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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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Kindle Fire Father’s Day Sale Going On Now

Going on now through the end of June 8th, Amazon is offering a $20 discount on any Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, or Kindle Fire HD 8.9” 4G if you remember to use the promo code “DADSFIRE” when you check out.  Supplies will probably hold out through the end, but you might want to get in early if you’re interested.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you take advantage of this offer.

Kindle Fire HDThe most important is probably that each of these models includes Special Offers from Amazon and its affiliates.  These can be removed, but it requires a $15 fee to be paid in addition to the purchase price.

Not a huge problem, but it’s worth being aware of since this is a sale centered on a gift giving holiday.  To be fair, the only time you’re likely to notice the ads is when you’re first turning on your tablet.  They mainly take up the lock screen.

It’s also important to note that none of the Kindle Fire HD options involved in this sale come with their own wall charger.  They will instead have a Micro USB cord to connect to any convenient computer.  If you have a phone charger with a removable USB cord, chances are good that you can simply plug your Kindle into that using the included cord.  Amazon doesn’t recommend that, but they’re selling independent wall plugs for $20 apiece so they might be biased.

The hardest part of this deal is really just deciding which model is the right one.  They are all fine devices, but they excel in different ways.

The Kindle Fire HD is the obvious choice in terms of price.  $179 for the 16GB model is a great deal.  You get a highly portable tablet with a great screen and some of the best sound available for the best price anywhere.

Of course, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is even better in its own ways.  At just $279 you’ll be able to pick up a significantly larger tablet.  Watching video on the larger model is much more pleasant, even if it means that you’re not going to be fitting it into even the largest pockets.  The sound is also much improved here since the speakers are able to sit even further apart.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9” 4G is basically the same thing.  It’s a lot more expensive at $379, though.  Really this should only be considered if you’re giving it to somebody who travels outside the range of wireless networks on a regular basis.  The extra $100 won’t bring nearly as much benefit as you would think to most people.

While you’re shopping for Father’s Day, keep in mind that the Kindle is only as good as its media.  There are all sorts of books that are free or cheap enough to be easy to include with the tablet itself.  The app selection over at Amazon is also quite a bit more impressive than it used to be.  It’s easy to make a good gift great with just a little effort.

Kindle Black Friday Specials for 2012

Every year Black Friday sales get more hyped and involve more ridiculous deals.  In some cases that’s a bad thing, especially when it involves camping outside stores for silly amounts of time to get a chance at one of the only two units available in a particular sale.  In many others it’s just a great time to save some money.

Since we know that a sale is on the way let’s take a look at what to expect as far as discounts this week.

According to Buyer’s Review, we can expect the following deals in brick & mortal stores this Friday:

  • Best Buy: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159.99 bundled with free $30 Best Buy Gift Card
  • Office Depot: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159.99 bundled with $25 Visa Card
  • Staples: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card
  • Office Max: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159
  • Best Buy: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199.99 free $30 Best Buy Gift Card included
  • Office Max: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $25 Office Max Gift Card
  • Staples: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card
  • Staples: 32GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $249, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card

We do have every reason to believe that Amazon will use this opportunity to further promote the Kindle line directly through their own storefront as well, though.

Sadly, we’re not going to be seeing a sale on the Kindle Paperwhite.  The eReader side of things has proven so popular since the Paperwhite was released that an order today will take over a month to get to its destination, just barely making it in time for Christmas if you spring for 2-day shipping.  In a matter of days it will likely be impossible to order a Kindle Paperwhite and have it before 2013.

We will certainly be seeing this sale day used as an opportunity to promote the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, however.  An effort was clearly made to get the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” out before Black Friday, which indicates that the larger tablet will be a part of the promotion as well.

Looking at the store offers above, nobody is actually discounting the Kindle Fires themselves.  All that is being added is a promo gift card.  Given all the blowback Amazon has been getting from these same retailers about showrooming, I expect that the online deal will go a bit further.  How much further is difficult to predict, but 10-20% off the price would create a huge surge of interest.

Remember that Amazon is using the Kindle Fire as a cheap option for content sales.  They’re not making much on the devices themselves.  As such I don’t think we can expect to see a $99 Kindle Fire, even using refurbished 1st Gen models.  Since recent teardowns point to there being a bit more profit than the earlier generation allowed for in a single unit, however, they have some leeway.

I know that I’ll be watching for a $160 Kindle Fire HD and I would be surprised if I don’t see one by the end of the week.

Paperwhite As Christmas Gift? Better Hurry!

The Kindle Paperwhite is a big step forward for its whole product line.  It provides a way for the user to read a book in a dark room without providing their own external light or straining their eyes.  That’s something people have been hoping for out of eReaders since the day they started hitting shelves.  It’s probably to be expected that the response has been enthusiastic.  Even Amazon appears to be surprised by how enthusiastic people are getting, though.

While it’s only the beginning of November, we have already seen Kindle Paperwhite shipping dates slip back twice.  First they were pushed back to the beginning of December and now as I’m writing this they are set for the week of December 17th.

The most popular reading device on the market experienced such a surge of consumer interest that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer and producer of the previous millions of Kindles sold, was taken by surprise and left unable to ship promptly.  That’s good news for fans of the Kindle and great news for eReaders in general, somewhat putting to rest the recurring speculation that it’s a market on the way out due to competition from tablets.

Unfortunately, it also calls into question Amazon’s ability to meet holiday sales demands.  While their track record indicates that there’s a good chance many of those orders will ship well before the 17th of December, that date wouldn’t be on display if they could guarantee things sooner.  If we’re already pushing orders back until a week before Christmas with seven weeks to go before the holiday, Amazon will have to be producing to exceed current high demand levels.  Nobody really believes that demand will drop abruptly before the end of the year at this point.

A month is a long time to get production sped up.  Maybe it’s premature to be talking about this.  The fact that the orders put in today are being set back so far is strange, though.  If you’re hoping to make the new Kindle a big stocking stuffer for your family and friends, it might be best to get a jump on shopping.  At this point I think the best we can hope for is last minute deliveries and nobody likes gambling on FedEx and UPS being prompt at that time of year.

iPad Mini Details Provide Amazon With Kindle Fire Sales Boost

As the rumors grew more intense and details began to leak from production line sources about the reality of Apple’s new device, it became fairly common to see “hold off on any purchases until the iPad Mini is ready” posted as advice.  There is even reason to believe that many people took that advice, it turns out.  Amazon put out a statement recently indicating that the 24rd of October (One day after Apple’s iPad Mini launch event) was “the $199 Kindle Fire HD‘s biggest day of sales since launch”.

Some of the lack of interest in the iPad Mini has to come from its shockingly high price.  At $329 for the basic unit it is hard to compete with the $199 Kindle Fire HD in a market oriented toward people wanting to spend less for their tablet.  That extra $130 is a huge step above the prices of 7” tablets that Apple has openly shown they intend to compete with.

More importantly, the Kindle Fire HD has a superior display.  Now display isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.  Apple has largely maintained their advantage in tablets by offering some of the best visual performance money can buy.  A tablet, like a smartphone, is basically a handheld screen; nothing could be more apparent as a selling point.  Amazon and Google have had to price their tablets at cost in order to compete with the iPad up until now, but with better prices AND better visuals the competition is more than weighted against Apple for once.

The spec comparisons largely go in this direction.  Apple cut so much out of their device that just about all it has going for it is the slightly larger screen size (7.9” vs 7”) and the name “iPad”.

