Amazon Kindle iPhone App and the Future of Paper vs eBooks?
This morning Amazon released the new Kindle iPhone App, or an iPhone eBook reader. Since I do not yet (but probably will soon) have a Kindle the news of the Kindle iPhone app was really intriguing, but I started wondering if the app was putting the horse before the cart. The very first reaction on the Internet was people saying they were disappointed they bought the Kindle and now they can get this on their iPhone. Totally wrong way to look at it altogether. What Amazon did by making an iPhone app for the Kindle was make their product more relevant and more useful than it was last week.
I won't go through a comparison between the two, there is a great review over on CNET, see Comparing Kindle 2 with Kindle's iPhone app, but one of the great features is being able to read a book between the two devices. It doesn't come quite as close as Seth Godin's request in Reinventing the Kindle (part II) to share books between Kindle users, but it comes closer. If Amazon keeps going down this road they will really make the Kindle a breakthrough device.
Breakthrough in the same way the iPod was for music, the Kindle can potentially be for books. Everyone grumbled about the price of the iPod, and it took until the 2nd generation for me to plunk down the money for one, but after a while, people realized that the iPod revolutionized the way we listen to music. There will always be people who want to read on paper, but for many, paper is a hassle, uses trees, and culturally is on the same track and path as Kodak 400 speed print film, but it's more than just that. Don't blink, traditional media is going fast, and in some cases pretty much gone.
- Photography - Print Film ---> Digital (almost totally complete at this point)
- Music - Vinyl --> Tapes --> CD --> Digital (niche markets for anything non-digital)
- Movies - Film --> Tape --> DVD --> Download (slower but almost there)
- TV - Tube --> Cable --> Satellite --> Streaming Live (computer only is coming)
- Books - Paper --> eBooks / Digital (the slowest of the 4, but catching up)
- Magazines / Newspapers --> Paper --> Digital (totally dying media in paper form)
My wife is currently working on her Master's degree and last semester she spent something like $300-$400 on books. After the Kindle 2 came out, I started looking at which books she bought were available on the Kindle. About 30-40% of them are currently available, at $9.99-$15. She paid $40-$50 for some of these books which can now be downloaded on the Kindle for $10. Doesn't take a genius to figure out the savings potential for College students all over the world, and seeing that Amazon is working on things like iPhone Apps is only going to make the Kindle more and more relevant in our society's future.
Sometimes we go kicking and screaming into the future, and change comes with a fight. The Kindle / iPhone app is a great example of a transition of all forms of media to digital, it's just a question of how long will we hold on to the past print mediums because that is what we are use to today.
Update March 2011
I have since written an update to this post in light of the iPad, which makes eBooks even more appealing, you can read that posts Printed Books vs iPad or Kindle eBooks and the Future of Books