Amazon announced this week that, for the first time, its Kindle ebook reader would be available outside of the US. This wasn’t much of a surprise, considering how popular the Kindle is in the US, and how eBook readers in general are gaining in popularity worldwide. Amazon are definitely doing the right thing in getting their easy to use product in front of as many potential customers (in over 100 countries) as possible.
I won’t be buying one, despite my gadget addiction. Anyone who knows me knows that the ownership of one gadget does not preclude the purchase of a newer, better version. So why no new Kindle? There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, I’m very satisfied with my existing eBook reader: the Sony PRS-505. It handles many types of document easily and allows me to expand its built in memory with SD cards, such that I have over 1300 documents on it at any one time. It’s light, with a clear screen, and I have ultimate control over where I get my reading material from.
The Kindle, by comparison, does not have expandable memory and handles fewer file types (which need to emailed via Amazon’s servers to end up on your device). Further, Amazon customers buy direct from the Amazon.com online store and Amazon have been forced to admit that customers outside of the US will pay more for content – up to 40% more in some cases.
It boils down to this. If I’m paying for content, I want to own that content and decide what happens to it. I don’t want the provider of that content to be able to switch off my access to it at a whim. I’d compare it to a Napster-type arrangement – I don’t want to pay a monthly charge for music only to have access to it turned off forever when I want to end my contract. It suits other people, but not me.
The Kindle model is a good one for many, many consumers. It gives them easy access to thousands of titles, without the need to hook it up to a computer or have access to wifi. It’s easy to use, in any number of ways. I just don’t like its built-in restrictions.
The cost of eBooks in general is a whole other debate. I can’t understand why they cost as much as (or in some cases in the UK, more than) their physical counterparts. Without a need to physically produce, transport or store eBooks, they should be significantly cheaper than paper books. Until someone challenges this pricing model (Apple Tablet eReader anyone?) the uptake of electronic books will be slow and among a minority of consumers.