It’s possible that the iOS ecosystem will overcome these deficits.  It certainly will be the biggest factor in driving sales.  As more and more developers optimize their apps for the iPad 3’s A5X processor and the iPad 4’s A6X processor, however, people using the iPad Mini’s A5 processor might find their experience increasingly lacking.  Anecdotes of iPhone 4 owners unhappy with the problems created by iOS 6 performance are common enough to make this particularly important.  We’re talking about a device using roughly the same technology as the iPad 2 at a time when the iPad 4 is headlining.

There is still every reason for Amazon to be concerned about their chances in the larger tablet market.  The 4th Generation iPad was updated to compete with the sort of powerful Windows 8 tablets beginning to hit the market and it is hard to imagine that even the $200 price difference in favor of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” will be enough to drive sales in the face of those competitors unless Amazon does some serious expansion of their content ecosystem before the November 20th release date.

In terms of smaller tablets, it’s fair to say that the big names to watch right now are Google, Amazon, and maybe Barnes & Noble.  Apple has priced their option right out of the running, given what it’s made of.  As much as I like the Kindle Fire, it would have been great to get some even more intense competition to push things forward.  It’s a disappointment that Apple didn’t come through here.

Kindle Fire HD Sold At Cost – Jeff Bezos

People have generally assumed that Amazon was subsidizing the Kindle Fire to some degree.  Analysts have estimated that the cost of materials and manufacturing was roughly equal to the asking price and when the first Kindle Fire was launched it was suspected that Amazon could be losing as much as $15 per device to keep the costs down.

When the first Kindle eReader was released, Amazon’s position was that the hardware had to justify its existence by providing profits separate from the digital content sales it encouraged.  With the frequent price drops that have occurred in the past few years, that’s obviously harder to stick to.  The Kindle was first priced at $399 and sold out in a matter of hours.  Now you can get a basic Kindle for just $69, so it’s hard to imagine the money coming in at the same rate.

The new position makes more sense given Amazon’s digital content ecosystem.  Bezos has come out and said, for the first time, “We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break-even on the hardware.”  It isn’t a surprise and it certainly isn’t going to upset the status quo, but the confirmation of even fairly obvious suppositions breaks the secretive pattern that generally surrounds Amazon’s hardware business.

This is a convenient way to highlight the differences in sales philosophy between major competitors at a time when Android tablets are drawing roughly equivalent in both price and performance while Apple is rumored to be releasing a smaller version of the iPad before the holidays.

Apple, for example, is not known for releasing any hardware they can’t make at least a 40% profit from.  This is the biggest point against the constant rumors of iPad Mini development.  The only reason it’s becoming likely that Apple will release a smaller iPad at this point is the possibility of being shut out of a growing market.  Even then we can expect them to be getting significant return on each sale.  They’re not a company that’s willing to settle for the 30% cut they get from every sale of associated content.

Google, on the other hand, sells their Nexus 7 at cost with the expectation of a different return.  Yes they have a return from their Google Play sales, but the real money is in information acquisition.  Android is available for free to anybody who wants to use it because unless significant effort is made to avoid it, Android ties people into the Google system.  That means more marketing data and more potential for advertising revenue.

Amazon’s course, hoping that cheap devices will result in such a significant increase in sales that it will be worth the initial investment so long as no money is actually being lost on the hardware itself, may be the least obviously profitable of these.  Their experience and expertise when it comes to suggested sales and media serving make it totally believable that the Kindle encourages people to read four times as much as they normally would, but it’s not something that many other companies could hope to pull off.

Kindle Fire Sales May Suffer Thanks to Nexus 7

We don’t have any real way of obtaining solid sales numbers from Amazon with regard to the Kindle line.  They simply don’t choose to make that information public.  Still, analysts are generally able to make decent guesses on how the devices are doing and where they stand with regard to the competition.  According to Cowen analyst Kevin Kopelman, things are not looking up.

Kopelman, who had previously estimated that sales of the Kindle Fire tablet in 2012 would hit approximately 14 million units, has lowered his estimates to 12 million.  He calls his previous numbers “unrealistic” in the wake of Google’s strong competition.  Along with this revision, the Cowen analyst has revised his expected growth of the eReader side of the Kindle line from 30% to 3%.  Factors such as Amazon’s focus on pushing the Kindle Fire to the exclusion of everything else and the long wait in getting a front-lit eReader to customers are cited as important considerations.

This may change depending on consumer reactions to the anticipated Kindle Fire update, of course.  We don’t have any real information yet and it has to be assumed that Kopelman is similarly in the dark regarding the specifics of the new design.  This didn’t stop him from mentioning the rumored iPad Mini in his analysis as a source of competition, but even imaginary Apple products often require special treatment at the moment.

The idea that the Kindle Fire will be completely wiped out by its Nexus 7 competition is far fetched at best.  If Amazon never released a hardware update to the current model, that might be possible.  As it stands, however, there is every reason to believe that significantly more is being done to make owning the next generation of Kindle Fire even better than owning the current one.

Add into that the benefits of the tablet’s integration with Amazon services and you have a recipe for ongoing success.  To be fair, Kopelman’s report doesn’t disagree with this.  He simply indicates that another 7” Android tablet is taking up consumer attention.  That is going to happen.  Will Amazon always be the best selling brand in small tablet design?  Probably not, given their interest in creating devices for fairly narrow use cases.

Take this for what it is.  Amazon will still be doing just fine with their tablet sales, they just finally have some impressive competition at the same price point.  The Nexus 7 could be the Kindle Fire’s Nook.  Competition always brings out the best in situations like this.  Short of somebody else coming in and completely destroying the budget tablet market, which is unlikely in the case of either Apple or Microsoft despite the impending release of Windows 8, Amazon is going to be invested in things here for the indefinite future.

That means more Kindle Fire sales, more features, and more reasons for customers to be interested.  This is a company known for its customer satisfaction, which makes it especially unlikely that they’ll drop the ball on a major product push like this.

Kindle Fire Sales Decline is Worth Noting, but Only Part of the Story

Recent data out of ChangeWave Research indicates that the Kindle Fire is still idling at a much lower level of consumer interest than was the case in the fourth quarter of last year.  Obviously nobody expected the rate to jump back up to as high as it was immediately after the holiday release of a much anticipated product, but the fact that there has been no noticeable change since the beginning of this year is being taken to mean that the Kindle Fire is essentially dead in the water.

ChangeWave Data (as seen on the right) puts the interest in Kindle Fire purchases among potential customers at about 8%.  This compares less than favorably to the iPad’s 73%.  I don’t think it is fair to say that this comparison should be made given that they serve completely different customer needs, but let’s take this for what it is.

The Kindle Fire is still running ahead of all other Android devices by a fair margin.  Even in the limited information we get from this ChangeWave survey, interest appears to be at least 30% higher for the Amazon product compared to its closest non-iPad competition.  In that respect, it is doing quite well.  This doesn’t mean that there are great times in store for the future of the product, however.

The biggest issue right now seems to be the fact that Android is failing to match up with the competition.  The best sellers are the Kindle Fire, which goes a long way to distance itself from Android, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which appears to be considered as one unit in the publicly available information of this report despite actually being a line of four separate products.  Nobody else stands out.

I would predict that tablet customers get even more cautious in the months to come.  We’re still waiting on an official announcement about the Kindle Fire 2.  The release of Windows 8 tablets into the market is going to upset things in a way that nobody can quite predict yet.  Even Apple might do something unexpected if the incredibly far-fetched iPad Mini ever actually appears.  About the only company that customers can be completely sure of ongoing support from right now is Apple and even there it is hard to be certain that you’ll be making the best use of your money.

