consequences for their readers. I cannot now tell you how many of such books I have paid good money for, only to be stumped and clueless about what to do next.

        I see numerous mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar in almost every book that I have purchased that was printed in the 1980’s and later. Publisher do not do copy editing any more. They leave it up to the authors.

        I am willing to be my own copy editor. I think authors should study grammar enough to do that mundane job on their own, or run their work past a person who has a sound grip on that subject so that those kinds of mistakes are eliminated for the typesetters. I am also willing to go the extra mile and hire a good artist to do my covers. Where I draw the line is when the publisher refuses to market my work. Would you pay a real estate broker for not selling your property?

        Computers have changed the publishing industry irrevocably. It is now much simpler to get a piece of fiction in front of a reading audience. Fonts and page layout are now very much a secondary consideration insofar as fiction is concerned. While this is not necessarily the case for every author and every publisher, it is the case for all works of prose fiction.

        Reply
  6. Jugney

    I know this post is from a few months back, but I’d like to mention something I haven’t seen in the comments above.

    I too find the iPad screen just a little too harsh (ie bright) to read for long periods of time. But I recently discovered the “White on black” setting under Accessibility settings. Night and day difference! (No pun intended). While it seemed strange at first, I quickly noticed the difference in how my eyes felt. The typically bright reading experience is due to the white page background. With the majority of the pixels black, the strain is gone. Give it a try before deciding whether to use iPad for reading or not.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Jugney, thanks very much for that suggestion. I haven’t tried it but plan to give it test later today.

      Reply
  7. Adam

    I’ve read the post that Chris wrote, and this post, and all the comments.

    I struggled to agree with Chris…in the beginning, but now I think it’s clear Amazon is going to win this. They will sell more books because Amazon is a bookseller, yes I know they do other stuff too, but primarily a bookseller. Apple on the other hand is a hardware manufacturer, and yes I know they do iTunes, OSX, Final Cut, iBooks…but they are primarily a hardware manufacturer.

    And whilst everyone loves the look, feel and function of Apple products, their very flexibility is going to be there undoing in this battle.

    If you buy an iPad you can get iBooks and buy books from Apple, and read them on your Mac, iPhone, iPad. If you buy a kindle from Amazon you can buy books from Amazon a read them on, anything at all INCLUDING your mac, iPad and iPhone.

    There is no doubt that the iPad is better than the Kindle, but so it should be because it’s 5 times the price. Would you take your Ipad on to the beach? Probably not and even if you did you wouldn’t be able to read the screen in the bright sunlight!

    I am an Apple kind of guy. I have currently got 2 Macbooks, an iMac and an iPhone, and will shortly be getting an iPad so clearly I like their stuff. But I will be getting a kindle too. It’s small, cheap and easy to read, but most importantly it lets me read the book I’ve purchased anywhere.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for the comment Adam. Just to be precise, the iPad I bought cost $499, and the Kindle I believe is about $149 now, about 1/3 the price. And remember that if you buy an iPad you can read books from Apple, from Kindle (via the Kindle app) from B&N.com, Stanza, and numerous other vendors with various ebook readers, a capability the Kindle will not emulate. Certainly the Kindle is easier to read in direct sunlight, and a book better still. The iPad is simply a remarkable device that will be exploited by more and more developers using its many functions, and the Kindle will continue to be an ereader loved by its fans.

      Reply
      • Adam

        Hi Joel. In the UK, the Kindle is £109, the iPad varies from £429 to £699 (a multiple of between almost 4 and 6.5x the price!). Yes the iPad is remarkable, and the interface will possibly redefine how our species interacts with computers in much the same way the mouse did in 1984. It marks the beginning of the end for the keyboard and is a thing of great beauty.

        But…the Kindle is a better ebook. It is, at £109, almost a disposable item that you can take anywhere, and the Kindle format is available on all platforms. Yes, the iPad can use books created for all major platforms but that isn’t the point of what Chris was saying. The big thing is that if you buy a kindle book you can play it on your Kindle, or your iPhone, or your iPad, or your Mac, or your PC, or your Android or by this time next year everywhere. Where as with your iBooks file you can ONLY play it on an Apple machine, and if Apple disappears in years to come so does the support for all of your literary collection. Rather like if you had bought all your music on 8 track or open reel formats!

