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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Kindle Is Analogous to the First iPod

Comments (8)

I’m three weeks into having my Kindle and I love it.  3Quarks Daily’s post Ode to Textuality: Sam Anderson on the Kindle prompted me to write about it.

I’m currently reading Fatal Revenant (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) on my Kindle, along with a handful of doc / pdf files I’ve been forwarding to it.  I’ve got a nice library of stuff queue up and am delighted with the overall experience.  I’ve got a few minor complaints about the form factor and the UI, but the magic of Amazon’s Whispernet makes it 10x more usable than the Sony eReader.

I think the Kindle is analogous to the first iPod.  Prior to the first iPod, there were plenty of MP3 players, but none of them integrated seamlessly with online music (or if they did, the UI sucked and no one could figure out how to get it to work correctly.)  The iPod + iTunes got it right and Apple has been reaping dividends ever since.

Amazon is the natural provider of the Kindle.  100,000 ebooks later and there is actually a good library of titles to choose from (and growing daily.)  So far I’ve been able to find everything that I want, and for $9.99 or less (vs. the $25 that hardback books are going for these days.)

If you’ve got a reader in the family, you’ll delight them this year with a Kindle.  Amazon is taking a big chance with this, and I love it.

  • Chip Griffin

    So are you telling me that I should give my Sony Reader to my wife and pick up the Kindle for myself?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I'm suggestion you buy two Kindle's!

  • Dan Ciruli

    I was an early iPod adopter — I bought the first 20 gig iPod Apple released. It's served me well since then…until I recently lost it. I was using it on a redeye flight, and when I woke up and deboarded, I left it in the seatpocket.

    It became clear to me how much iPods have changed in the ensuing 5 years when I told one of my (younger) friends the story. Her reaction? “Can you imagine the person who found your iPod? They reach into the seatpocket, find an iPod and think 'sweet!' Then they realize what model it is. They must have been pissed!”

    Just as Apple has made nonstop improvements to their original, I'm sure Amazon will keep adding to Kindle.

  • Free iPod Touch

    I agree with you. The kindle is the first product to do electronic reading right. It has combined lots of tools to make a great reading experience for its users.

  • http://www.ollerman.com Rick Ollerman

    I've always thought that the iPod blew up more or less because of timing and Apple's cachet. The user base for MP3 players had reached a certain point so that when Apple jumped in with their cool and groovy marketing and a catchy name (the only MP3 player at the time to have a name that didn't mean something else (i.e. Jukebox, Zen); an iPod could only be an iPod), the flash point took over. That kind of environment doesn't exist for e-books now; there isn't a dry forest for the Kindle to ignite.

    I don't think the interface or method of obtaining content is a big obstacle to widespread adoption. While I think this is the Kindle's strongest feature when compared to other readers, I'm not convinced that this is all that big an issue regardless. Comparing MP3 software of years ago to ebook reading
    software of today seems out of synch; comparing any computer-to-portable-device software of ten years ago and today makes sense. Initial releases today are much more mature out of the gate. Sure it's simpler to eliminate the computer but it certainly isn't necessary. My guess is that beyond the initial downloading it's a lot easier to manage your e-library on a computer than on the device itself.

    A Kindle book at $9.99 is only cheaper than a new book or one that's currently only available in hardcover. And there are no twenty five dollar books at Amazon: a $24.95 hardcover sells for $14.97. Sure, the Kindle version is still cheaper than that but when compared to a $7.99 mass market paperback, the math works the other way. So the price advantage is a very limited one. And if price were the main consideration, there'd be a lot more people patronizing the library.

    To me the bottom line is that as a delivery device, the Kindle is way overpriced. Couple that with book prices that are more expensive than mass market paperbacks and I don't think this device is going to do much widening of the e-reader audience. This is neither a “give away the razor and make money on the blades” scenario or one where there is simply an improved value to the consumer. I'll either buy cheaper books (used, mass market) or pay $15 for a first edition hardcover (just five bucks higher than the Kindle price).

    Unless something changes radically in the publishing industry, I think the Kindle is fated to appeal to the same group as the existing e-book readers, namely literate technophiles. Commuters, travelers, or people like me with an eye issue (I use my Sony with the large font size to rehab one of my eyes), may want one but as for attracting new users, there's not enough there to sway the reading community away from actual books.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Maybe the delivery system doesn't matter, but as a long time Sony eReader user, I think the Kindle is significantly better because of the wireless integration with my Amazon.com account.

      The book prices are also not fixed at $9.99 – that's the price for a current issue hardback equivalent. I've already bought several older paperbacks at much lower prices (and lower than the physical equivalent.)

      My goal with the analogy was to link the device (iPod / Kindle) to the content (iTunes / Amazon books). So far I'm blown away.

  • http://www.youcastr.com Ariel Diaz

    I do not think the analogy holds.

    The iPod was able to offer a better usage case for something that people were ALREADY doing, i.e. listening to MP3's on their computers. People had hundreds or thousands of music files (courtesy of Napster and CD-ripping),

    Competition – You touched on this saying that before the iPod there were plenty of MP3 players, that either held 12 songs (not much better than a CD player), or held 6 GB but made it impossible to navigate to find one. I wouldn't say there are “plenty” of eReaders out there. There are a couple, and from a design standpoint, the Sony reader is widely considered better.

    So, in review, here's what made the iPod (that the KIndle lacks)

    - Amazing Design – head and shoulders above everything else at the time
    - Napster – a community that put digital music in the hands of a lot of people
    - Importing CD's – a one step process to transition your existing collection
    - Zero degradation of experience – listening to music on your headphones is the same whether it's a CD or an iPod. You can't view pictures on a Kindle.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the direction, but there are many more hurdles to overcome before crowning it the next iPod. I personally think that technology will pass e-ink before it ever has a chance to reign.

