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Second Coming For Kindle?

Unless one explodes, maiming or killing a user, we've resolved not to talk about the iPad anymore this week. That, however, still leaves us free to discuss those companies most likely to be affected by new device -- chief among them being Amazon.

The online retailer, and maker of the Kindle e-reader, just beat analyst expectations with a healthy margin for the fourth quarter of 2009. It had been expected to earn $0.72 per share, but it actually made $0.85 per share, while revenue rose to $9.52 billion -- up 42% over the same period last year.

And while Amazon didn't divulge exactly how many Kindle's it's sold, its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said "millions of people" now own the gadget, and that Amazon sells now six Kindle books for every 10 physical books.

"That surprised analysts, who thought that Amazon would sell 2.5 million or so of the devices by the end of 2010, nearly a year from now," writes TechCrunch. "The total number of all types of Kindles out there in users hands hit 3 million sometime in December, says a source close to Amazon ... And that was before the new model with worldwide data hit."

Amazon watchers, meanwhile, agreed to disagree as to why Bezos -- typically tightlipped on Kindle sales figures -- willingly revealed so much, this week.

"The iPad is, despite many commenters doubts on the matter, a very serious threat to the Kindle hardware," argues Fast Company. "And though Amazon might be expecting to make a bundle on Kindle books sold via its iPhone app (and presumably iPad app, soon), Apple is also threatening that business model too, with its iBooks electronic bookstore."

Yet, "With such emphasis on the Kindle devices, I'm guessing Amazon isn't going to give up much ground to Apple's just-announced iPad without a fight," reasons VentureBeat.

PaidContent, meanwhile, makes the point that the Kindle's relative obscurity is actually a product of Amazon's success. "A few million e-readers is a small line item in a company with $9.5 billion in net sales for Q409," it notes. "So Amazon doesn't have to say how Kindle is really selling."

Earlier in the week, New York Times Bits bloggers took turns are for and against the likely success of the Kindle post iPad. Thanks to its simplicity and patented E-Ink screen, Brad Stone believes that the Kindle is for real "book lovers," while the iPad will offer too many distractions, an irritating backlight, and not enough battery life.

Nick Bilton, meanwhile, argues that the very nature of consuming "content is changing, but the Kindle is not" -- or, at least, not fast enough. "If you look at the way many of us consume content online, it's shifting from just reading words to consuming multimedia ... We view images, watch videos and add our own commentary to the content we ingest."

Going forward, Bilton suggests that Amazon has two Kindle strategies it can pursue: soup it up with more features, functionality, and speed; or strip it down, slash its price tag, and market its singular purpose. Indeed, "A lot of people will have a hard time justifying $500 for the lowest entry-level iPad and would probably choose a $100 Kindle if they were hoping to find a new device to replace their paper-book reading.

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Read the whole story at Fast Company et al. »

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