In the short term, I expect the Kindle Fire to become more of a niche product.  It is a media consumption tablet rather than a fully functional computing device.  You can’t reasonable replace even a small computer with it like you can an iPad.  This doesn’t make it any less useful, but customers are now realizing that there are specific reasons to get a Kindle Fire and that you can’t expect it to function as an iPad competitor.  It was never really meant to.

In the long term we have to wait and see where Amazon goes with the next Kindle Fire.  If the reports of a larger, more powerful device are true then perhaps they will be trying for a serious PC replacement.  It might not be the best time to be marketing something like that against all the new Windows 8 PCs, given how well Windows 8 is said to perform on a touchscreen device, but there is the chance that Amazon’s forking of Android will be sufficient to generate their own unique category in customer perception.

Even if they had no prayer of ever taking majority control of the tablet market, and realistically I don’t think anybody believes they have a prayer of doing so, Amazon isn’t about to drop the product line.  It is still gaining popularity, however slowly.  Media is still selling through it more steadily than through any other Android device.  However much Kindle Fire sales numbers might not match up to holiday interest, that’s only part of what matters when it comes to success.

Waterstones Embraces the Kindle

It wasn’t all that long ago when UK Bookseller Waterstones was bragging that they had their own eReader in the works that was going to be a dramatic improvement over the Kindle line.  While I think it is safe to say that the failure of such an eReader to appear is unsurprising, the fact that the news of plans being changed comes along with the announcement of a partnership with Amazon for selling the Kindle is rather impressive.

In keeping with a redesign of the stores themselves, Waterstones customers can expect to see dedicated areas of the outlets set aside for digital reading purposes.  Presumably this will include easy cafe access and free WiFi.  Other than the fact that Waterstones will now be able to jump into eReading in some small way, however, it is hard to say exactly what their plan of attack will be here.

Details, aside from the abandonment of previously reported Waterstones efforts at eReader design, have not yet been made available to the public.  They will not be available, in fact, until this fall.  Considering that James Daunt, the guy in charge of Waterstones at the moment, declared just months ago that Amazon “never struck [him] as being a sort of business in the consumer interest” and called the online retailer “a ruthless, money-making devil”, it must have been a fairly impressive deal.

We know that Waterstones will not be selling the Kindle hardware any cheaper than Amazon’s own store or any of their other partners.  Not only was that obvious anyway, Daunt himself confirmed that it would not be happening.  Everything they pull off will have to be related to the sales of the media.  This opens up a whole field of speculation.

It is definitely possible that this will be an opportunity to finally bring together hardcover book sales and digital reading.  Customers have long asked for an opportunity to acquire their eBooks at a discount when they already own the physical copy and if Waterstones was to start selling bundles priced roughly equal to the cost of a hardcover book it would give them a major edge in marketing alone.

This would also be a good opportunity for Amazon to test out some of Barnes & Noble’s tricks.  Using the Special Offers aspect of the Kindle to display coupons and other such deals any time a user is connected via the Waterstones WiFi would be a start, for example.  It wouldn’t hurt to put together the same sort of free access to entire eBooks that Nook owners get in B&N outlets, but that might be stretching things a bit.

Without knowing more about how the partnership is structured we can’t say anything for sure.  This doesn’t seem like the smartest move for a major Brick & Mortar chain, though.  Amazon is many things, often many positive things, but kind to physical outlets would not be one of them.  The whole arrangement smacks of a last ditch effort to test out possible ways to keep physical book stores from losing traction in the face of the overwhelmingly popular Kindle.  In that respect, as a fan of the bookstore, I can only offer my sincere hope that they succeed in finding one.

Kindle Sales Experience Q1 Slump…But Not Really?

We are well aware that Amazon has come to completely dominate the Android tablet market with their Kindle Fire and that this has been accomplished in an amazingly short amount of time.  Unfortunately for Amazon, market research firm IDC has released a report of the Android tablet market shrinking at a noticeably higher rate than the tablet market in general.  This could prove problematic as a trend, but the situation may be even more complicated than that.

IDC’s report indicates a bit of a slump as we come into 2012.  Total shipments for tablets are coming in below expectations, especially compared to the previous quarter’s record breaking sales numbers.  Apple’s new shipments are up to 68% of tablet sales compared to just 54% at the end of 2011, indicating that Android has lost a bit of traction despite the lack of reason to get excited about the iPad 3.  Much of this, according to IDC, may be attributed to Apple’s keeping the iPad 2 around as a cheaper alternative to their newest offerings.

Where many are taking this as a death sentence for the Kindle Fire and Amazon’s tablet prospects more generally, there have also been issues raised with IDC’s research methods.  Namely, they are making their determinations based off of total shipments from factories to warehouses and stores.  This is itself a problematic point to raise since it calls into question IDC’s analysis of Q4 2011, but does make sense.  There were obviously going to be plenty of retailers that still has stock left over from the holiday season, so maybe it would be smart to account for that.  Even so, sales almost certainly dipped compared to the iPad.

Looking forward to the year ahead, this doesn’t start Amazon off on a high note.  The Kindle Fire was just their first generation product, however, and we are expecting the next generation in a matter of months.  It will likely be larger, or at least have the option of being larger, and will definitely be more powerful.  Pricing can be expected to remain highly competitive.  This is certain to lead to a resurgent interest in the Android segment of the market even leaving aside such strong offerings as the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Google’s anticipated budget tablet.

Larger screen or not, it is hard to say in advance if Amazon has a Kindle Fire 2 vs iPad 3 comparison in mind.  It is even harder to tell if this would be a smart move at this time.  Both Android and iOS sales may be hit hard toward the end of this year with the introduction of Windows 8 tablets to the competition.  Since these will certainly be all-purpose tablets along the lines of the iPad, it might be more effective for Amazon to continue building the Kindle Fire’s niche as a consumption device that serves specific needs at a lower price than the alternatives.

The bottom line is that right this minute it is doubtful Amazon has anything to be worried about with regard to the Kindle Fire.  Things are going well even if there’s a bit of a slump right now.  The big challenge will come later this year when Android is hit from both sides by iOS and Windows 8 and consumers are left to decide which will be their long-term choice.

Target Tosses the Kindle, Says Goodbye to Amazon

Target was among the first major Brick & Mortar retailers to begin offering the Kindle to its customers.  For many people there was a period when this was literally the only place they could try out an eReader in person rather than blindly trusting that it would meet their needs.  Now, with the Kindle everywhere and Amazon widely demonized as the bane of all storefront business, Target has decided that it would be best to say goodbye to the Kindle and Amazon for good.

Target Corp manages over 1,700 stores as well as a major retail website of its own.  The company become a huge name recently by beginning to pass Walmart as the most inexpensive shopping location available for a variety of goods.  While overall still slightly behind Walmart in general, it was reported last year that Target had begun to reliably offer less expensive grocery and household goods to its customers.

This is relevant to the company’s ending their Kindle partnership because the reason cited for the move was an increasingly popular practice called “showrooming”.  Showrooming is what retailers have come to call the act of window shopping in a local store while comparing prices with online outlets like Amazon.com on a smartphone.  It can result in impressive savings for customers, but big retailers complain that it amounts to little more than exploitation.

