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Rekindle Reading with the Kindle

amazon-kindle

Since it kin­dled in 2007, Amazon’s Kin­dle has been on my mind; pri­mar­ily for two rea­sons. First, its use­ful­ness to vora­cious read­ers and sec­ond, its poten­tial to influ­ence the pub­lish­ing industry.

The Kin­dle is designed for vora­cious read­ers. If you are not read­ing at least one book a week, you can­not pos­si­bly under­stand the impor­tance of a Kin­dle. And, if you are not spend­ing money buy­ing books, you can­not digest the ini­tial invest­ment of Rs. 18,600 (cost of Kin­dle plus import duty), that the Kin­dle requires.

This is what the screen of a Kindle looks likeThe Kindle is as thin as a pencilWith a Kindle in hand

Hav­ing said that, lets how it ben­e­fits the avid reader.

The Kin­dle is pen­cil thin and weighs 300 g, but it stores up to 1,500 books. Ensur­ing you never run out of a read at the wrong time. It makes it a great travel com­pan­ion, be it short trips or long, you may be on the first page of the book or the last chap­ter, you don’t have to worry as long as you have a few of your next books stored on the Kin­dle. If you read more than one book at a time, using a Kin­dle, you don’t have carry the extra weight. And please don’t wail about read­ing on a ‘screen’. The Kin­dle screen is not the same as the ones on your lap­top or LCD mon­i­tors. It is a totally dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy called e-ink and it will not strain your eyes.

If you are in the habit of buy­ing books, ebooks for the Kin­dle are cheaper than paper­backs (as of now it is so in the USA, it will soon be the case in India, read below to know how). This means you can read more in the same amount of money you spend buy­ing paper­backs today. Or, if you are the fru­gal type and want to fac­tor in the inter­est of the Rs. 18,600 you have already invested in buy­ing the Kin­dle, it would just mean that your can still read the same amount of books as before, know­ing that you are pay­ing less for each book.

How often have you bought books by new authors or authors you have not read before? Kin­dle allows you the chance to exper­i­ment. You can get free sam­ple chap­ters before you decide to buy the book. It helps you dis­cover authors you have shied away from all these years. How does this com­pares to an in-store expe­ri­ence? I don’t think you have ever read more than a chap­ter in the book­store before you bought the book an any reader worth his/her salt knows that the book excerpts on the back cover are PR gimmicks.

Kin­dle con­tributes in widen­ing your read­ing hori­zons in more than one way. It pro­vides sub­scrip­tions to blogs, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines. Though not all mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers you want to read are avail­able  today, but, please under­stand that the Kin­dle is just about to go inter­na­tional, up till now, it was only avail­able in the US and pub­lish­ers did not have a huge mar­ket to tap. Now that the Kin­dle is enter­ing the inter­na­tional arena, more pub­lish­ers will tie-up with Ama­zon to pro­vide their con­tent to an inter­na­tional read­er­ship. If you are seri­ous about your lan­guage skills and look up new words in the dic­tio­nary while you read, you will find the Oxford Amer­i­can Dic­tio­nary1 built into the Kin­dle, a big help.

An Amazon Kindle DX has a 9.7 inch screen but is not internationally available, yet.

An Ama­zon Kin­dle DX has a 9.7 inch screen but is not inter­na­tion­ally avail­able, yet.

How Kin­dle can affect the pub­lish­ing industry.

Print­ing books is a money inten­sive activ­ity. The pub­lisher invests a rea­son­ably large sum of money in print­ing each title. This investment-heavy busi­ness model means that they have a fixed bud­get and can only bring out x num­ber of books each year. Losses if any, are borne by the pub­lish­ers. If the pub­lish­ers had to print lesser num­ber of copies, they could pub­lish more titles in the same bud­get. But with today’s busi­ness model, print­ing lesser books trans­lates to sell­ing lesser books.

If Kin­dle is accepted by the book-buying masses it can change the busi­ness model. It will allow pub­lish­ers to print lesser copies of  books but at the same time main­tain sales, thus facil­i­tat­ing smaller print runs with­out loss in rev­enue2. Ama­zon claims that of all the books bought on its US web­site, 48% are bought on the Kin­dle. There­fore, if we assume that a per­son does not buy both ver­sions, ebook and paper­back, pub­lish­ers in the US can safely drop their print run by 45%3. That is a huge sav­ing for the publisher.

