Friday, August 29, 2008

A Kindleless Christmas?

The rumours about a new Kindle reader have been circulating and fuelled the ‘Septemberfeast’ vision of pre Frankfurt rivalry between Sony, Amazon and mobiles for the expected ebook explosion. The New York Times today carried a quote from Craig Berman, Amazon’s chief spokesman, “There’s a lot of rumour and speculation about the Kindle. One thing I can tell you for sure is that there will be no new version of the Kindle this year. A new version is possible sometime next year at the earliest.”

So it’s official and it can be struck off the Christmas wish lists. As an aside two different instances of Kindles locking have been recalled to us over this week. On referral to Amazon they immediately shipped out replacements. So do they have technical issues even with the current model? Maybe two incidents is so small and coincidental to be meaningless but it does raise a quality and resilience eyebrow.

Does the delay of the Kindle V2 mean that they will introduce the current version in the European market this year, or that everything is on hold until version 2?

The interesting questions to us are neither about the gadget, nor the rivals but what content will be available and why so little is available today. Amazon claim around 135K titles, Overdrive 150K titles and others vary widely in their claims. Some are US exclusive, others worldwide, but whatever number it is, is it enough to generate the consumer demand and why is there not more digital content? Many point to the music, film and other media industries and how digital has taken off. But in these industries the content was digital to start with and merely distributed and sold through physical formats. The book publishing industry are still clearly analogue and physical and unless this changes then what appeal will consumers have to invest in expensive gadgets that only can supply a small fraction of the books that are available in print?

The Smartphone and iTunes simply locked into vast musical catalogues of millions of tracks and enabled them to be downloaded, stored and played. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time. But do the ebookreaders have the same opportunity or is it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It's not a case of focusing on the devices, but a case of focusing on the digital content, and its availability.

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