Amazon is tied into this practice fairly deeply.  In addition to offering the widest selection of inexpensive goods on the internet and a subscription-based service that allows free two day shipping to reduce wait times, the internet giant has even created smartphone apps to make the act of showrooming as painless as possible.  Using their smartphone apps, customers can simply scan the barcode of whatever they are interested in and be taken to the Amazon.com page selling it.

While it is definitely understandable that Target would be upset by the practice and with Amazon in general, it is hard to imagine this as a particularly productive move on their parts.  While Target undoubtedly earned little money off of individual Kindle device sales, the Kindle line was their bestselling tablet/eReader this past holiday season and it is almost impossible to actually use a Kindle for showrooming given that even the Kindle Fire lacks a camera and cellular connectivity.  At best this is a punitive move rather than an obviously productive one.

Interestingly, this plan does coincide with the decision to add internal Apple shops to a number of storefronts over the coming year.  The Kindle and all related accessories might be in the process of disappearing from stores, but they have stated that “We will continue to offer our guests a full assortment of e-readers and supporting accessories.”  Presumably that means the Nook will be sticking around.  If you are in the market for a Kindle, you can still find them at any number of retailers including Best Buy, Walmart, and Staples.

Kindle Fire Enjoys Strong Lead Over Android Tablet Competition

While it has been known for a while now that Amazon’s first effort at tablet design, the Kindle Fire, was probably the most popular non-Apple tablet on the market, we have only just learned to what extent that is true.  Recent information coming out of comScore indicates that the Kindle Fire has managed to acquire 54% of the Android tablet market in the months it has been available.  Nobody else even comes close.

The last time we talked about this topic, the Kindle Fire had just started pulling ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the most popular of the iPad alternatives.  Things are now apparently a bit less close.  comScore reports that the Kindle Fire now has just under four times the market share enjoyed by the Galaxy Tab.

This report looks exclusively at the period from December 2011 through February 2012.  In that time the Kindle’s popularity nearly doubled while not a single other Android tablet gained at all.  The Galaxy Tab family lost nearly ten percent, falling from 23.8% to 15.4% of the market.

Amazon clearly struck the right note with their surprisingly low pricing of the Kindle Fire.  At $199, it immediately enjoyed an advantage over the competition.  While there are other options now at the same price, nobody has managed to leverage that advantage quite as well as Amazon did.  Some of that is likely due to exposure and brand recognition.  The Kindle Fire was the first truly useful $199 tablet and by far the most heavily advertised.

Mostly we can blame the competition’s failures on the inability to compete with Amazon’s media integration.  Google has been doing great things with Google Play recently, including huge efforts to clean up the App selection and greater emphasis on video and music selections, but it is far from the experience the Fire offers even on a completely unaltered installation of Android.

The big question now is whether anybody else can hope to compete.  The tablet market is increasingly centered around the iPad and the Kindle Fire.  Admittedly this is already a change since six months ago it was entirely centered around the iPad.  That said, the low price that Android tablet customers are coming to expect means that the potential for profit among hardware manufacturers without their own content hubs is shrinking at an alarming rate.  Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 2 is impressive, but it seems unlikely that the desire for a more versatile tablet will overcome the Amazon advantages across a large audience.

The Kindle Fire is clearly doing something right to have pulled this far ahead.  While Amazon is rumored to be either subsidizing the price slightly or at most selling the hardware at cost, they are not the only option available.  Even among the Kindle’s traditional competition, nobody seems to realistically consider the Kobo Vox or Nook Tablet to be equally attractive products at this point.  There is more to that than just Amazon’s ability to throw money at problems until they come out on top.

Analyst Says Short-Term Kindle Demand Falling, DOJ Settlements May Upset Those Predictions

According to some recent research by Pacific Crest analyst Chad Bartley, the demand for both Kindle E Ink eReaders and Kindle Fire tablets has fallen noticeably from Q4 2011 to Q1 2012.  There is some fairly compelling argument to be made, however, that changing any predictions based on this would be at best premature.  Regardless of the way things stood a month ago, the Kindle world is about to be turned upside down and interest can’t help but rise as a result.

This is not meant to be a criticism of Bartley’s analysis.  Based on the information at hand when he was writing, his report was accurate.  A combination of consumer polls about intended purchasing and inside information about Amazon’s supply chains show a marked decline in interest in Kindles from month to month.  He attributes this to a maturation of the eReader market, an increasingly well covered customer base, and consumer willingness to read on a variety of things besides eReaders.  All good points.

Since we now know that three of the Big 6 publishers have already settled with the US Department of Justice to avoid an ongoing legal defense of their price fixing arrangement, that is all more or less irrelevant.  The beginning of the end of the Agency Model will mean a return to lower prices on popular eBooks and a far more active marketing campaign on Amazon’s part.  There has literally never been a better time to buy a Kindle.

Regardless of where you stand on the state of publishing, it is undeniable that things are about to change in such a way as to allow for lower pricing.  As most of the problem with adopting eReading recently has been the fact that eBooks are commonly priced higher than their paper counterparts, changing the balance of things will open up new markets for the Kindle.  Customers who were previously on the fence about a purchase will now have much more appealing opportunities in front of them and Kindle ownership will be that much simpler to justify as paying for itself in savings over a short period of time for any active reader.

Will there be ongoing and constant increase in interest in the Kindle?  It is probable that sales will plateau at some point.  It is also probable that Amazon’s luck from the DOJ has pushed that point off into the future a bit. Estimates may be down for the moment, but they will be revised soon enough.  If anybody knows how to exploit a major opportunity like this, it is Amazon.

This is a great time to have a Kindle.  If you don’t have one of your own yet, it might be useful to check out the Kindle Keyboard.  Still in many ways the best iteration of the product line to date, it will serve you well in any reading situation. Might as well take advantage of the situation, since the customer benefits more than anybody in all of this.

Already Impressive Kindle Singles Lands Vonnegut Exclusive

What began as seemingly little more than an experiment to test whether or not there was a market for intermediate length written works, Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, has succeeded beyond all expectations.  To highlight this fact, they have made a rare exception to the usual policy of never releasing sales numbers to reveal that the 2-millionth sale of a Kindle Single had been made.  Estimates put the company’s revenue from the program at over $1,200,000 in the 14 months since the program launched.

Unlike the larger Kindle Direct Publishing program, Kindle Singles are highly selective and can be extremely difficult to create.  If accepted, however, they tend to be almost guaranteed successes.  Those millions of sales were divided up among fewer than 200 short works.  Considering that this is a form that had completely gone out of fashion and that many felt was at best of marginal interest, it is an amazing accomplishment for Amazon to have come so far with them.

Now things are getting even better, thanks to an exclusive deal with Rosetta Books.  They have arranged for the Kindle Singles program to have exclusive access to a never before published piece by Kurt Vonnegut.  Written in the 1940s, Basic Training is about 20,000 words and was intended to be published under the pseudonym Mark Harvey.  It is a very early work by the author and while likely rejected for a reason at the time it was submitted, hence the never before published status, will be quite interesting for any Vonnegut fan.

In a way this demonstrates how effective it is to have quality control factors involved in determining available selections.  The average title in the Singles program is obviously doing better than the average KDP eBook.  Potential readers know in advance that the whole library of Singles has been screened and approved, which removes some of the uncertainty that has plagued the eBook publishing scene for a while now.  Nobody runs the risk of picking up what looks to be a good book and turns out to be nothing but a five page advertisement for questionable internet pharmaceutical sales sites.

