Can Kindle Resist Apple’s Attempt to Douse It?




Since its unveiling last month, the iPad has been labeled a Kindle killer. The parallels are obvious—the largest (and newest) Kindle has the same size screen, both have Internet connectivity, and both can be used to read books. But that just about sums up the Kindle’s selling points, and the iPad’s features list continues on out the door. So could a full-color touchscreen tablet computer and a B&W eReader really be considered the competitors the media continue to make them out to be?

Heck yes, if Amazon has anything to say about it. Last week, Amazon acquired touchscreen maker TouchCo. The small startup had developed a new way to add touch screen technology. (Kindle direct competitor the Sony eReader already has a touchscreen version, which outsells its cheaper alternative.)

Meanwhile, the technology for adding color to the E Ink device has long been in the works. The exactly-like-paper interface has long been the biggest selling point of eReaders, but despite the development of a color version by E Ink four years ago, nearly all E Ink displays are in black and white. The acquisition of creator E Ink by PVI last year seemed to pave the way for a color Kindle by the end of this year.

But does Kindle really care? They’ve released an app for the iPhone, enabling the Kindle’s parent company, Amazon, to continue to benefit from other devices. If users are willing to put up with the eyestrain from reading hundreds of thousands of words on an LCD screen, Amazon is willing to take their money on ebooks. (We can debate over how much Amazon makes or loses per ebook right now—their ultimate goal could just be to make us all dependent on them for all our ebook needs.)

Then again, maybe they do. The New York Times takes a look at job listings for Amazon’s Lab 126, developer of the Kindle:

One job opening in particular, for a Hardware Display Manager, tells the applicant that “you will know the LCD business and key players in the market.” The key point here is the word “LCD,” which means the Kindle is possibly exploring color (unless they are hiring an LCD manager to simply gain an understanding of the color-display market).

Other job openings include Wi-Fi specialists (the current Kindle has only a 3G wireless connection), and openings for someone to “lead the software development teams that develop and maintain the applications.” The applications division could signal a move to create more apps for the Kindle, or someone who will manage the latest app store developments after Amazon announced a new software development kit was released last month to independent programmers.

What do you think? Is Amazon gearing up to pit the Kindle against the iPad—and will it be enough?

  • http://www.main10.com Troy Groberg

    Well written Jordan. Someone actually tweeted this to me and when I saw who wrote it, I was like “Hey, I know her.”

    For the rest of you, Jordan and I go way back. In fact she almost named her son after me. ;)

    But seriously, with the plethora of things that the iPad will do, the only way Amazon will be able to compete is by having a “just as good” e-reader and being cheaper than the iPad. Though they do have a couple advantages. They already have an established user base. And they already have the book store that the iBookstore will always be trying to catch up to. If I were them, I would give away the Kindle with the purchase of your first 10 books. We all know that’s where the real money is made with these things.

    • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

      I’m sorry, have we met?

      (Just kidding! Of course I know Troy. Thank you, Troy!)

      I’m not sure if Amazon is really making the money on the ebooks right now, for many of them anyway. I could have sworn I saw a stat last week that said that Amazon is still paying the same price to publishers for e- and print editions, so they’re actually losing money on their books. (But maybe what I saw really said that the publishers have a lot of inelastic costs—marketing, editing, new author acquisition, etc.—and so they‘re the ones eating it.)

  • http://arcanasphere.com/blog AndrewJ

    Just remember. Amazon didn’t enter the music playing video gaming cellular phone industry. Steve Jobs’s righteous indignation is…

    ..you get the idea.

    I can’t tell if it’s my feelings or my logic talking, but I can’t help hoping that the book seller will produce a more likable book reader than a company who actually seemed to benefit by paying Eminem to advertise for them. The bookseller no doubt has a more established name among fans of honest literature.
    .-= AndrewJ´s last blog ..What Evil Done =-.

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