        Kindle will ultimately win because Amazon ‘own’ books in the same way that google ‘own’ search.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          Adam, that’s interesting about the UK pricing being much higher than it is in the US.

          Of course, we’re all prophesizing to some degree about future events and behaviors which are, admittedly, unknowable. Whether Amazon will be able to keep “ownership” of books is unclear, and it’s probable that Google, Apple and myriad others will attempt to take share from Amazon. It should be interesting to watch!

          Reply
          • Adam

            UK pricing is always ‘interesting’!!!!

            You are absolutely right, there are interesting times ahead. Thanks for a fantastic article.

  8. Henry Baum

    Chris Brogan’s post hinges on this sentence: “The moment the Kindle stretches distribution to other things, it’ll be the big giant explosion.”

    I don’t know what he’s talking about exactly. Bezos makes clear that his vision for the Kindle is that it’s a single-use device.

    Any improvement in the Amazon store is automatically an improvement for the iPad because it has access both to Amazon.com’s entire inventory and Kindle books.

    When things will break open is when the Kindle has color e-ink and video, so it can mimic what apps are now able to do. Books are going to change significantly. Distribution isn’t key to the Kindle’s success, it’s the tech and the price.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Henry I believe what Chris was talking about is the possibility that Amazon could use the Kindle as another portal to the Amazon store, considering the tremendous range of products they have for sale.

      And while it’s my opinion that the iPad is better positioned in almost every way, his focus on distribution is educational for most self-publishers who usually think of distribution very late in the process if at all.

      Thanks for your contributions.

      Reply
  9. Michael N. Marcus

    >>“purpose built devices” which seem to have the upper hand but become irrelevant much more quickly. Like the dedicated word-processing station, the portable DVD player…<<

    I have to disagree about the portable DVD player. I bought my first one for nearly $1000, and at that time there were only a few to choose from. Today, prices start below $50, and over a hundred models are available.

    OTOH, smart cellphones have certainly taken sales from cameras, MP3 players, portable CD players, portable televisions, security monitors, pay phones, game machines, books, newspapers, beepers, appointment books, address books, GPS navigators, and for some people–even computers.

    They can even be used as coupons, credit cards, heart monitors and flashlights.

    Reply
  10. Patrick Wallace

    Twenty years ago in Japan, mobile phones were the new thing, and you could buy one for less than a dollar on the street. Why so cheap? The mobile phone companies were not interested in making a profit from the mobile phones, but wanted to get people locked into their mobile phone service. At the time, the head of Nokia Japan was asked if Nokia was going to lower prices to compete with these cheaper mobile phones, and his answer was “Certainly not!” He reasoned that this was a failing business model for both the mobile phone manufacturers and the mobile phone service providers. Nokia could therefore ride things out with its reputation and profit margins intact, by keeping its prices stable and adding value to its mobile phones. And he was right. All of the other companies failed or had to change their business strategies, but Nokia is still going strong with the same business plan twenty years later.
    Since Amazon is now behaving more like a supermarket chain than a book publisher, it would be reasonable for it to lower the price of the Kindle to $50 before the next year is out and to hold a fire sale on all of the e-books in its inventory, if these steps are what is necessary to maintain and enlarge its market share in the face of stiff competition.
    However, in the end this is a poor business model, as Amazon is not adding any value to its products or services in order to differentiate itself from its rivals. It is a price war, pure and simple, and Amazon is betting that it is better positioned and has deep enough pockets to win.
    It is difficult to see the Kindle surviving this and still having the same market dominance as before. Further, it is a real question as to how much red ink Amazon will lose before it is all over, and whether it can survive the devaluing of its brand. Amazon needs to think about adding value instead of focusing purely on increasing or maintaining its market share–it is doubling down on what may well be a losing hand.
    The analogy that comes to mind is those old Atari consoles that had Pong and Breakout–around 1976, it seemed that every home in America had one. Within a few years, however, these consoles were all tucked away in the garage and viewed as quaint and old-fashioned, as there were many other better products on the market.
    Note that Apple does not see a need to lower iPad prices to sell more iPads–the added value of the device speaks for itself. The iPad may in the end be superseded by other devices by other companies, but for the moment at least it is the product to beat.