On the other hand, because this is such a narrowly defined category of books, the Kindle Singles do hold a certain special place that might make their example a poor one in terms of wider applicability.  Much of Amazon’s success in the realm of digital publishing is coming as a result of offering any aspiring author to get their work out there in hopes that it can stand on its own merits even without the endorsement of a major publisher.  If they were to seriously undertake gate keeping duties for the Kindle, it would undermine that aspect of the business.

No matter how you personally view the situation, it is safe to say that this is positive information for those who find the quicker, more concise offerings of the Kindle Singles shop enjoyable.  Sometimes it is just nice to be able to read this sort of work without unnecessary cutting or padding to fit more familiar forms.

Check out Basic Training now for $1.99, only at Amazon

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Hits 100K Milestone; Can It Continue?

Amazon’s controversial Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has proven to be a hit among readers and an appealing option for many self-publishers, but there still remains some question as to how successful it can hope to be as an ongoing project.  The basic organization is simple.  Authors who are willing to make their work available exclusively through the Kindle Store will find themselves with the option to allow lending through the library.  When included, they get a certain share of the money pool being filled in each month by Amazon to keep the service going.  The more popular a book is among borrowers, the larger the share of that pool that goes to the contributing author.  For many self publishers who find they make the majority of their income through the Kindle anyway, going exclusive is not really a big deal in terms of income alteration.  The worst that can happen is that nobody borrows the book, and even then it doesn’t cost anything significant.

Leaving aside the philosophical issues in choosing to contribute to Amazon’s ever-growing list of exclusive content, which is an interesting and complex subject for debate that will probably come up again at greater length in its own post to better do it justice, as the number of participating authors grows we may see a drop in interest among new potential contributors.  The restrictions regarding access to the library play a fairly large part in this.  Each borrower must own a Kindle eReader or Kindle Fire, be an active Amazon Prime member, and remember to make use of their one monthly rental each time around if an author is to get anything.

This is a very specific audience to be targeting with your marketing and may prove to be somewhat hard to pin down.  Add into this the fact that, while the number of Kindle Editions now available through the library has grown past 100,000 titles, the amount of money being competed over has not been increased in any ongoing way and you have a complicated decision presented to self publishers.  A highly limited number of readers needs to be enticed to choose your book from an increasingly large pool of options in an environment where the reward for each individual choice is likely to count for less due to the pre-determined maximum award size and ever-increasing number of Kindle owners.

Can Amazon hope to keep the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library growing at a decent pace?  Chances are good that they can.  Will it continue to be a persuasive reason for new authors to agree to exclusivity?  That might be harder to keep up.  As numbers come out and we learn at least enough about the big success stories to determine how little of the cash pool was available for other authors to divvy up, we should be able to get a clearer picture of how well somebody can expect to do through this program,  After all, even if you were only making $1 per book sold on each of your hypothetical 30 annual sales through Barnes & Noble, that’s better than getting nothing at all from a lending library for Kindle owners.  A clearer picture should emerge as more time passes, but without a new source of big name titles or an increase in funding, Amazon’s Kindle Edition lending effort seems like it might have a limited shelf life.

Kindle Fire Now #1 Android Tablet

Android has seized a greater share of the tablet market than ever before in the last year, with fourth quarter usage of Android tablets up to 39% of the total (up from 29% the previous year).  A great deal of this improvement comes as a result of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet.  With the whole tablet market seeing huge growth (including Apple’s sales numbers we saw around 150% growth and a total of over 25 million tablets sold) it is no small feat for something as new as the Kindle Fire to already be edging ahead of more established competition.

These numbers deal specifically with device usage as reported by analytics firm Flurry, based on app sessions.  Given the importance of content sales compared to hardware profits, this is probably a significantly better estimate of consumer preference than simple sales or activations.  Thanks to this data, we can tell that the Kindle Fire’s approach to content is making a pretty big difference to the user.

The alternative method of analyzing the success of the Kindle Fire would be along the lines of what Google has been doing when describing Android as building up momentum compared to the competition.  That would be looking at device activations.  While this is not misleading, necessarily, it does focus entirely on numbers that fail to directly equate to post-purchase satisfaction.  Even using this method, the Kindle Fire is doing amazingly.  Approximately 10.5 million android tablets were sold in Q4 2011.  While Amazon is not releasing sales numbers, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that around 5-6 million of those were Kindle Fires.  The numbers are favorable, to say the least.

While there is not any indication that this is having a negative effect on iPad sales, there is also little to support the notion that Amazon had any intention of making a direct attack on Apple with this first tablet.  It is likely, given how much the two companies overlap in their digital media sales markets that there will be some more direct Kindle vs iPad competition down the road, but a 7″ $200 tablet that clearly lacks the potential to replace even the functionality of a netbook is not something you could take seriously if they were heading for a confrontation with the iPad 2 right away.

The biggest impact of all this is probably going to be on Google.  Since Amazon is running such a heavily forked version of Android, and since it lacks easy access to Google’s app marketplace, the success of the Kindle Fire will tend to draw people away from Google services despite technically relying on their original concept.  This has the added effect of drawing developers away from the more general marketplace.

While Amazon’s Appstore has not been a favorite destination for many developers thus far due to the heavy oversight and lengthy screening process for even minor updates, the most important thing will always be going where the customers are.  Right now, for better or worse, it is looking very much like that is the Kindle Fire if you’re talking Android tablets.

Amazon Kindle Fire Profits May Exceed Initial Estimations

It comes as no real surprise that Amazon’s bestselling Kindle Fire tablet is going to make the company some money despite estimates that say the hardware is being sold at, or even slightly below, the cost of manufacturing.  They basically brought eReading to the mainstream at a time when people barely understood what the idea meant, after which I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to identifying profitable ways to create content sales.  What has come as a surprise to many is exactly how much average profit the company many stand to make on each unit.

Ross Sandler, an analyst from RBC Capital, has managed to estimate that your average Kindle Fire will be the source of around $136 of income for the company during its lifetime.  Naturally this is speculative to a certain extent, but it was based on an independently conducted survey of over 200 Kindle Fire owners regarding their spending habits thus far.  The findings are actually somewhat surprising to me and I have to wonder if they don’t reflect a certain amount of skewing due to early adopters with narrow expectations of the tablet’s potential.

Personally, despite having had the Kindle Fire since the day it came out, I can’t imagine sitting through so much as a single book on it.  It works for the occasional article or academic publication when needed, and I couldn’t be much happier with the PDF functionality for my own purposes, but owning E INK eReaders has left me with higher expectations.  It was therefore interesting to find that the most popular use for the Kindle Fire among those surveys was eBook reading by a wide margin (71% citing this as among their most frequent uses.

Also interesting is the fact that video streaming, which has seemed to be Amazon’s primary focus with the Fire so far, is relatively unpopular with only 13% of those surveyed reporting it as a frequently used feature.  That seems to include all video streaming, including things like Hulu Plus and Netflix, which works against Amazon even further given their efforts to built the Instant Video service into something impressive.

So where is all of this money that the Kindle Fire will supposedly earn coming from?  It looks like the current numbers support an estimation of around 5 eBooks per quarter, 3 apps per quarter, and a noticeable but unaccounted for increase in the number of general Amazon purchases each quarter.  My inclination would be to say that this is an overestimation of eBook purchasing and an underestimation of app appeal that will turn around once people get more comfortable with the capabilities of the tablet, but that is admittedly a matter of personal observation with no backing in numerical research.

