Amazon has taken two steps recently in their further pursuit of making books more lucrative to sell and accessible via their Kindle e-reader — first, creating an advertising-supported Kindle discount and, second, announcing a Kindle library lending program.
The Kindle library lending program is arriving more than a year after the Barnes & Noble Nook introduced a similar capability, but the Kindle’s clear advantages will likely have more of an impact. Those advantages include a larger marketshare (67% Kindle vs. 22% Nook) and the ability to deliver library books via their wireless Whispersync technology (Nook library lending appears to require attaching the Nook to a computer after Adobe Digital Editions has been installed, making borrowing a library book a tethered activity).
Amazon has partnered with OverDrive for the library lending program, so libraries don’t need to register their e-books again — whatever exists in OverDrive now will be ported right over. In a mini-FAQ, OverDrive enumerated the elements of the partnership from the library’s perspective:
- The Kindle Library Lending program will integrate into your existing OverDrive-powered ‘Virtual Branch’ website.
- Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps.
- A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination.
- The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.
- The Kindle Library Lending program will support publishers’ existing lending models.
- Your users’ confidential information will be protected.
- The Kindle Library Lending program is only available for libraries, schools, and colleges in the United States.
In addition to being able to borrow a book from a library, a patron will be able to add notes and highlighting, which Amazon will store in the cloud for the future. Combined with its marketshare advantage and wireless delivery of content, Mike Cane feels it’s “game over” for the other e-book platforms:
There is absolutely no reason for anyone to now buy a Sony Reader, a Kobo Reader, or a Nook. None. The public library edge they all had has now been wiped out — and not just replaced, but replaced with note-taking extras.
Cane also speculates that the drive for a universal e-book standard like ePub may end now. Amazon’s domination may create a de facto standard, stunting initiatives for an actual standard. Nearly simultaneously, Amazon created a Kindle that costs $25 less. How? By making the cheaper version part of a marketing platform, with special offers and sponsored screensavers. In short, by making the Kindle an advertising platform. Some of the offers users of the ad-Kindle will likely see include:
- $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
- $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
- $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
- $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop
- Free $100 Amazon.com Gift Card when you get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card (normally $30)
- Buy one of 30 Kindle bestsellers with your Visa card and get $10 Amazon.com credit
- 50% off Roku Streaming Player (normally $99)
So far, this seems like a way for Amazon to extend their storefront into the Kindle screen. In a world of screenspace, this is smart business.
Joe Wikert feels that this is just one step toward a future of in-book advertising. I agree. Advertisements in books are nothing new — they used to be quite common in cheaper paperbacks. I especially remember them in Louis L’Amour novels in the 1970s, for some reason, and Piers Anthony novels. In short, we’ve seen them before, and we’re about to see them again.
I have to applaud Wikert — he’s honest enough to say this:
As soon as the Kindle gets below $100 they’ll have a mass market hit on their hands. I can’t believe I’m saying that, particularly since I gave up on the Kindle a year ago. Amazon has done some smart things since then though and this is just one example.
The Kindle was laughed at by some when it first appeared. Who’s laughing now?
This all boils down to the strategic advantage Amazon has built by investing in hardware and connectivity for book content, throughout the value chain — from authors with CreateSpace, as an agent with Encore, to awards programs in conjunction with Penguin and others, to the form of books with
Shorts, to its storefront, to its reading devices. All this innovation — which did not only come from Amazon, but which has largely been mainstreamed through Amazon — has some observing that the definition of “book” is shifting beneath our feet.
The Kindle’s killer innovation is Whispernet, and what it unleashes. By creating a 1:1 network relationship with book consumers, Amazon has huge advantages for sales, advertising, and lending, and has created barriers to entry others — even Apple and Barnes & Noble — are finding difficult to surmount. Tying it all together into its storefront, adding the potential for advertising, and expanding its marketshare will cement Amazon’s place as the book (and e-book) power of the near future. So far, they seem to be earning that place through shrewd moves and some audacious gambles.
Of course, why publishers aren’t doing some of this on their own — especially advertising in books — is another question altogether.
I’m sure the momentum Amazon has achieved with its Kindle has Steve Jobs ruing the day he said this in 2008 about the device:
It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.