    Reply
    • Vikram Narayan

      Patrick,

      Excellent points.
      By dropping prices, Amazon is giving consumers the impression that it was ripping them off with an overpriced product in the early days of its introduction. Sure, most tech companies skim the market by pricing high initially. Also, as volumes increase, per unit manufacturing costs come down. But most tech companies bring down prices a little more slowly over time and a little less steeply. Now, the average consumer is thinking that he should wait for a few more months before buying a Kindle since the price may drop further.

      Of course, there is a threat that the Kindle can get killed because what it offers has simply become a feature of the iPad. But the reality is that only deep differentiation combined with focus builds long term monopolies. Amazon’s mantra and message to Apple should be, “I’m going to deepen into what I’m doing rather than broaden my offerings to compete with you. In other words, Amazon should add so many new attributes (features, services and technologies) to it’s Kindle that people who are serious about reading will still buy the Kindle even if they already have an iPad.

      Only deep differentiation combined with focus builds long term monopolies. In the long run, if Amazon plays the game right, the two products should not be comparable. Like chalk and cheese. Or grapes and avocados.

      Reply
      • Michael N. Marcus

        >>By dropping prices, Amazon is giving consumers the impression that it was ripping them off with an overpriced product in the early days of its introduction.<<

        Last week it looked like Amazon was trying to subsidize Kindle sales by charging more for printed books. Many titles that had been discounted for a long time lost discounts or had reduced discounts.

        Amazon works in mysterious ways. It's possible that this move is just an effort to boost profits and has nothing to do with Kindles or eBooks.

        And of course, the discounts could be restored tomorrow.

        Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      One of the other interesting things to come out of this history, Patrick, is the ever-shortening lifecycle of products. If you think how quickly the Kindle came on the scene, attracted loyalists, established its own ecosystem, completely dominated the market for ebooks, and now could conceivably fade away just as quickly.

      Interesting point in a story in today’s NY Times about “purpose built devices” which seem to have the upper hand but become irrelevant much more quickly. Like the dedicated word-processing station, the portable DVD player, and so on. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution.

      Reply
  11. Marc Schulman

    The discussion at the moment between Kindle and Ipad is missing one dimension and that is the ability of creating apps on the iPad that add a completely new dimension that traditional books do not. We have been very successful with are new App- Civil War Americas Epic Struggle. In it we provide something that no standard book can contain, 1000 Brady Photos 100 first hand accounts plus our own narratives both in text and video presentation. This is something that will never be able to be done on the Kindle.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Marc that’s interesting, don’t you think these apps bear a strong resemblance to the “educational software” sold on CDs in the 1990s? There’s a huge amount of functionality that can be added to books in app development, and you get the feeling that we’ve only scratched the surface. Your book sounds great, thanks for contributing.

      Reply
      • Marc Schulman

        They do, and frankly we made some of them, the difference this time is that the CD’s in the 90’s ran into a distribution wall, Ingram had a multimedia division, but it existed before CD player were ubiquitous in computers. Apple has solved that problem. For better or worse the pricing model is markedly different, we are selling products for a small fraction of Cd prices, and finally there are many things we can do today in terms of media which were not possible back then. The quality of video and photo are many times what they were back in the 90’s. Finally people are quickly becoming used to consuming media on the iPads very different from how people perceived their computers in the 90’s

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          And of course, in the 90s a device like the iPad was pretty much pure Sci-Fi. There’s no comparison between the CDs of old and watching movies or multi-media on the iPad.

          But I knew they looked familiar.

          Reply
  12. Douglas Bonneville

    I’m planning on releasing 3 electronic versions and 2 print versions of the same book, not to mention the apps for the 2 big platforms (Apple and Android). My content can be broken out into subsets and a pocket edition, so I’m going to target the strengths of the platform and customize the book for each one. I got the Nook a few weeks ago and preordered the new Kindle. Those will get the “pocket” ePub format, while the full-tilt edition (heavy on larger graphics) will go to iPad as PDF people can buy directly.

    My project is a graphic design resource, so it tolerates and in fact likes the various form factors. It also allows me to create a few price points. Instead of “should I get this book”, hopefully my passers-by will be saying “which version of this book should I get”.

    The more the merrier I say! That might be a pain for some books and content, but it just happens to be fine for me. It sounds like interesting work to customize and optimize too.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      That’s an interesting strategy, Douglas. Will you sell each under a different title and ISBN? And will you adjust pricing depending on how much content is in each edition?