    -Ariel

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      As both a Sony eReader and a Kindle user, the Kindle is much nicer to use than the Sony eReader. The screen dynamics are similar, but the Kindle UI is much better, especially as you start doing things like (a) looking up definitions of words while you are reading and (b) looking up stuff on Wikipedia via the wireless connection while you are reading.

      I also really like the form factor. Plenty of folks have ridiculed it – I don't know if they've actually read a book on it. It's a pleasure to use, works really well, and even though it doesn't look “cool” is extremely functional and well thought out.

      I'm optimistic on this one.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chipgriffin chipgriffin

    So are you telling me that I should give my Sony Reader to my wife and pick up the Kindle for myself?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I'm suggestion you buy two Kindle's!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dan_ciruli3528 dan_ciruli3528

    I was an early iPod adopter — I bought the first 20 gig iPod Apple released. It's served me well since then…until I recently lost it. I was using it on a redeye flight, and when I woke up and deboarded, I left it in the seatpocket.

    It became clear to me how much iPods have changed in the ensuing 5 years when I told one of my (younger) friends the story. Her reaction? "Can you imagine the person who found your iPod? They reach into the seatpocket, find an iPod and think 'sweet!' Then they realize what model it is. They must have been pissed!"

    Just as Apple has made nonstop improvements to their original, I'm sure Amazon will keep adding to Kindle.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/free_ipod_t3550 free_ipod_t3550

    I agree with you. The kindle is the first product to do electronic reading right. It has combined lots of tools to make a great reading experience for its users.

  • Ariel Diaz

    I do not think the analogy holds.

    The iPod was able to offer a better usage case for something that people were ALREADY doing, i.e. listening to MP3's on their computers. People had hundreds or thousands of music files (courtesy of Napster and CD-ripping),

    Competition – You touched on this saying that before the iPod there were plenty of MP3 players, that either held 12 songs (not much better than a CD player), or held 6 GB but made it impossible to navigate to find one. I wouldn't say there are "plenty" of eReaders out there. There are a couple, and from a design standpoint, the Sony reader is widely considered better.

    So, in review, here's what made the iPod (that the KIndle lacks)

    - Amazing Design – head and shoulders above everything else at the time
    - Napster – a community that put digital music in the hands of a lot of people
    - Importing CD's – a one step process to transition your existing collection
    - Zero degradation of experience – listening to music on your headphones is the same whether it's a CD or an iPod. You can't view pictures on a Kindle.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the direction, but there are many more hurdles to overcome before crowning it the next iPod. I personally think that technology will pass e-ink before it ever has a chance to reign.

    -Ariel

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rick_ollerm3626 rick_ollerm3626

    I've always thought that the iPod blew up more or less because of timing and Apple's cachet. The user base for MP3 players had reached a certain point so that when Apple jumped in with their cool and groovy marketing and a catchy name (the only MP3 player at the time to have a name that didn't mean something else (i.e. Jukebox, Zen); an iPod could only be an iPod), the flash point took over. That kind of environment doesn't exist for e-books now; there isn't a dry forest for the Kindle to ignite.

    I don't think the interface or method of obtaining content is a big obstacle to widespread adoption. While I think this is the Kindle's strongest feature when compared to other readers, I'm not convinced that this is all that big an issue regardless. Comparing MP3 software of years ago to ebook reading
    software of today seems out of synch; comparing any computer-to-portable-device software of ten years ago and today makes sense. Initial releases today are much more mature out of the gate. Sure it's simpler to eliminate the computer but it certainly isn't necessary. My guess is that beyond the initial downloading it's a lot easier to manage your e-library on a computer than on the device itself.

    A Kindle book at $9.99 is only cheaper than a new book or one that's currently only available in hardcover. And there are no twenty five dollar books at Amazon: a $24.95 hardcover sells for $14.97. Sure, the Kindle version is still cheaper than that but when compared to a $7.99 mass market paperback, the math works the other way. So the price advantage is a very limited one. And if price were the main consideration, there'd be a lot more people patronizing the library.

    To me the bottom line is that as a delivery device, the Kindle is way overpriced. Couple that with book prices that are more expensive than mass market paperbacks and I don't think this device is going to do much widening of the e-reader audience. This is neither a "give away the razor and make money on the blades" scenario or one where there is simply an improved value to the consumer. I'll either buy cheaper books (used, mass market) or pay $15 for a first edition hardcover (just five bucks higher than the Kindle price).

    Unless something changes radically in the publishing industry, I think the Kindle is fated to appeal to the same group as the existing e-book readers, namely literate technophiles. Commuters, travelers, or people like me with an eye issue (I use my Sony with the large font size to rehab one of my eyes), may want one but as for attracting new users, there's not enough there to sway the reading community away from actual books.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Maybe the delivery system doesn't matter, but as a long time Sony eReader user, I think the Kindle is significantly better because of the wireless integration with my Amazon.com account.

    The book prices are also not fixed at $9.99 – that's the price for a current issue hardback equivalent. I've already bought several older paperbacks at much lower prices (and lower than the physical equivalent.)

    My goal with the analogy was to link the device (iPod / Kindle) to the content (iTunes / Amazon books). So far I'm blown away.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    As both a Sony eReader and a Kindle user, the Kindle is much nicer to use than the Sony eReader. The screen dynamics are similar, but the Kindle UI is much better, especially as you start doing things like (a) looking up definitions of words while you are reading and (b) looking up stuff on Wikipedia via the wireless connection while you are reading.

    I also really like the form factor. Plenty of folks have ridiculed it – I don't know if they've actually read a book on it. It's a pleasure to use, works really well, and even though it doesn't look "cool" is extremely functional and well thought out.

    I'm optimistic on this one.

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