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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kindle Takes Charge

Originally written for eBookGuru - The Digital Magazine Devoted to eBooks

Amazon recently announced two new Kindles slated for release at the end of August. While the Kindle seems to hold the edge in eReader sales it is definitely not standing still.

The new model comes in two flavors, which I’ve dubbed regular and lite. Both models are thinner and lighter than the Kindle 2, although still heavier than the Kobo. The devices have sharper contrast and faster page turns, making it easier to read on them. The device is also quieter, with the button clicks being tamped down.

The regular version comes with Wi-Fi and Amazon’s WhisperNet and the lite version forsakes WhisperNet as it only comes with Wi-Fi. The regular version is priced at $189 - the same price as the Kindle 2. The lite version is priced at $139, $10 lower than the Wi-Fi Nook, the Kobo or the Sony Pocket Edition. The makes the Kindle the lowest price eReader currently available.

An article in Wired Magazine (Amazon Strikes Back at the iPad With New, $140 Kindle) talks about the strategy behind the $139 price point.

…Bezos anticipates millions of new customers who can live with waiting for a Wi-Fi hot spot to replenish their content. He says that the introduction of the Wi-Fi version is purely a price play, a way to sell Kindles to families and couples who already have one in the house.

“At $139, you’re going to have multiple Kindles, not just one,” Bezos says.

More interesting to note is a comment by James McQuivey, a Forrester Research analyst who

…expects the new low Kindle price will “shatter the bottom” of the e-reader market.

“Anything that doesn’t have any kind of connectivity, like the Sony Pocket Reader, has to drop to $99 by the end of the year,” he says. “Why would you buy that non-wireless device if you have the choice for the same or less money to buy a Wi-Fi-enabled Kindle?”

Why indeed? Even I’m tempted and as regular readers know I’m not a big fan of Amazon’s proprietary book format.

The loss of the Cool-er eReader was just the first of many casualties in the eReader wars. Foxit (the PDF company) recently announced that it was killing off it’s eSlick eReader, a device I’ve heard little about.

New entrants, like the iRiver Story and the Copia family of eReaders face an uphill battle and will either need to compete aggressively on pricing or introduce new features in order to succeed. The trick with new features is to keep the price point low enough to keep potential buyers from jumping to an iPad instead and it remains to be seen if anyone can pull it off.

As I stated in The $50 eReader, iPad competitors will force the price of the iPad down, as well as making tablets more affordable. This in turns puts pressure on eReaders and the only way to compete will be price. Amazon has an advantage in this type of market since only Amazon sells Kindle books. Therefore they can afford to discount the eReader, knowing that they will eventually make up the different in eBooks. Add in WhisperNet and Wi-Fi plus all the Kindle Books already available and this is a tough combination to beat.

At least the Nook is trying. In September Barnes and Noble will

…begin an aggressive promotion of its Nook e-readers by building 1,000-square-foot boutiques in all of its stores, with sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens and employees who will give customers advice and operating instructions.

Obviously B&N is hoping that the hands on approach will entice more readers to buy the Nook once they’ve tried it for themselves.

This is better than the approach taken by Sony, which

…refuses to get caught up in a price war with Kindle, intends to compete on quality.

It has also been remarkably quiet on the Kobo front and it will be interesting to see how the newest entrant to the eReader and eBook market reacts to the new Kindles and their aggressive pricing.

In the meantime I’m still holding out for that elusive $99 eReader.

posted by David at 1:01 am  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life Imitates Art

In my novel The Gender Divide the protagonist Ryan Peters is hired as the VP of Security for a biotech firm. One of the first things that he does is centralize security by combining a number of disparate systems into one.  There are a number of high tech twists involved in the process, given that The Gender Divide is a science fiction novel, but the overarching goal is to make the process of security simpler for both employees and those responsible for it.

The premise behind The Gender Divide is that women live four times as long as men and resultantly women dominate the executive ranks. The raison d’être for centralization of security in the novel is to legitimize Ryan as a viable choice for the position of VP of Security, a position previously held by a woman.

However as an author this was driven by my real life experiences at the time. The company I worked for had a security system using mag cards but the cards were generic cards embossed with the logo of the security company. The head office, on the other hand, used personalized badges with the employees picture on it. As a result I needed two sets of security badges, one for office where I worked and one for the head office. Admittedly this wasn’t very onerous as I didn’t travel to the head office that frequently but it was irritating.

Consequently I was both amused and delighted to come across this article about security:

It’s the crowning achievement in a security evolution for Telus, which has spent the past five years developing its key cards. They eliminate a gaggle of distinct security systems, inherited in a series of acquisitions, that required Telus employees who visited multiple locations across Canada to carry a stack of access cards.

In the novel Ryan’s transformation only took a month but such is the beauty of writing fiction. Of course the environment that Ryan was working under was different as the company had just experienced a rather costly security breach. It is always much easier to make modifications in a time of crisis, when objections to changes to the status quo are notably absent. Also the change was only made at the head office and not at other locations.

One could argue that Ryan’s accomplishment in the novel was also his crowning achievement - at least in terms of his role as VP of Security - but the real crowning achievement was the change in culture at the company. This change enabled Ryan to position himself as a credible male in a female dominated world and like any change at the top it had a trickle down effect. It also cemented his role as a leader and his ability to rally the beleaguered and disillusioned security staff. As Olivia, one of the other main characters in the novel, says:

Ryan hadn’t just built up the security infrastructure in the last month—he had built himself a team, too.

As interesting as this is, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Exploring the premise of The Gender Divide is even more interesting. I just checked out Amazon.com and noticed a new 5 star reader review which sums it up nicely - Scary Wow!. There is an Excerpt of Chapter 1 available and for those of you interested in more here are places to buy.

posted by David at 2:18 pm  

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