      It’s good to find someone who enjoys the challenge of customizing and optimizing for all these different platforms.

      Reply
  13. Chris Brogan...

    Super great post.

    My thought has nothing to do with the devices as much as it does the distribution channel. I think that Amazon is pushing onto every device to get more people in front of it’s “vending machine.”

    Yes, the iPad is a physically better device. Yes, Apple are adding more publishers as time goes on.

    Amazon already made it super easy to submit books and other materials to the Kindle store. Apple’s lagging. Amazon already has the publishing relationships. Apple is growing them. Amazon sells plenty of other digital distributions. Apple does, too. Amazon has more stuff for sale than Apple.

    That’s where my head is.

    I love your ideas, and your different views. Love the comments, too.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Chris. It’s really difficult to get people to look away from the device, that’s for sure, yet many great ideas have died for lack of distribution.

      Both companies are going to be like heavyweights slugging it out. And of course, just over the horizon is Google with their millions of scanned books, Android, and their insanely long reach.

      Interesting times. I really get your focus on distribution, have written about it before, so I’m fascinated by what’s next.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  14. Shelli

    I’m just a consumer, comparing the two and making a decision on what hints I should start dropping my husband for Christmas. At first, the iPad caught my attention with all the flashy brouhaha. But, I’m a reader and a writer. I understand the Kindle is gentler on the eyes than the iPad, and the iPad is not ideal for the amount of writing I do. So, for me, I’ve got a brand new laptop that lets me write to my heart’s content, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the new Kindle will drop to $99 right before Christmas.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      A lot of people (Chris Brogan among them) are convinced you’ll get your Christmas wish for a $99 Kindle, so start hinting!

      On the other hand, I’ve started producing a tremendous amount of writing on my iPad and find it quite enjoyable. I like writing on it because it has none of the distractions of my desktop, with all the action going on in the background. Unfortunately, the iPad really sucks as an editing tool due to the way the keyboard has been crippled. So there is no perfect-for-everything device just yet.

      Reply
    • Michael N. Marcus

      >>I understand the Kindle is gentler on the eyes than the iPad<<

      A lot of people have made this claim, but not necessarily after trying either or both devices.

      Fortunately, you don't have to order a Kindle from Amazon to try it out, because Target sells them. BestBuy sells the ipad. If both stores are near you you can drive back and forth to compare them, or–even better–buy both and return one.

      I know I can't read my iPad in bright sunlight, but I _can_ read it in bed without turning on a light and pissing off my wife. Also, the touch screen very quickly became the "normal" way to work.

      I sometimes use my iPad for email or making notes, or even doing a blog post, but I prefer a full-size 'puter for writing books.

      Reply
  15. Amy Lundebrek

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my iPad. There is nothing better for browsing the internet. Also, books with colored pictures are beautiful on the iPad.

    However, when I attempted to read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series on my iPad, my eyes hurt… just a little. Also, it’s a bit heavy for my fingers… just a little. For a person who is accustomed to reading for hours on end… these small discomforts were enough to send me to Barnes and Noble for a Nook. At $149, I figured why not have both devices.

    I think the Kindle and the Nook with their reflective screens will be a better transition for those hard-core readers who have up to this point shunned e-books for paper.

    Let me say again: I LOVE my iPad. The device is ground-breaking, and perfect for many new innovations that are on their way. However, at this time, it’s not the perfect e-reader. This may change when the retina display on the iPhone4 makes it to the iPad.

    While I hope to continue to see some diversity in the channels for purchasing and consuming e-books, I also hope there is a rally around a standardized ePub format so that I can purchase books from anywhere and read them on any device. There also needs to be a DRM discussion because as it stands, if I buy an e-book on my Nook, my husband is not able to read it in the iBooks application on his iPad. If he buys a DRM ebook from the iBooks store, I cannot read it on my nook. This is a problem.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Amy I think you are one of many people (see Julie’s comment above) who prefer their long text on eInk screens, and that makes perfect sense. I would hope that these different uses of “tablets” or “readers” will converge so it isn’t necessary to have 2 devices, but that looks like where we are today. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  16. julie

    I thought he was right, and now you’ve made me wonder.

    I just read a 1000 page novel on the Kindle and couldn’t imagine doing that on the heavier, eye-strainy iPad. But I’m a voracious reader and I think I’m the Kindle’s target market.

