I wish I was posting this as a follow-up to an announcement, but actually, it’s a suggestion to Amazon on how they can make more money, sell more Kindle books, and make more people happy.
For those of you who don’t already know, the Amazon Kindle is an ebook reader that uses E-Ink technology to display content on a screen. What’s cool about e-ink is that once it has rendered the screen’s contents, it takes no power to keep the content on the screen. The result is that the battery life of the Kindle is measured in “page turns” instead of hours. The Kindle is also cool because it has WhisperNet, provided by Sprint, which lets you have books you purchase from Amazon’s Kindle store sent straight to the Kindle, without the need to plug the Kindle into your computer. The Kindle also gets a special email address where you can email documents to this address and have them appear on your Kindle for a nominal fee for reading. All in all, it’s a fantastic product, it only has one little problem, the price. The Kindle is $349 (previously $399), available only from Amazon, which is still a bit steep for an up-front cost before you start buying books from the Kindle store to put on it.
Amazon, I know you want to sell Kindles, but your bread and butter will always be the books themselves. My suggestion is that you write an iPhone app that can read the Kindle book format and will validate like a Kindle to your own DRM. You could sell this app in Apple’s app store to make even more money, I’m thinking something along the lines of $20 to $40. This way people with an iPod Touch or iPhone (which is quite a lot of people, including yours truly) can start buying Kindle books without a Kindle, and get the enjoyment of having instant access to literature the way only the elite Kindle owners do. The iPhone already has access to the internet, so it could support all of the functionality of Whispernet without any difficulty from you the developer. The iPod Touch has WiFi, so even it can download books directly when it’s on a hotspot.
Amazon can even take this one step further. Amazon already partners with Apple’s iTunes Music Store as a place to purchase content from its own Audible.com, once someone has purchased your iPhone app, partner with iTunes again and have people able to shop for books right through the iTunes music store, making it even easier for iPhone owners to purchase your Kindle books.
What I think Amazon may find surprising if they did this, is that it probably would bolster sales of the Kindle devices itself, not only the Kindle books.
See I’m a bit leery of buying a Kindle, and buying Kindle books, knowing that those books are locked to the Kindle. If I could start buying those books now and reading them on another device, I’d probably later buy a Kindle knowing it’s a better platform for reading them on.
It’s also not exactly outside of Amazon’s business model to offer their digital products to other platforms either. In March 2007, I blogged about Amazon and TiVo teaming up to make Amazon Unbox Videos (now known as Amazon Video on Demand) available on TiVo boxes. I immediately started buying Unbox videos when I never had before. Incidentally, I’d love it if Amazon Video-on-demand Videos were playable on the iPhone as well, and I’d probably buy a lot more videos from Amazon if they did, but I think that might be a bit of wishful thinking.
So come on Amazon, release an iPhone app that can read Kindle documents and you’ll have even more of my money than you do now, and I’d bet a whole lot of other people’s money as well.