Ten years of the Kindle

Amazon Kindle & Sony eBook

Amazon is celebrating 10 years of the Kindle so it makes sense to reflect on the device and the service.

Rather like Apple products Kindle is a combination of hardware, software (including content), payment infrastructure and the Whispernet global mobile virtual network.

Like Apple, Amazon came in and refined an existing business model. Companies like Sony made very nice e-readers, but they didn’t have the publisher relationships and market access that Amazon had.

Context rather than convergence

In a time where consumer electronics thinking was all about convergence, from the newly launched iPhone to the Symbian eco-system Amazon were determined to come up with a single purpose device.

Amazon resisted the trend and created a dedicated device for reading. That is why you have a black-and-white e-ink screen and an experience exclusively focused on seamless content downloads.

Yes, they’ve rolled out tablets since, but even the latest range stick to the original Kindle playbook. Some of their decisions were quite prescient. The Kindle was deliberately designed so that it didn’t require content to be side loaded from personal computer like an iPod.

The Kindle has survived the smartphone and the tablet device as a reading experience.

Using the U.S. legal system to clear the field

Amazon was helped out by the US government prosecuting Apple under the Sherman Act. Wikipedia has a good summary of this case. On the face of it Apple was doing a similar structured deal with publishers on book pricing to what it had done previously with record companies for iTunes music.

This case effectively stalled Apple book store momentum and lumbered Apple with overzealous US government overwatch. The consumer benefit has been minimal – more on that later. The irony of all this is the way Amazon has leveraged its monopolistic position to decimate entire sectors of the retail economy.

The interesting thing about this case, say compared to the Apple | Qualcomm dispute is that Apple still kept Audible audio book sales in iTunes throughout this dispute and didn’t look at ways to bounce the iPad Kindle app from the app store. Audible is an Amazon-owned company.

By comparison, Amazon bounced Apple’s TV from its own e-commerce platform and has taken a long time to support the AppleTV app eco-system – long after the likes of Netflix.

Piracy in China

Amazon hasn’t had it all its own way. China had a burgeoning e-book market prior to the Kindle and Chinese consumers used to read these books on their laptops.  Depending which store you used; it might have more books at a cheaper price because intellectual property wasn’t ironed out.

A cottage industry sprang up that saw Kindles acquired in the US and Japan shipped back to China and reflashed with software that made them compatible with the local app stores.

The Kindle brain phenomenon

I moved from the UK to Hong Kong to take up a role and tried to lighten my burden by moving my reading from books to the Kindle. I found that I didn’t retain the content I read. I enjoyed the process of reading less and did it less often. I wasn’t an e-book neophyte I had enjoyed reading vintage pulp fiction novels as ebooks on Palm devices and Nokia phones in the early 2000s as a way of passing them time on my commute.

Talking to friends their experience was similar. I now read on the Kindle or listen to audio books only for pleasure. I tend to buy my reference books in the dead tree format. There is something more immediate about the process of reading from a ‘real book’ rather than an e-book.

It seems that digital natives aren’t ready to give up books just yet. Studies about the use of digital technology and e-books in education are mixed and anecdotal evidence suggests that technology industry leaders liked to keep the level of digital content in their children’s lives at a low threshold.

The Kindle hasn’t replaced the bookshelf and the printing press yet.

Pricing

Disposing of the medium didn’t mean that we got cheaper e-books. On Amazon it is worth looking carefully to see what is the cheapest format on a case by case basis. Kindle competes against print books and secondhand books.

Secondhand books win hands down when you are looking at materials beyond bestsellers. A real-world book is easier to gift and Amazon Prime allows for almost instant gratification. The Kindle starts to look like Amazon covering all the bases rather than the future of publishing. This may change over time, a decade into online news was a more mixed media environment than it is now – but Kindle feels as if it has reached a balance at the moment.

More information
New study suggests ebooks could negatively affect how we comprehend what we read | USA Today
Shelve paperbacks in favour of E-books in schools? | BBC
Study challenges popular beliefs on e-reading | The Educator
Are Digital Textbooks Finally Taking Hold? | Good eReader – makes the case for a heterogenous book environment of standard textbooks, e-books and used books
Do ‘Digital Natives’ Prefer Paper Books to E-Books? | Education Week
Our love affair with digital is over | New York Times (paywall)

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ICMYI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Amazon marks 10th anniversary of original Kindle, the ’18-month project’ that took 3 1/2 years – Kessel said the team was determined to keep the Kindle a single-purpose device – something where you could lose yourself in a book, rather than a multipurpose piece of hardware that might create distractions.