    People who are reading lightly or for education may well be better-served by the iPad’s enhanced editions (I’m certainly intrigued and may have to try out the Pillars of the Earth one).

    I was amazed that people still bought hardbacks when they were so much heavier and more expensive than paperbacks, but they did.

    I think industry pundits will be amazed at how many people continue to buy eInk devices and editions just because they like them.

    This isn’t Betamax vs VHS, where you got essentially the same product with a little difference in quality. The experiences of reading on eInk screens and iPads are going to be very different. People are going to buy what they like best and industry pundits are going to be left scratching their heads when looking for a ‘winner’.

    The only winners will be the reader and the author, IF content producers are smart and make their content available through as many channels as they can.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Julie, I think you’re right on when you say that the winners will be readers and authors. We’re always encouraging people to publish to all these platforms. The new mantra of content distribution is to make it available in every format that readers want to read in. That just makes sense.

      Reply
  17. Walt Shiel

    I would be very cautious predicting the demise of the Kindle or the defeat of Amazon as the reigning monarch of eBooks. The new Kindle 3 sold out within a few days…and it doesn’t ship until Aug 27.

    Text on all the eReader apps on the iPad reflows just as it does on the Kindle app. That’s a key feature of them all.

    Amazon Kindle books are NOT limited to B&W. In fact, Amazon highly recommends the publishers include full color content and even video/audio. True, at present, none of that will display as such on current Kindle devices, but color displays just fine on all the other apps that are used on devices with color displays. We’ve been including color in our Kindle books since Amazon first released the Kindle for PC app, and it displays very nicely.

    PDF is still a good option for illustrated books (although ePub can work well also) but you cannot get them into the Apple iBookstore yet. Maybe eventually.

    If you are publishing books in any format, you ignore the eBook market at your own peril. And if you are producing eBooks, you need to consider that many, many people prefer to read eBooks on dedicated eReaders (like the Kindle) rather than on a multipurpose device like the iPad. What our potential readers really want is far more important than what we are authors and publishers like or don’t like. If we want to turn a profit, that is.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Walt, I don’t think the Kindle is going away, it has a huge fan base and really excels at what it does. On the other hand I’m not convinced Amazon will continue to “rule” unscathed by the serious assault from the iPad and it’s far more attractive interface, range of features and general utility.

      But you are right on to advise people to not ignore eBooks. And the earlier in, the better off you are likely to be. Thanks for your thoughts, Walt.

      Reply
    • Vikram Narayan

      I totally agree with the comment that “many, many people prefer to read eBooks on dedicated eReaders (like the Kindle) rather than on a multipurpose device like the iPad.”
      In fact, if Amazon plays the game right in positioning the Kindle, people should not even be comparing the two products. iPad really is a general entertainment device. You can watch videos, surf the web, play games and also read books. The Kindle on the other hand is viewed as a book reading device for avid book-readers. Unfortunately, Amazon has done little to differentiate the Kindle from the iPad. The very fact that so many blogs are comparing the iPad to the Kindle is testimony to the fact that Amazon has done a poor job managing how the Kindle is perceived.
      Further, Amazon cutting prices on the Kindle is a terrible move. While it is good for consumers it’s not necessarily good for Amazon. When you are able to get something at a low price, you tend to value it less. If Amazon makes the Kindle look like a commodity, it will only be a short while before competitors from Taiwan and China flood the market with similar low priced devices. On the other hand, if Amazon had maintained a reasonably high price, and bundled a host of features and services into the device that would appeal to serious book-readers, it would have become a must-have treasured device. A similar situation exists in recent business history. Apple introduced the iPod not too long ago in an era of extremely cheap, MP3 players. Apple won the war with design and features (like monster memory.) Apple did not win by cutting prices.
      It’s possible that Amazon is thinking of the Gilette strategy by cutting prices. In other words, they think that if they give away the Kindle at a low price (razor) they can make money selling ebooks (blades.) Gillette has been successful with this strategy because they own hundreds of patents that prevent competitors from entering the market with cheap, me-too versions of their blades. Amazon on the other hand is in a fiercely competitive market with no barriers to entry for ebook selling.
      If Amazon plays the game right, many people will buy both an iPad (for general entertainment) and a Kindle (for serious book-reading.) They just have to secure their position in the minds of consumers as the premium device for reading and make all other reading devices look like cheap knock-offs. They also need to re-position the iPad as an entertainment device with repeated messaging.