The problem with any survey of this sort is that it the recent surge in Kindle Fire owner numbers has led to potential inaccuracies.  This is especially the case since all those surveyed came to own the Fire during 4th quarter 2011, nearly half of them as gift recipients.  It is hard to know for sure if things will change once the primary pool of new owners is made up of people buying for themselves.  Even so, chances are good that the numbers will level out somewhere along these lines.  Amazon clearly made a smart move here, and the Kindle Fire is going to pay off big in the long run.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Exclusivity Pays Off For Some Authors

The December numbers are in for Amazon’s rather controversial Kindle Owners‘ Lending Library (KOLL) and for some people they turned out to be quite good.  Right around 295,000 rentals were made of the approximately 70,000 titles available to be checked out in December alone.  Given the $500,000 fund allotted to compensate KDP exclusive authors for these rentals, that means approximately $1.70 per lent copy was handed out.  Things went over so well, in fact, that Amazon is throwing another $200,000 into the pool for January’s authors.  This will bring the total to be divided up to $700,000, though of course it will also quite possibly be divided among even more authors this time around.

Among the more notable success stories, we know that the top ten most popular KOLL authors put together nabbed over $70,000 from these rentals alone.  That is around a 30% increase over other monthly income from the same works.  The top earner was Carolyn McCray, author of a number of paranormal romance and mystery/thriller titles, who is quoted in the Amazon Press Release as saying that “KDP Select truly is a career altering program”.  Romance writer Amber Scott, 16yr old children’s author Rachel Yu, and the puzzle book producing Grabarchuk family made up the rest of the highlighted triumphs, with over $6,000 in KOLL related income apiece.

In these cases, obviously there has been no significant downside to the program.  The fact that participation in it requires exclusively making one’s work available exclusively to Kindle owners may have more of an effect on many others, however.  What the press release numbers do not tell us is the average income that an author managed to pick up this month, aside from the fact that it was a measurable percentage increase over participating authors’ usual monthly income from Kindle Store proceeds.  It would be interesting, if pretty much impossible, to compare how many authors saw a jump in profits compared to the number who actually lost income due to exclusivity.  It seems safe to assume that this was the case for at least some people.

As with anything related to self publishing, however, most of the success will have to come through some form of author driven advertising.  Random hits by interested browsers are nice, but word of mouth is frequently not enough to drive sales on its own even for a skilled and prolific writer.  The lending community opens the door to new readers, but so far is not arranged in such a way as to point readers toward any particular title.

Overall this success is a plus for any fan of the Kindle.  Owning one gains some ongoing perks in the form of book rentals, success stories among authors will surely lead to even more participants, and Amazon has immediately shown themselves likely to increase the compensation pool.  We’ll be watching the program here in months to come as the situation stabilizes.  You can’t really assume that holiday Kindle sales are having anything but a positive effect on everything related to the eReading line, so it might be the end of first quarter before we can say anything definitive about ongoing positive trends.  Still, off to a good note.

 

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet: Amazon Winning, Sales Looking Great All Around

It’s undeniable that the release of the Kindle Fire, and along with it the competing Nook Tablet, has shaken up the Tablet PC market.  Since launch Amazon has already firmly taken second place next to the Apple iPad, selling as many as 5 million units in the 4th quarter of 2011 alone.  Barnes & Noble is also doing pretty well, having moved more than a million of their own tablet in the same time period.  The way things are going with these two, there has even been some speculation that there is no room for dedicated hardware manufacturers with this kind of competition.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are selling their tablets at near, or possibly even below, the cost of production.  The goal is to get people hooked into the platform and make ongoing profits based on media sales.  Effectively, the hardware has become secondary now that it can be treated as a conduit for consumption rather than an end in and of itself. Amazon is doing a better job on this side of things than Barnes & Noble so far.

The Nook Tablet has the technically superior hardware, with double the RAM and double the storage space among other things, but doesn’t make very good use of it.  The storage is restricted and the interface doesn’t seem to run significantly smoother than the Kindle Fire‘s.  There is an SD slot to expand the available memory of the device, but to get a sufficiently large one to make a difference you can expect to add a significant percentage onto the already comparatively more expensive price.  None of this means that it is a bad tablet, it’s actually quite excellent and highly recommended, but it is worth noting that B&N has a way to go before they are really making the best use out of their device’s potential.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, lacks some of the power of the Nook.  What it does have is a deeper integration with Amazon.com’s storefront and content.  Unlike B&N, Amazon has their own source of video and music for customers to take advantage of, as well as a robust cloud storage service that makes up for a lot of the seeming shortcomings of the hardware.  The lower price certainly doesn’t hurt sales numbers either, especially given the inevitable comparison of both products to each other and the iPad.

We can expect sales for both tablets to be improving even more through the next year.  The Kindle line, and the Kindle Fire in particular, is one of Amazon’s biggest marketing priorities, while the Nook line is pretty much the only thing B&N has going for it right now in terms of profitability.  What remains to be seen is what effect the next iteration of the Kindle tablet line brings.  A larger tablet could cement Amazon’s place on top of tablets for the foreseeable future, second only to Apple, but it could also severely damage the company’s reputation if something goes wrong and open the door to a big push by Barnes & Noble.

Either way we have good products to work with, but both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are built for content consumption and that means active ongoing support.  The more popular each one becomes, the more incentive the associated company has to expand the platform, and the more valuable the tablet in question becomes for owners.  It will be interesting to see the back and forth as the competition heats up in months to come.

Audible Promo Makes Kindle Touch & Kindle Fire Even More Affordable

Amazon’s audiobook subsidiary, Audible, has a long standing promotion for new subscribers that could make your next Kindle upgrade significantly more affordable than expected.  It is not a new thing, in fact I am pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it here before from time to time, but since Amazon hasn’t been spending a lot of time advertising it recently I thought it would be worth another mention.  The way it works is simple enough to summarize here.

We’re making the assumption here that you enjoy the occasional audiobook.  Many people do, for a wide variety of reasons.  If you haven’t had a chance to check out the quality and usefulness of Audible’s selection, but you would like to consider making use of this promotional credit, do not succumb to the instinct to try out the service with a 30-Day Free Trial.  Yes, this is available, but you are only able to make use of one promo every 2 years according to the present terms & conditions and doing so would make you ineligible.  your best bet is to ask around for somebody who is already a member and try out something they have picked up.  It shouldn’t be hard to find someone, in my experience.

That addressed, it’s a simple enough arrangement.  By making the commitment of a 12 month membership plan at $14.95 per month, you get one book each month and $100 any qualifying product.  This includes any number of electronics from MP3 players and headphones to GPS devices.  There are even some tablets and laptops in the selection.  Most importantly, as far as I’m concerned, is that every Kindle product currently available is included in the promo.  This means that your Kindle Fire could be picked up for just $99, assuming you wouldn’t rather just have a free Kindle Touch.

To take advantage, head over to this Amazon promo page.  Under the heading “How to get your $100 promotional code” there is a link to sign up.  Your new audible membership will be tied directly into your Amazon.com account as soon as the transaction is complete.  This offer should be good until at least January 31, 2012.  It may be extended beyond that point, and has been in the past with no notice or fanfare, but you never know for sure.

There’s little risk in this if you are an audiobook fan.  Signing up for 12 books at $15 each isn’t exactly a ripoff on Amazon’s part, and they do not insist that you remain an active member to listen to them.  These days you can download your Audible selection to practically anything, up to 3 devices at a time, and take it to go.  The readings are above average, for the most part, and the service has been around long enough that reviews are plentiful and often highly informative.

