So they announced on Monday that the Amazon Kindle is now available in Canada. (Please insert a half-hearted woo-hoo here.)
The “new, lower” price is still a hefty $259 US (approximately $271.50 Canadian) plus you’ll pay an additional $31 Canadian (approximately) per device in Canadian Customs charges to get it over the border. It also appears that you need to log on to the (American) Amazon.com website to order the device as the Amazon.ca website doesn’t even list it for sale (currently). And while it says that the item “qualifies for FREE Super Saver Shipping,” I am unsure if that applies to items that are shipped over the border to Canada. Under the terms for “Free Shipping” on the Amazon.com website, it only talks about US destinations.
While reading the various articles on the Kindle coming to Canada, I also noticed one important detail; The Kindle web browser will NOT work in Canada, “but customers will have free access to Wikipedia.”
Why was the device delayed in coming to Canada after being launched almost worldwide about a month ago? No surprise there; difficulty finding 3G access for Amazon’s Whispernet connectivity that runs on AT&T in the US. Up until recently, only Rogers Communications had access to 3G connectivity, but since then Bell Canada and Telus Mobility have also announced that they now how a 3G network. Rogers Communications also lost their monopoly on the Apple iPhone when Bell and Telus announced that they would be offering the iPhone on their own 3G networks, although this didn’t seem to decrease the cost of running an iPhone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Whispernet is a liability, not a feature for this device. WiFi would be much easier and 10 times more effective and more economical.
As usual, there seems to be all sorts of fawning and drooling over the announcement of the Kindle coming to Canada with so-called experts saying, “Canadians have been excited and have wanted Kindle” and “We know that Canadians are passionate about books and reading.” Well the second statement may be true, but the first statement is NOT. At least not for this “passionate reader.”
Everyone continues to talk about the “ease of access to thousands of books online,” and how you can “subscribe to your favorite newspaper by subscription,” but the fact remains that the content is still protected by DRM.
You do NOT own anything that you purchase for your Kindle! You are RENTING books!
I don’t know how many times I have to yell this in the streets before it dawns on people that they don’t own the content that they are purchasing. You are paying approximately $10-12 to RENT a book that you could get at the library for FREE. You can also read this content on your computer as Amazon has released Kindle applications for the PC and Mac, however you still do not own this content and once you’ve consumed it, it’s worthless. You cannot resell your content, you cannot lend your content to a friend, and you cannot put this content on a shelf in your living room for all to see. (Although some people see books as just clutter anyway.)
Also look at the price of the content with books starting at around $10 (US at Amazon.com) for brand new books downloaded to your Kindle device. What does this do to the authors and the publishers? Amazon is trying to fool you by offering books at a reduced rate in order to convince you to buy their price-bloated reading device. In the end, Amazon wins and authors lose. We have already seen that Amazon is quite capable of removing purchased content from the Kindle at any time they please, what makes you think they won’t do it again? Despite Amazon’s “promise” I have a hard time believing that any business in the same situation will balk at removing content when they decide that they need to.
But the electronic book market isn’t limited to Amazon, Canada’s Chapters-Indigo also has it’s own eBook retail store called Shortcovers which allows you to purchase and download electronic book content via devices like your Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry® Smartphone, and Android enabled phones using either WiFi, 3G, or by direct connection to your computer. One of the annoying things about Shortcovers is that it doesn’t download the entire book in one go, it downloads new chapters as you read them so you have to have a constant WiFi connection in order to read your eBook. Prices at Shortcovers also run around $10-12 Canadian for brand new books.
PUBLISHERS: Your current business model no longer works. Get over it. Move on.
I love Chapters-Indigo, I buy thousands of dollars of books every year from Chapters and other bookstores online, but I’m not interested in paying 10 bucks for ephemeral content that is essentially worthless after I’ve consumed it. If you want to convince me to consume books as data, then you need to offer me a larger incentive, like how about including the eBook with the printed book? Seems pretty logical to me! Charge a couple more bucks for the printed book! Throw in a PIN code with the purchase receipt so that people can log into their Chapters-Indigo account and download the eBook to their device of choice via the Shortcovers app. Very simple.
Also, I would like to know why lately new hardcover books are being released with “list prices” around $38 (Canadian) but they are usually offered for sale at 30-50% less ($26.50-$19). If you can publish a first edition hardcover book and charge only $19 for it, then WHY aren’t you pricing it at $19 to begin with?! For that matter, why are we wasting resources on printing hundreds of hardcover books when publishers usually only sell about 30-40% of the print run while the rest either go to liquidators or get pulped as recycled paper. Wouldn’t it be more logical to introduce first run books as Trade Paperbacks at around $15 and print far fewer hardcover editions for institutions and die-hard fans to purchase? When you release a new book and then make people like me, a passionate reader, wait for almost a YEAR to see the mass market paperback; YOU ARE LOSING SALES. It’s almost 2010, how about we stop thinking like we’re still in 1970′s?
eReading devices will never get a solid foothold in the market until the price drops.
The fact also remains that there are many more cost-effective devices out there for reading electronic content at this price that do a lot more than just allow you to read eBooks! For under $300 I have the choice or purchasing either a Netbook, which will do a hundred more things than the Kindle can do or an iPod Touch, or even a cell phone for that matter. The price for these eReaders remains way too high.
Also we’ve seen these devices seen eReaders starting to filter into schools, with at least one school choosing the Sony eReader over the Kindle because, “Sony e-readers have much more flexibility in what you can get, in terms of the files that it will read.” (Source: Brandon Kerstens, Director of Development at Blyth Academy, speaking to The Globe and Mail.) “Blyth Academy already has plans to provide Sony Reader Digital Books—preloaded with textbooks, course outlines and assignments—to all its students under an arrangement with Sony and textbook publisher Pearson Canada.”
This is the future of eReaders, people! And in order to get that penetration into the schools of tomorrow, these devices need to be (a) cheap, (b) have a screen that is approximately 8.5 inches by 11 inches, (c) have an OPEN file format, and (d) provide easy connectivity. The next steps, which should follow almost immediately are; a colour screen, the ability to annotate documents right on screen in real-time, and the ability to connect to SMART Board-type technology within a classroom environment (which needs more penetration itself).
Until these devices are open and cheap, they will remain just a geeky toy used by very few people. Take a note from Apple’s iPod; Provide an open device and the public will provide the content. Then you can monetize your own content on top of that.