      Reply
      • Michael N. Marcus

        >>If Amazon plays the game right, many people will buy both an iPad (for general entertainment) and a Kindle (for serious book-reading.)<<

        I have no trouble reading serious books — or seriously reading non-serious books — on my iPad.

        I wouldn't add a Kindle e-reader to my gadget arsenal unless I knew I'd have to read on the beach without an umbrella to block the sun, or maybe read at the North Pole without an igloo.

        Reply
      • Joel Friedlander

        Vikram, that’s a very thoughtful analysis. But the Kindle doesn’t seem to lend itself to the kind of loyalty that Apple devices do, where consumers are ready to pay a premium to enjoy the design, interface and safe access to content that Apple provides.

        I think I’m with Chris Brogan here, and the device itself is really not that meaningful. These eInk readers are going to be morphing quickly and there are already many new ones about to come onto the market. Amazon’s real strength is their ability to open a portal to their massive inventory—not just ebooks which, as you point out, are near commodity status already—on every platform. That looks like their chance to succeed.

        Thanks for adding your comment.

        Reply
  18. Marla Markman

    Interesting take Joel. I love that you dare to take on Chris Brogan and speak your mind as an expert in our industry. I welcome a variety of views in this complex debate.

    And Marcus, thank you for offering your view as well. Interesting that you choose to sell your illustrated books as PDFs on iPad. How are they selling in that format?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Marla, thanks for your input. Of course, we’re prognosticating here, but the moves and counter-moves in this emerging market are fascinating to watch, and as self-publishers we have a stake in how the whole thing plays out.

      Reply
  19. Michael N. Marcus

    Apple iPads are in short supply months after introduction, and are offered above list price on eBay.

    Amazon, Sony and B&N have been busily chopping prices on their e-readers.

    HP retreated to redesign its tablet PC after seeing the iPad.

    I’ve read some Kindle books on my iPad, but the flowing text interferes with graphic placement (not an issue for all books), and the monochrome Kindle environment seems very 1960-ish.

    As a self-pubber, I am planning to publish an all-text book in Kindle format to take advantage of Amazon’s powerful distribution. My illustrated books are sold as PDFs and look great on an iPad–even better than when printed on paper.

    I recently spoke to the manager of my local B&N store. I asked him how they sell the B&N Nook against the iPad. He told me that they sell it to people who want only to read books and don’t care about color.

    That’s like trying to sell a horse and buggy in a world filled with cars and planes. Why should I settle for a Nook when there is such a powerful and versatile alternative?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      I think it’s the smart play for self-publishers to market through all non-exclusive distribution channels available. That way, as these companies continue to spread their offerings to various devices, we stand to profit from their efforts.

      Reply
      • Android Box

        That’s good point but it could be hard doing everything themselves and also that’s reason cost goes higher due to mediators

        Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 7 Formats for Winning Blog Posts — The Book Designer - […] with a much larger figure. That was part of the strategy—and a bit of the fun—of my Amazon Kindle…
  2. Smartphones: The Next Home of the Ebook? — The Book Designer - [...] books into a version of HTML, and which are sold through Amazon’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble’s…
  3. Seth Godin, Rupert Murdoch and Apple Make News of the Day — The Book Designer - [...] talked extensively about the platform war between Apple and Amazon last year, when the disagreement centered around whether Apple’s…
  4. 11th issue of Digital Book Readers blog carnival | Digital Book Readers: e-readers guide and review - [...] Friedlander presents Amazon Kindle vs. Apple iPad: Could Chris Brogan Be Wrong? posted at The Book [...]
  5. Apple’s Pages ePub Export: First Look — The Book Designer - [...] simple and reliable way to publish not just books but any document you might want to load onto your…
  6. Will Book Readers Go the Way of Browsers? | The Official BookBuzzr Blog - [...] Go the Way of Browsers? August 6th, 2010 Vikram  0 In this excellent article – “Amazon Kindle vs. Apple…
  7. Tweets that mention Amazon Kindle vs. Apple iPad: Could Chris Brogan Be Wrong? — The Book Designer -- Topsy.com - [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joel Friedlander, Andrea Martins. Andrea Martins said: Amazon & Kindle Conspiracy: Chris…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.