Should you find yourself regretting the decision shortly after signing up, have no worries.  The program can be cancelled at any point in the first 30 days.  In that case you would be given the option to either pay the difference on your Kindle Fire (or whatever device you purchased with the $100 discount) or send it back unopened.

Limited Time Offer: Free 2-Day Kindle Shipping On All Models

In order to make sure that the maximum number of people are able to get their new Kindle purchases in time for Christmas, Amazon has decided to offer Free Two Day Shipping to anybody who completes their transaction before 8pm Pacific Time (UTC-8) on December 21st.  This offer extends to every model currently available, from the $79 Kindle 4 to the $199 Kindle Fire tablet, and will cover shipping to any location in the continental United States.

The Kindle line, and eReaders in general at this point really, make excellent gifts.  The price has come down to the point of being practically large-scale impulse purchases, and the fact that you can expect ongoing support and content updates for the indefinite future makes a strong case or the practicality of ownership. Owning a Kindle eReader provides access to practically any title on the market today at the touch of a button with no need to worry about shipping, travel, or retail crowds.  This last one is likely to be a welcome benefit for people doing their holiday shopping this late in the year.

Additionally, according to Amazon the Kindle Fire is the most gifted, most wished for, bestselling item on the entire site and has been since before it was even released.  Like the eReader counterparts, it provides users with access to a huge library of content.  In addition to eBooks, you can also draw on a large App Store, all of Amazon Instant Video, and basically any digital content Amazon handles.  Top that off with access to services like Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and other content streaming services and you have a media consumption experience it is hard to argue against.  Keep in mind that each Kindle Fire comes with a month of free Amazon Prime membership and the access to all the benefits that that entails (free Instant Video selections, free 2-Day Shipping, etc), which means that anybody who gets one as a gift will have a chance to most of its more enjoyable features even without any post-purchase investment.

Keep in mind when considering Kindles as gifts that you can also include eBooks to go with them.  At present, all US customers have the option of choosing to gift a Kindle Edition eBook to anybody with an email address.  This will work as a cheaper gift option for anybody who might already be using a Kindle app for iOS or Android, incidentally.  Also, while I have no personal experience with the feature, you can also apparently also schedule your purchase’s delivery for exactly when you want them to get it.  This could help a lot when it comes to scheduling since, even with instant delivery and a smartphone, it is annoying to be making last second gift acquisitions.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of Amazon’s offer, keep an eye on the clock.  This will certainly not be extended, given their lack of direct control over shipping matters.

Enjoy your holidays!

Kindle Keyboard 3G On The Way Out

In the past several months, especially since the announcement of the Kindle Touch, I’ve mentioned regularly that I expected the Kindle Keyboard to be a thing of the past by early 2012.  While nothing concrete has happened just yet, there are beginning to be small indications that this is beginning to happen.

The most obvious early sign was the fact that the Kindle Touch’s 3G option did not include the same freedoms that we have come to expect in previous models.  Where up until now you could browse freely, albeit in a limited fashion due to the nature of the Kindle’s screen and experimental browser, now users are stuck with only Wikipedia and Amazon’s own store.  Given the size of the ongoing 3G bill that Amazon has to have been racking up over the past several years, this change should be no surprise.  Lifetime 3G for free is going to be hard to keep going without limitations.  What is surprising and makes this stand out is the fact that the Kindle Keyboard did not start having the same restrictions.  If this was really the direction that Amazon has chosen to go, the only easy explanation is that they were waiting to run out existing stock.

More recently, the Kindle Keyboard WiFi w/ Special Offers has silently disappeared from the Kindle Store.  You can still get the more expensive ad-free model, but somehow I doubt that is because Amazon has suddenly decided to drop their advertising subsidized eReader plans.  Not only is it gone, but the newer versions of the sales banner for the Kindle Family are now focused entirely on the newest devices and don’t display the Kindle Keyboard at all.

It would not be surprising to find that even more signs have been given that were just too subtle to be noticed at the time.  I seem to recall there being white versions of both WiFi and 3G Kindle 3 models, for example, but now that is only available for the 3G model.  Hard to say for certain at this point since the graphite frame was so appealing at launch that I didn’t bother picking up a white edition.

Will this be the end of eReaders with physical inputs?  Quite possibly!  The major competition has already moved to entirely touchscreen, though the Nook Simple Touch eReader still has some actual page turning buttons.  The virtual keyboard allows for a lighter, more compact device that is even less intrusive than previous Kindles.  I’m still dealing with mixed feelings regarding this move, having gotten used to my keyboard and not quite having had the same amount of exposure to the new design, but it does seem the way of the future.

If you are still interested in the Kindle Keyboard (formerly Kindle 3), now is really the time to buy.  Lefties will find it especially valuable since the Kindle Touch requires swiping if you want to flip a page forward with your left hand. It offers pretty much everything that the Kindle Touch does aside from X-Ray and the ease of use in highlighting and annotation, but you get the reassuring presence of buttons.  The option won’t be around much longer, I’m sure, but for now you can get either the normal Kindle Keyboard or the Kindle Keyboard 3G w/ Special Offers for just $139.

Chinese Kindle On The Way?

I’ve mentioned before that Amazon is expanding their international presence significantly lately, especially with regard to the Kindle line.  No longer must an avid reader live in an anglophone country to take advantage of the best selling eReader to date.  The biggest untapped market for anybody looking to sell digital content, however, is probably China.  So far Amazon has been slowly seeping into the country in general and now there are indications that the addition of a Kindle Store may be on the way.

There are a few things that stand in the way of making this work.  The most important of these is government intervention.  Marc Onetto, Senior VP of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations, is said to have been in active negotiations with Chinese officials over how this would work.  While no word has been released by Amazon about where they stand at the moment, the Chinese Government has a tendency to take an active part in censoring information that could make things complicated. It is already often problematic to obtain rights to sell digital content globally even without this sort of oversight, but Amazon clearly has plans.

China has proven to be one of the, if not the, fastest growing market for Amazon in the past year, with revenue up over 80 percent.  They have already got ten distribution hubs set up and warehouse space adding up to about a third of what their Unites States enterprises boast.  All that despite only recently rebranding the site from “Joyo Amazon”, inherited from the company Amazon bought to gain traction in the first place, to Amazon.cn.

Chances are good that these numbers will continue going up for some time, especially if Kindles do start shipping.  There is no word just yet on whether Amazon will be creating relationships with local retailers or just selling the devices online, but either way enthusiasm for the product is likely to be high.

If they get this up and running along when seems to be the intended schedule, this would be the first Asian country to have their own localized Kindle and Kindle Content. It seems inevitable that it would be a somewhat crippled version of the Kindle Store, though.  If nothing else, China’s censorship policies would make it difficult to truly enable the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that gives Amazon a unique edge over the competition in other markets.  On top of this, Onetto did say that they had no intention of forming any sort of connection to existing content providers in this market, indicating that there is going to be some problem with stocking the electronic shelves, so to speak.  How they will get around these difficulties is anybody’s guess.

If the Kindle gets government approval, it is likely to make a big splash.  There is a lot of demand out there for such a product. Don’t expect to be seeing something like the Kindle Fire any time soon, but now that the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have opened the door to localized interfaces this will be a big step moving forward.

