Not too long ago there was a fair amount of debate over whether or not customers could possibly accept a version of the Kindle which incorporated advertising. As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. Apparently while there may be any number of knee-jerk reactions to connecting advertising and the reading experience, nobody gets all that upset in practice so long as the whole thing is handled subtly and with the intention of keeping it unobtrusive. This is good news for Amazon at the moment and might be great news for Kindle enthusiasts in the long term. It all depends on how the trend holds up.
The fact that you can find the Kindle w/ Special Offers at the top of the Best Sellers list works as a proof of concept as far as ad-supported Kindles are concerned. Customers are willing to buy it. Their biggest complaint so far seems to be the fact that they had to. You see, many consumers feel that if they are going to be providing Amazon with revenue from advertising on an ongoing basis, it is wrong for them to expect an initial investment on the part of the end-user. There is a certain amount of justification to this. It is definitely possible to see that being the goal, given projections that the Kindle may soon be a free or nearly free device. At the moment, it still needs to prove itself as a worthwhile place for advertisers to buy time on. Let’s assume that this works out and Amazon has no problems finding companies that would love nothing more than to advertise to readers around the world. This opens the door for not only the free Kindle, but highly affordable Kindle Tablet devices subsidized by advertising.
There is the concern, of course, that this could prove too tempting a success and result in an intrusive ad presence in eBooks themselves. I would call this unlikely. In an earlier interview on the topic, Jeff Bezos mentioned that part of the reason they are choosing to keep the advertising completely separate from the reading experience, besides simply the undesirability of such an immersion destroying addition, is that maintaining the separation improves the impact of the ads when they are shown. Simply put, more ads would mean less impact per ad rather than more overall impact. If the advertisers are not seeing results, the whole endeavor flops.
So far we’ve seen Amazon do a great job of anticipating the needs of the customer. They offer the most full-featured, affordable dedicated eReader on the market in the form of the Kindle and now they are selling it at what is almost certainly less than cost. If they sometimes turn to unorthodox methods to provide customers with the best value for their money rather than following the most vocal demands and desires of the moment, so much the better. I think there will be a time when the Kindle w/ Special Offers is the only one they continue to offer as a dedicated eReader, but I also see it costing next to nothing by that point. Any thoughts?