Amazon sets “Fire” to the world of e-readers and more

by Amanda S. Green

Disclaimer:  this blog post is written by one very tired (read exhausted) woman who sometimes claims to be a writer but today merely wants to be a rock.  After FenCon last weekend and a three day workshop this weekend coupled with writing approximately 20,000 words while also editing during the week, my brain has not only shut down, it has taken a vacation on some nice sunny beach.  The only problem is, the rest of me isn’t with it.  So, bear with me and I promise not to fall asleep at the keyboard until I have this posted — maybe 😉

The big news of the week belongs to Amazon.  After months of speculation, Jeff Bezos held a press conference to announce the changes in the Kindle family.  To start, there will be a $79 Kindle (special offers — instead of the screen savers you have of authors on the regular kindles, you get special offers or ads with codes you can input for savings.  I’ve watched some of these over the last few months and, to my surprise, there have been some really great savings available for the KSO owners).  This new KSO will be smaller — no keyboard — than the Kindles on the market right now and weighs in under six ounces.

The next two new members of the Kindle family are the Kindle Touch (wifi) and Kindle Touch (3G).  The wifi version sells from $99 and the 3G from$149.  I say “from” on the pricing because both version of the Kindle Touch are available with or without “Special Offers”.  In other words, if you want to save $40, you can get a Kindle Touch (wifi) for $99.  Otherwise, you’ll pay $139.  It’s the same with the Kindle Touch (3G).  The non-Special Offers version is $40 more, or $189.

What strikes me as important, possibly even earth shattering about these new Kindles — and, yes, there is one more.  I haven’t forgotten it.  But that I’ll discuss it a bit later — is the price.  Amazon is now offering e-book readers below $100, the price many have predicted to be the tipping point for most people when it comes to buying a reader or not.  The fact that they are offering two different models under $100 will open the market up even more, in my opinion.  It is going to be interesting over the next few months to see just what impact, if any, having a low cost, reliable e-book reader — backed by what is, in my opinion, one of the best customer service departments there is — on the market will have on not only the sales of e-books but of printed books as well.

Is this the end of the printed book?  No, but it may be the final nail in the coffins of those legacy publishers that have refused to pull their collective heads out of the sand and realize there is a growing market for reasonably priced e-books.

But Bezos wasn’t through pulling things out of his hat in his press conference.  It had been no secret that Amazon was working on a tablet.  There was speculation running rampant online over the last few months as to what the tablet would be, predicting either dire failure or the “real iPad killer”.  Of course, no one can say for sure which the new Kindle Fire will be.  My guess, it is going to fall in the middle of those predictions, especially this first generation.  However, going from past developments, my money is on Amazon, not only to do well with the Fire but to improve it and give the iPad a run for its money in subsequent generations.

For those who haven’t read the specs, the Kindle Fire is a color tablet with a 7″ screen.  That is one of the major differences between it and the iPad right now.  The iPad’s screen is approximately 3″ larger.  The iPad also has a camera, something the Fire doesn’t.  There’s more, but I’ll leave it to you to read and compare the technical specs.  For now, what I see the Kindle Fire doing is bringing in some of those who have put off buying an e-book reader because they wanted a device that will do more than just read books.  The Kindle Fire fits that bill.  More than that, at $199 for the wifi version, the Fire is $50 less than the Nook Color (although, I did see the Nook Color for $239 at my local B&N the other day).

It is going to be interesting over the next few months as the new Kindles begin shipping to see exactly how the market reacts.  One thing is already clear, Bezos is going after exclusives for the Kindle Fire.  It has been announced that 100 of DC Comics best selling graphic novels will be sold exclusively on the Fire.  More will be added later.  I have a feeling this is just the first of many announcements of exclusive deals we’ll be hearing from Amazon between now and when the Fire begins shipping in November.

There are a couple of blogs I’d recommend you run to, metaphorically speaking, if you haven’t been reading them this week.  The first is Kris Rusch’s on “The Fear Chronicles”.  The other is Passive Guy’s post on how to read a publishing contract.  Both should be required reading for anyone even thinking about going into this profession right now.