Amazon, Kindle, and Black Friday Deals: Looking Ahead

It’s that time again and Black Friday Deals are just around the corner.  As always we can expect a slew of promos, door buster deals, extremely long lines, amazing if short lived price cuts, and loads of fun for all ages.  Well, maybe not that last part entirely, but you get the picture.  Fortunately, Amazon provides a good way to get some of these great details without lining up outside a store hours before the sun comes up.

I’m even fairly certain that there will be some great deals available for the Kindle lovers among us.  “But how?!” one might ask, given that the new line of Kindles will just finish being released on the 15th and the associated price drops will still be settling in.  The answer is clear.

Expect, for one, at least one great offer on the Kindle Keyboard.  Amazon, prior to the release of the Kindle 4 and announcement of the new Kindle Touch and Fire, had been selling the refurbished Keyboard model at a fairly large discount.  This is a move we’d seen before during the transition from the second to third generation of eReader.  We still have them up for sale though, so why bother?  Personally I have a feeling that they just didn’t sell as well as was hoped now that customers knew what to expect.  Look for some great deals on this product with the Black Friday promotions, as this should be a wonderful time for Amazon to sell off large quantities of a product that many believe is being phased out.

Also, watch for accessories!  The Kindle Fire will still be fresh in peoples’ hands after pre-orders ship, as will the Kindle Touch.  As with any piece of portable electronics, there are going to be things needed both for personalization and proper utilization.  Not much fits the bill better than Kindle cases, styluses (you never know what it might be handy), skins, etc.  Given how hard Amazon has been pushing their new hardware, even taking a loss on much of it if external analysis is to be believed, it’s unlikely that a chance to further promote the line will be passed by.

The other thing that Amazon has been pushing, though, is their digital media distribution.  Given that potentially millions of customers will be pulling out their new media tablets in the same week as Black Friday, it makes sense to expect associated digital content sales.  This has the advantage of instant gratification for customers even as it increases awareness of the potential for Amazon’s services.  Look out for Kindle Fire apps, Instant Video downloads, and Kindle Edition eBook deals sporadically throughout the sale period.

Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Week will be kicking off on Monday, November 21 and going through the 27th which is itself perhaps better known now as “Cyber Monday”.  Deals will be posted in a staggered fashion throughout each day in pretty much every category of goods that Amazon sells.  There are even some early deals posted already to set the mood for potential customers.

The Kindle will not be taking center stage in all this, unless i miss my guess.  There won’t be some sort of major promo rush.  This is the perfect time for the retailer to be presenting good deals on things with significantly higher profit margins during a sales period high on one-off purchasing.  It would be silly to have this much traffic built up without any effort to cater to what has to be considered a major source of recurring customers, though, so Kindle Owners (especially Kindle Fire Owners) won’t be left out of the fun.

Amazon Kindle May Invade Japan By Year’s End

Continuing a trend of building their international presence, both in eBooks and beyond, Amazon appears to be making arrangements to bring their Kindle line to Japan as early as then end of this year.  While the company has been operating their Amazon.jp site for some time now, there have been complications in offering customers the Kindle until this point.  Hopefully that is soon to be a thing of the past.

Japanese publishers have shown themselves to be very hesitant to allow Amazon to acquire content, citing concerns about the online retail giant’s increasing level of control and influence in anglophile markets.  This, in addition to Amazon’s habitual price cuts led to them to question whether there was money to be made in Kindle Store content.

After Sony’s recent successful entry with the Reader PRS-650 at the beginning of this year, though, there has been reason to hope these companies are coming around. If nothing else, there is definite pressure from consumers who are quickly growing increasingly familiar with the potential of eBooks and eReaders and want to be able to take advantage of them.The solution to the publisher impasse seems to have taken the form of building a predefined framework for the timing and rate of discounts.  Publishers will, according to reports, be consulted before any such discounts were put in place.

Should Amazon manage to carve out a place for the Kindle in the Japanese eBook market, it could be a huge move.  Right now this space has been comparatively underexploited for a variety of reasons.  To make it work, however, they’ll need to do more than just set up a Kindle Store.

The first step will be getting the entire newest generation of Kindle eReaders out there.  The Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch, due to their virtual keyboards, both provide the ability to display Japanese characters in every part of the eReader’s function.  Just one advantage of doing away with the physical keyboard, I suppose.  Without the Kindle Touch, however, competing with even the Sony PRS-T1 would be difficult no matter the price of the Kindle 4.  Right now Amazon.uk is offering the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard without the touchscreen model, but that won’t do much good in an area where the English keyboard is less useful. These need to be available not just online but in retailers as well.  Exposure will be vital, and partnerships will need to be formed.

While the Kindle Fire is currently only available for pre-order in the US, it would make a great deal of sense for Amazon to push Japan as the first other market to get access to it.  Unfortunately, given that this would require a lot of effort to grab distribution rights in a wide variety of media forms it seems like a long shot.  An effort by Amazon to acquire these rights and expand its influence seems to be inevitable, but it won’t come quickly or easily and a half-hearted attempt would do more harm than good.

Kindle Trade-In Available Now For Those Hoping To Upgrade

As Kindle updates have happened over the years, one of the biggest customer complaints has been that Amazon has completely ignored the existing customers who might want to upgrade to the newest device possible.  This was especially an issue moving from the first generation of the Kindle to the second generation, since it was such an immense improvement and change in aesthetic.  Up until recently, however, the only recourse for early adopters and other existing customers was to either be happy with what you already have or pay full price for the next generation.  At this time, though, if you are a Kindle owner who would like to trade in their existing eReader for credit toward a new one, there is finally an option!

It seems that pretty much anything you have on hand is eligible.  Even first generation Kindles will get you up to $12 depending on condition.  That might not be much compared to the initial purchase price, but using a 4 year old eReader to get 15% off a new Kindle 4 isn’t a bad deal at all, considering all the improvements that have taken place.  Surprisingly, even non-Kindles are eligible.  At this time, a non-touchscreen Kobo or Sony Reader Pocket will get you around $20.  You’ll find any number of competing products to be worth some money if you are interested in switching to the Kindle, or just want some Amazon credit in general (Nook excluded at the moment).

As one cautionary note, be aware that when trading in your eReader you are unlikely to get the full “up to $__” value for your device as this is for a completely unworn product with its original packaging intact.  I doubt many people have hung on to their old boxes on the off chance they might come in handy someday.  The difference between the “Like New” price listed and a “Good” product is generally between $1 and $15, proportional to the value of the device.

I can see this being a valuable move for Amazon in a couple different ways.  Obviously it spurs adoption of new devices.  The Kindle Fire is doing great, of course, but more is always better.  Also, the Kindle Touch is probably where Amazon wants focus at this time as far as eReaders go, so it makes sense to provide an easy way to upgrade.  No matter what device is chosen, there is a good chance that it will be something that Amazon can present ads on, increasing the revenue stream along those lines going forward.  There is also a high probability that, since the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are the newer, shiner eReaders at the moment, this will mean fewer devices with unlimited 3G access floating around.  While they have not gotten rid of that feature for new Kindle Keyboard purchases, the restriction on the new device makes it clear that there is an interest in cutting down those ongoing expenses.

Regardless of the motivation for offering the deals, though, this should help some people who want to get their hands on a new Kindle to do so.  It might not be a lot of the price being offset in some cases, but everything makes a difference in the end.

Here is the link to the Trade-in department of Amazon where you can choose any stuff for trade-in transactions. In the “Find the Items You’d Like to Trade In” select “Electronics” category from the drop-down menu and type Kindle in “Search by title or keyword(s)” box. After clicking the “Go” button you will see the options for trade-in transactions.