They were also focused on making it easy for customers by ensuring they could access new books without connecting a cable to a computer for download. That dedication, which lead to a built-in cellular data connection and, eventually, the ability to sync your books across Kindle devices and app, was no small feat. “We said books needed to download in less than 60 seconds, but it definitely didn’t work that way at first,” said Kessel.

Patience was something the team was forced to learn.

“Originally I told Jeff (Bezos) it would take us about 18 months to build the Kindle and we could do it with a couple handfuls of folks. It took us three-and-a-half years and a lot more than a couple of handfuls of folks.”

The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked – Motherboard – really interesting guidelines

Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? A sobering assessment and a warning | Poynter – is this a ‘SkyNet’ moment? How would you troubleshoot? A lot further out, if you got to sentience at a later date how would you know, particularly if the machine learning system goes down the root of the logic outlined in Cixin Liu’s ‘Three Body Problem’ trilogy

There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It – Talking Points MemoProblem #1 (too many publications) and Problem #2 (platform monopolies) have catalyzed together to create Problem #3 (investors realize they were investing in a mirage and don’t want to invest any more)

Monodraw for macOS — Helftone – OmniGaffle but for ASCI art

Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo & Doug McMillon, Walmart talk about the intersection between brand and product

This is from last year and there is a lot of filler but interesting discussion about the intersection between brand and product.

Is your PR plan good enough (part six)?

PR plan

In part five I focused on tactics in terms of creative, channels and calendar. In this final part I am going to look at resourcing and commitment.  At least the plan should have an outline of what resources are needed and the investment required.

  • Schedule of activity – I would also recommend a critical path analysis to see if there are any potential bottlenecks. This also reduces the level of management oversight required, as it can be just focused on the co-dependencies which might cause bottlenecks
  • Budget
  • 1-pager outline of plan to get sign off from the person deemed ultimately responsible
  • Signed commitment by all parties. I am not talking about the legal agreement, instead a simple written agreement by everyone involved in delivery. Behavioural economics research has shown that owning a commitment increase the chance of someone actually doing it

Appraising ‘resources and commitment’ in a PR plan

  • Do you understand from the plan what can delay implementation and how much that delay looks like?
  • Is there a clear understanding of resources and priorities?
  • Is the amount of effort (and budget) realistic for the outcomes desired? (PR since it depends to a certain extent on earned media  is always a game of chance)
  • Have all the people on both agency side and client side needed committed to delivering on the activity in writing?

This is the last post in this series. I have put up a workbook for those assessing PR plans here. In the meantime if you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part five)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part four)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
Critical path analysis introduction on Wikipedia
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

Is your PR plan good enough (part five)?

PR plan
In part four I touched on strategy expanding on Wadd’s guide to PR plan development to provide ways of assessing each step. Wadds broke out tactics into creative, channels and calendar.  I’m bundling them together as creative use of channels such as Domino’s UK profile on Tinder crosses boundaries. I believe that an interplay of creative and channels shouldn’t be discounted out of turn.

I also won’t put an emphasis whether the media is paid, owned or of earned nature. Public relations professionals have historically taken an earned first approach, but when you are looking after the relationships between stakeholders and a brand does it matter method of channel choice so long as it is appropriate?

This is all mapped out in a content calendar. It is worthwhile checking it against public holidays and if it takes account of client processes (technical input, legal sign-off, corporate media black-out periods).

Appraising the tactics in a PR plan

  • How do the tactics track back to the job to be done in the objectives outlined?
  • How do they tie back to the KPIs?
  • Does the content plan make sense?
  • Do the tactics make financial sense? I worked with an agency that pioneered storytelling to drive feature article coverage for their clients. However given the amount of time that this process took, it became cheaper to buy a full page advert in The Wall Street Journal than it was to pet a half-page feature published
  • Do the tactics consider what was required in terms of reach, repetition (repeated exposure to marketing messages) and engagement? Depending on the communications objectives there may not be a focus on all three elements. A key failing in PR tactics can be an overly focused on engagement as this is strength of public relations as a discipline.

You can read the final part in this series here which wraps up by focusing on resources and commitment. If you need assistance in developing a communications plan or want an existing plan thinking validated get in touch.

More information
Is your PR plan good enough (part four)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part three)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part two)?
Is your PR plan good enough (part one)?
6 Brands That Used Tinder as a Social Media Marketing Platform | The Content Strategist
Study: Only 1% of Facebook ‘Fans’ Engage With Brands | Digital – AdAge
Stephen Waddington’s original post on ‘how to write a PR plan in ten steps’

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