To Amazon: Sharing is Social

June 22, 2010

Kindle, Technology

I just finished reading Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’ recent post about the recent e-reader price wars.  His basic premise is that Amazon and B&N have already lost to the Apple juggernaut.  I really disagree with Adrian. While his logic is fine, I really think that his conclusion is erroneous – or at lest premature. The real question is not when will Amazon leave the device market but whether Amazon and B&N can position e-ink readers as something unique and different from the iPad.

I don’t know if price can be the only thing that creates a different product/market. I think that something else may be required.   Can software (e.g., the Kindle 2.5.2 firmware) be that extra something that is needed?  I’m not sure.  I love the new firmware.  But an honest review is that the current software alone cannot be the sole differentiator.  But Amazon is hitting the right notes.

In my world view, books are not a solitary experience. They are the lynchpins of a social phenomenon.  The book was the means by which medieval culture was transformed into the culture of the Renaissance – and the advances of the Enlightenment.  Wherever there is oppression, books have provided relief – and focus.  Indeed, books have been the means of unleashing the hidden potential within many people.

And the written word has always been  a pivotal part of the faith experience.  In Jewish and Christian Scriptures, God “spoke” the world into existence.  And in the Gospels, we are told that Jesus Christ is “the Word” of God.  Setting aside the mystical elements of this, it is clear that the spoken and written word are pivotal to the core experience of faith.  Indeed, words are the defining elements of modern man.

So there is more to e-readers than just the device.  There is a powerful and almost mystical connection to the words themselves.  Despite the thoughts of Mr. Kingsley-Hughes  to the contrary, it’s not just about the device.   There is a market for the social aspects of the written word.

But Amazon did not hit it out of the park with their most recent firmware offering.  The social experience does not just mean Twitter and Facebook posts about passagse found in books. It means sharing.  And Amazon has to step up and create a means of sharing a book with friends, family and community.  From my perspective, I want to be able to “give” a book to a friend.  And when they are done with that book, they can return it – or lend it to someone else.

And Amazon needs to extend its commenting/highlighting system.  I would really love to be able to attach audible annotations to a passage.  Scribbling in the margin is fine.  But I want to leave a note to myself and/or the next person that I share the book with.  So it would be great to see a small condenser mic included in the next Kindle revision.

And Amazon really needs to change its ads. The current crop is cute – but unnerving. And the ads do not make me want to buy more books.

The Amazon ads need to be a lot more focused. Tell me why I want your platform. And then show how people use it in new and innovative ways.  Show people using a Kindle for day-to-day tasks: Dad’s novel, Mom’s cookbook, the college kid’s Physics book, the newspaper on the bus, etc.

-Roo

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