Finally, a word of warning and of advice to everyone who has signed a contract for print publication.  If you haven’t already signed up for your Author Central page through Amazon so you can take advantage of their free bookscan numbers, do so.  It is one very simple way to tell if the numbers you get in your reports from your publishers are accurate — or at least not as big a piece of fiction as the book they published for you.  Now, you know my opinion of publishers relying on bookscan to report sales back to the author.  I think it sucks.  After all, bookscan doesn’t include every retailer.  No, they merely gather the numbers from a select number of booksellers in an area and then extrapolate.  Bookscan itself admits that their figures may be 20% or so below actual sales.

But that doesn’t diminish the value of being able to look at the bookscan numbers as provided to you free by Amazon and then comparing them to your statement from your publisher.  I’ve talked to several authors who have been doing this and guess what?  The numbers they are receiving from their publishers/agents are lower than the numbers reported by bookscan via Author Central.  Is there any wonder so many authors are demanding to know what’s going an and who are then walking away from agents and publishers in disgust and turning to indie publishing?

Boys and girls, the world of publishing is changing right now.  In order for all of us to have a chance of keeping our heads above water, we have to utilize all the tools available to us.  Checking our bookscan numbers via Author Central is just one way.  Other ways include getting an IP attorney to vet all our contracts so we don’t end up signing away all our rights — and possibly a child or two — and investigating indie publishing.


    1. Cool. I love my K2 but, because I love tech of any sort and am very interested to see what Amazon has done with the basic PlayBook and how they’ve adapted Android 2.3 OS.

  1. FYI the “passive guy” link is wrong.

    Beyond that – a kindle at $99 means I know what I’m buying for myself in December. Even though I don’t need it as I have enough other gadgets. Charlie Stross said many years ago that $99 was going to be the magic price point and no one disagreed with im then, we just thought it would take a while. But really the hardware cost of a kindle is mostly the screen. If Amazon can get the screen for $50 the battery for $25 and the rest for $10 they are still making a (relatively small) gross profit. Since they are going to
    a) sell a metric sh*tload and
    b) sell masses of ebooks etc. on them
    the fact that they have only $14 to pay for R&D per device is irrelevant. The same goes for the Fire at $199.

    I’m not at all sure I want to trust Amazon but they are doing an awesome job of producing stuff at a pricepoint that makes me think who cares.

    1. Francis, thanks for the tip on the link. Fixed it. Will be back to respond to comments when I figure out how to mainline caffeine to wake up.

  2. I think Amazon is probably damaging itself long term for a short term possible gain, DC is certainly doing so. Walled gardens in entertainment and info are not a new concept and almost all of them end up hurting the gardener long term; See AOL. and just about every mobile carriers attempts to create their own customized version of the web for customers.

    1. Mike, I think this may be DC’s attempt to find some sort of partnership like the one Marvel formed with Disney — except that it isn’t. Stan made it clear to the fan-base that he was opting to team with Disney because they knew ore about marketing entertainment content effectively than almost anybody, which would expand their “reach” while leaving the guys-who-make-comics free to make comics. But you’re right: Stepping into a closed environment, even one as big as Amazon, is the opposite of what Marvel did.

    2. I don’t know, Mike. Kindle is the major market for all things “e”. Also,because profits for comics/graphic novels/etc are decreasing, this is a way to open the market some. Frankly, I don’t think this will be nearly as dangerous for Amazon or DC as the pushing publishers to adopt the agency pricing model will be for the publishers or Apple.

      What I’m really curious to see is exactly what format the titles will be released in since the file size doesn’t seem to correlate with actual size of the graphic novel.

  3. Amanda, I think the long-term winner in the gadget-war will be the one who gives us the fewest gadgets to own in order to accomplish everything we want/need. Just like the smart-phone killed the PDA. The image that Heinlein gave us thirty years ago (about the time CompuServe started up) was a single “terminal” that provided entertainment, unlimited research resources, and video-phone communication. (He even predicted Google, though he didn’t call the function he was describing a “search engine”. He just described how it would work.) And is it any surprise that the iPad is virtually indistinguishable form Roddenberry’s “PADD” device?

    1. Steve, I agree. Although, short term — the next five to ten years, imo — we will still have dedicated e-readers v. tablets/smart phones because there will still be a generation of readers who don’t want their reader to also be their phone, etc. But, as they age out of the market, we will see more 1-tablet to do it all. Then the key will be product price and what sort of contract, if any, the buyer will have to have for download capability.

Comments are closed.