It looks like the next big thing in Kindle-land is - depressingly - advertising subsidisation.
the world's first ad-supported Kindle, going on sale within Target and Best Buy locations for $114. That represents a gentle $25 savings compared to the price of today's cheapest Kindle, but those 2500 pennies don't come free -- you'll be asked to endure "advertisements on the bottom of the device's home page and on its screen savers."
Can It Work?
On the strength of the current evidence - no.
Browsing on the Kindle's web browser is a slow and frustrating experience. It's slow at downloading, takes ages to render, and scrolling is a nightmare. That's ok - it's primarily a book; not a browser.
But that's not the worst thing. The worst thing is that advertisers just don't know how to advertise on this medium. Take a look at the crap that goes on in mobile advertising. Do you think that advertisers will have the wherewithal to make a Kindle-friendly advert?
While browsing on the Kindle, I spotted this banner advert. What struck me was that the advertiser had clearly target the Kindle - probably via User-Agent sniffing. Intrigued, I clicked on it, only to be greeted with this monstrosity.
Yes - not even Amazon's store renders well on the Amazon Kindle. While the mobile version of the site may work, there would still be no way to buy the book. Even if it did, I'm in the UK and can't buy from the American store.
So, I ask again: If Amazon can't write a website which works well on a Kindle - what makes you think an advertiser can?
What Would Work?
Many years ago - I was in discussion with the people who almost got the Kindle on their mobile network. There were a number of different business models floated - many completely unsuitable - but some only waiting for the right time.
- The hardware for the Kindle is (reasonably) expensive as an upfront cost.
- Most customers are mathematically challenged
Would people buy the Kindle in the same way that they buy a phone? Give customers a £111 Kindle FREE! (on a £9.99 per month contract).
Of course, the missing piece of the puzzle is what you get for the £9.99. Amazon book tokens? Free OTA podcasts? Subscriptions to newspapers?
I don't have the answer - but I suspect Amazon wants to lower the cost of the hardware and increase the attach rate (number of Kindle books a user buys).
Why not do an offer similar to this.
- Kindle costs £111
- Comes with £200 worth of Amazon book tokens!
- The Amazon vouchers are in the denomination of 2*£10, 6*£7.50, 20*£5, 35*£1
- Or, perhaps the vouchers are in the form "50% off", "25% off", etc
- Vouchers are provided to the user over 12 months
- Vouchers expire after 3 months
The purchase price is all of a sudden much more palatable given the FREE vouchers. The discounts could probably be eaten by some publishers - or at least partially. The "risk" of buying an eBook is significantly reduced in the eyes of the customer - leading to an increased attach rate. Most customers aren't going to use the full value of the vouchers.
Just sticking on banner adverts for perfume seems so... lazy!
Amazon has a great record on "people who bought X also liked Y". Why not bring that to Kindle? Instead of this incredibility lame screen...
- Finished reading Pride and Prejudice? Buy the DVD!
- Enjoyed Brick Lane? Get this great balti dish set delivered to your door!
- Wow! Oryx and Crake was pretty good huh? Download the sequel - The Year of the Flood
Subsidising the hardware cost with enforced banner adverts is a flabby and uninventive 1990's business model. It also places the Amazon brand at risk of a crappy user experience.
I don't think readers will welcome a turgid little banner for perfume. But I think they will embrace relevant and contextual advertising which adds value to their reading experience.