Dori says that she thinks the Amazon Kindle is a bomb, and she thinks that it will flop. Her argument is based mainly on its DRM. I think that it will succeed, become a big business segment for them, and will be the first of a new line. Neither of us has seen or touched one yet.
I straddle the middle line.
First, DRM only matters to the general consumer when it gets in the way of what they want to do. You’ll notice that the DRM on DVD discs or the iPod/iTunes simply doesn’t register with consumers as a problem, because the restrictions aren’t things that affect them in a day to day, practical way; the people bitching about DRM on those platforms tend to be the uber-geeks and the anti-DRM extremists who are off on the edge of the bell curve. 39 trillions songs downloaded from iTunes tells you what “real people” think about iTunes DRM, once you get outside the uber-geek echo chambers.
On the other hand, look at all of those places where DRM has been used to try to force consumers into behaviors they don’t like — like, oh, the old DIVX platform, or music subscription services that don’t let you put your music on MP3 players and carry it around, or when MLB changed its DRM vendor and tried to tell everyone with video under the old DRM “well, sorry. buy it again”. oops.
DRM on the Kindle? We’ll see. If it stays in the background and lets typical users do what they want? It won’t be an issue. My initial thought is that Amazon isn’t stupid, and they understand the consumer, and their DRM restrictions seem to be pretty well thought out for the most part. We’ll see what consumers think.
But does that mean the Kindle will succeed? I’m still unconvinced that people are all that interested in spending that kind of money to carry books around; it’s at best a niche market — me, personally, I have Google Reader on my phone, and while it’s nice owning a hundred books I can carry in my backpack, in practice, I’m only reading one at a time, and a paperback is even more convenient, and I can buy a lot of paperbacks for the cost of the Kindle.
So I don’t think this product is “it”. the streaming content and EVDO make it an interesting device, but I think it’ll fall into a few niches: early adopter geeks who love new gadgets, and people who need to carry a reference library around with them (think O’Reilly safari in a neat little package). that presumes those libraries and books become available for the Kindle, not a guarantee.
But I still think it’s going to miss the mark; it’s not going to convince people like me to replace carrying a paperback, I’m not convinced the online stuff is “enough better” — but I am convinced this kind of product will succeed at some point, and I think Kindle is the first ebook device in years to move this product design forwards towards the product that will ultimately succeed.
Kindle is, for me, the product that for the first time shows how this kind of product WILL succeed. Kindle isn’t, I think, the breakthrough product, though, just the first one that shows some potential on how to build something like this that will break through. They’ve done many things right, including aggressive pricing of books (but not quite down to paperback price) — but I just don’t think we’re ready for this, yet.
But we finally have a serious contender for a “good, commercial, practical” ebook reader. Congrats to Amazon for figuring it out — and frankly, I’m not suprised it was them, but notice it’s not coming from a “high tech” company? Because this is a product driven by consumers, not technology, for however much it depends on technology to be viable. Something high tech companies ought to be thinking about, because they need to get out of their echo chambers — if Apple didn’t prove that, this should.
But I expect Kindle to be at best a moderate success. But I also think that Kindle will be remembered as the product that led to the succcess of this market, where frankly, no previous ebook reader attempt came close. So at that level, it’s already succeeded.