A recent Business Week article entitled, “Move Over Kindle; E-Books Hit Cell Phones,” outlines trends that could drive the dedicated eBook reader into oblivion. Even advocates of the Kindle are reeling from the possibility.
The argument goes that since applications like ScrollMotion or Stanza for the iPhone make it possible for users to download books and magazines directly on their iPhones for a fraction of the cost of similar materials available via Amazon.com through its Kindle reader, users will drop or never purchase a Kindle.
The argument seems airtight. The open development platform of the iPhone, the ubiquity of iTunes, the price advantages currently seen with iBooks, and the fantastic number of iPhones purchased in the past year seem to create a perfect storm for the Kindle, foreboding its doom.
However, as someone who is reading “Predictably Irrational,” I don’t think it’s going to work out this way. It’s just too rational. Here are my irrational reasons for not dropping the Kindle in favor of a one-stop solution via the iPhone:
- I’m already leary of how dependent I am on my iPhone. To have it become a major reading tool starts to make me a little crazy. I like having some activities compartmentalized — I don’t run my computer through my TV, for instance. One is for getting work done, one is for entertainment and diversion. My iPhone is a communication device. It’s not a reading device. Sorry, I can’t get over that conceptual block.
- Reading, even snacking and speed-dating information, is best done in an immersive environment. I’ve tried reading using Stanza. It doesn’t immerse me. Once, the phone rang in my hand while I was reading, making me nearly leap out of my skin. Not immersive. There are too many applications on my iPhone vying for my attention. I need a dedicated device for reading.
- I dislike kludgy solutions, and reading on an iPhone feels kludgy. There is something of a force-fit in putting reading on the iPhone, just as there is with putting radio (via Pandora) on it. It works OK, but not well enough to for me to make a habit of it.
- It’s too small. The screen on the iPhone is spectacular, but too small for reading, no matter how I turn it. The line lengths are too short in portrait mode, there are too few lines (and too many page turns) in landscape mode.
However, the problem is, I might change my tune in a few weeks or months, or even use the iPhone occasionally to read. I just don’t know. And that creates a conundrum for publishers. How do you reach users who themselves represent multiple devices?
These skirmishes over preferred platforms or devices only mean that publishers have to be fleet and adaptable. A year ago, a blog posting like this wouldn’t have been possible — the Kindle had just been released, and the iPhone 3G was months away. Now, with both devices having been adopted at amazing rates, publishers have to build infrastructure to support user preferences that span multiple devices — because their users are increasingly like to have multiple connected reading devices.