For book pub­lish­ers in India, brick-mortar book­stores are the pri­mary points of sale. There­fore, retail­ers get a size­able chunk of the list price (approx­i­mately 40%). Few book­stores pass on their prof­its to the cus­tomer as dis­counts4. Pub­lish­ers and dis­trib­u­tors, in turn, have to keep book­stores happy because sale of books depends on them.

If pub­lish­ers had another reli­able sale point, they would not be cow­ing down to brick-mortar book­stores. Ama­zon can be that sec­ond sale point5. But an aggres­sive online book­store would break the monop­oly of the brick-mortar ones and cre­ate a price war. To lure cus­tomers back into book­stores they will slash their profit mar­gins and the price of the paper­backs will fall. Thus, ben­e­fit­ing those who do not own a Kindle.

For read­ers and pub­lish­ers who fear that with wide spread e-publishing, paper books will lose their value, let me assure you, they won’t. With the growth of e-publishing, lesser paper books will be printed, and like all things, here too – less is more. Books will only gain in value. In the future, you will see signed copies, lim­ited edi­tions and spe­cial edi­tions gain impor­tance for the niche reader who under­stands and appre­ci­ate their value. With the bulk of the read­ing mate­r­ial dis­trib­uted in the elec­tronic form, pub­lish­ers will con­cen­trate their efforts on vol­umes that are a value-add and get in addi­tional rev­enue for the pub­lish­ing chain.

Advan­tages of the Kindle

A Kindle DX sits on a stack of books1. Access many books on the go
2. Directly down­load books through Amazon’s Whis­per­net, inter­na­tion­ally
3. Is backed by the world’s biggest book­store – Ama­zon
4. Text-to-speech fea­ture and adjustable font size makes it acces­si­ble to a wide range of age groups and abil­i­ties
5. Sub­scribe to blogs, mag­a­zines, and newspapers

You can see a com­plete list of fea­tures on this Ama­zon Kin­dle page.

Dis­ad­van­tages of the Kindle

“Each coun­try has dif­fer­ent pub­lish­ing rights. It’s a seg­mented busi­ness model. That’s why we won’t see one book­shop where you can buy all books for a while.”  Steve Haber, Pres­i­dent of Sony’s Dig­i­tal Read­ing Division

1. Selec­tion of new nov­els, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines is lim­ited for Indian Kin­dle own­ers, yet. (Tie-ups with pub­lish­ers should improve the sit­u­a­tion)
2. Ama­zon Whis­per­net may have teething prob­lems in India.
3. Cost of own­er­ship at approx­i­mately Rs. 18,600 is a bit high. Should be between Rs.10,000 and Rs.15,000
4. At Rs. 450 a book, its almost as expen­sive as buy­ing a new paper­back in India. The price per book will have to reduce for the Indian market.

Con­clu­sion.

Kin­dle is not an assault on books. It aims not to take books away from you but to bring read­ing closer to you. You never fell in love with blank sheets of paper bound together, but the words and sen­tences writ­ten on those sheets of paper. Kin­dle will show you those words and sen­tences, and it will make you love it – just like you love books. You don’t have to choose one, you can love books and Kin­dle at the same time – just like I do.

Foot­notes

  1. With the Kin­dle going inter­na­tional, i am sure more dic­tio­nary options will soon be avail­able
  2. There will be mar­ginal drop in prof­its, but that is coun­tered by a smaller invest­ment on each title pub­lished
  3. It will depend on the genre of the book and the exact sales fig­ures from Ama­zon
  4. Bad book­stores charge you full price, good ones give you a 10% dis­count, very good ones give you a 20% dis­count and your best-friend-bookstore gives you a 30% dis­count.
  5. Note: Ama­zon, being the largest book­store in the world, is known for dog ear­ing pub­lish­ers and mak­ing life hell for them

Trackbacks

  1. […] what they want to do or if they want to do it in my cor­ner of the world. Meethil, in his arti­cle Rekin­dle Read­ing with the Kin­dle has all the need-to-know infor­ma­tion cov­ered up tight, so I am not going there. Dammit that man has […]

  2. […] be it short trips or long, you may be on the first page of the book or the last chap­ter… [READ MORE…] Cancel […]

  3. […] be it short trips or long, you may be on the first page of the book or the last chap­ter… [READ MORE…] Cancel […]

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