eBooks Will Extinguish The Kindle

The Kindle is a young device, but it's already on the way out. If you're a CEO about to move to eBooks, I would recommend going straight to the iPad or an Android tablet.

I was an early Kindle user -- I always kept one with me on the road and one at home. But I recently ejected my traveling Kindle out of my backpack and, as you can see from the picture on the left, my home Kindle is gathering dust in the stack of books next to my bed.

What happened? Blame it on Keith Richards. I bought Richards' autobiography, Life, over Christmas. As an experiment I decided to read it on my iPad, using the Kindle app. The iPad offered a bunch of advantages:

1) The backlit screen made it easier to read, especially when my wife turned off the lights at 11:30.

2) Underlining text with a flick of the finger is far better than joy-sticking through paragraphs.

3) Moving between pages was seamless, with none of the slow refresh that you get with the eInk-based Kindle.

4) The iPad is a multifunction device -- I use it for music, pictures, email, browsing, applications, viewing business documents. Books fit naturally in this environment.

But the big difference was how I used the capabilities of the iPad to give me the "extended" eBook experience. When Keith referenced Altamont, I quickly took a look. When he talked about G tuning his guitar, I checked it out. I was getting his book+, in one look.

The next generation of eBooks will combine video, links, music, and social. The 2013 version of Andre Agassi's book Open will show him hitting his forehand in slow motion, excerpts of his match with James Blake, and -- if his ego can take it -- a time lapse view of his hair styles. All of this content will require the memory, apps, video, network, and audio capabilities of a tablet computer. So Kindle the application thrives. But The Kindle will be consigned to occasional beach trips (you can read it in direct sunlight, unlike a tablet) on its way to becoming an historical footnote in the eBook story.

What do you think future eBooks will look like? I'd love to get your thoughts. 


I agree with you on the idea

I agree with you on the idea of the "extended" book experience. Even with the existing books, at times i find myself going back and forth between a physical book and my laptop or phone to look up a location, map, Wikipedia ... With the introduction of new technologies, the initial first reaction is to mainly mimic the existing environment and provide it in that new format. So, in the case of books, the only thing that's changed is making books digital up to this point and trying to come up with a 'distribution' and licensing model that works for everyone. Slowly though, we're starting to see ebooks using the new technologies by incorporating some of things you've mentioned. The debate is surely on as to whether that's a good or a bad thing, but that's a separate topic.
On another note, i personally prefer reading on a kindle cause i find it to be clearer and less distracting. The only bad thing about the kindle is the same problem that plagues books which is lighting. You do need proper lighting and that's where tablets with their back-lit screens surely have an advantage.
That being said, i believe that Amazon created the kindle to hook their customers by building their digital libraries through Amazon during that first phase of ebook development. At the point when ebooks get 'extended', customers would've already had a sizable investment in the Amazon library and would be tempted to stick around even with the possible disappearance of the ebook. It would be interesting to see at that point, how the tablet vendors that are in the ebook business would compete and challenge the kindle app. Naturally, that brings up the entire discussion regarding open and closed systems which i'm sure you're involved in.

I was trying to decide

I was trying to decide between the two, and this really helped. For the price, I was expecting something much higher for some reason, iPad definitely turns out to be the better buy.

Disagree on ease-of-reading

I can read my Kindle for hours. I can read my iPad comfortably for minutes.

I can read my Kindle in the dark with a reading lamp (like the case light) comfortably. Again, backlit screen, minutes to eyestrain.

Backlit & E Ink two totally different fish

Have to agree. E Ink was developed to overcome the issues surrounding reading text from a backlit screen. In all the euphoria surrounding the iPad this issue seems to have been forgotten.
As a long term EBook user (I prefer the old Sony but the new Kindle looks nice too) I can say that for reading large quantities of plain text continuously then it HAS to be an E Ink display. For browsing or scanning documents backlit is fine but for reading books it gets very uncomfortable very fast.
Yes there are improvements needed to the technology but I expect to see the Kindle around for a long time to come. Until they bring out E Ink on the IPad anyway....

It is premature to say kindle

It is premature to say kindle is dead. Eink is what makes Kindle different. I read through 2 books a week, just because of Kindle. For causal readers, this may not be an issue. For them, Kindle books are available on tablets anyway.

Always said it was about the content

I think Amazon saw the kindle device as a way to stimulate eBooks, and it worked. I don't think this was ever about device sales. Amazon has been mum about the numbers of Kindle editions sold on the other platforms (iPhone, Android, etc.) as that may tip their hand too soon, but by being cross-platform from the beginning Amazon rightly did not try to protect the kindle device. My wife and I have purchased hundreds of kindle books now which we have happily read on our iPhones and iPads. Only argument for a kindle... you can't check your email or twitter from one!

You can check your email on

You can check your email on the Kindle and do other things too. It's not just for reading although that is the primary function. One of the main selling points for me is the free 3g that works also in other countries than the USA with no additional charges. It may not be as quick as a laptop but it's okay. People are using their Kindle to confirm seat reservations on flights while camping (no laptop necessary) and a woman in Japan let her family and friends know she was okay by using a Kindle to email them.

i know a lot of people not in

i know a lot of people not in our income bracket who are reading more because of the Kindle (and to a lesser extent, the Nook). We tend to begin thinking that most treat technology as we do, and forget that most can not have two "dusty" eBooks and an $800 iPad. Hope you are donating the Kindles so someone can get some use out of them

Not so fast

There are those who are not sold on the sexiness of the iPad or other tablet-style computers and are also unwilling ot read a book on a Smartphone... and for these people, the Kindle will remain to fill their needs. The concept of spending a minimum of $500 to become an iPad-wan for people who don't seek to web surf, email or otherwise enrich their reading experience with a device is absurd, so why sell the kindle short. Besides, as you mentioned you can't read the pad in the sun, or even in indirect bright light, and while the Kindle isn't something you can turn up the backlight on and read in the dark, you can get a lighted case for it.

Kindle the "filler" vs Kindle the "killer"

Kindle, the device, fills a gap for those that do not want a tablet, while also providing a very good reading experience.
But man!, the real killer for Amazon is its Kindle pervasive app. I get a hard-to-interrupt reading capability with it. Any device, any time and always on the same page. The whispersync feature is awesome!

I can read my books on my iPad, Blackberry, iPod touch and yes, my Kindle device. It doesn't provide the multi-media experience, but for plain good ol reading, it turns out to provide a light-weight and glare-free experience, that beats the iPad.

I think that Kindle, the device, should be viewed as a filler, but the real killer is Kindle, the app.


I totally agree with a lot of the comments... The kindle was designed to get people hooked in to the Amazon 'ebook sphere' and I also am convinced that the kindle will have to evolve in design and function to keep up with the ipad and Android devices. I am sure that they will. In the event that they try and stick too closely with the original design and functionality, the ipad and android tablets will surely out number the kindle in sales but some readers may still prefer the simplicity of the kindle as strictly a reading device.

I really think the evolution in the ebook will be in the publishers favor (both large and small). A lot of the tools that you are talking about to increase engagement and measuring that engagement, has been present on web sites for years but is only now moving to ebooks and is not 100% understood and absolutely under utilized.

Thanks for the post.


The only evolution the Kindle needs to remain relevant -- which I believe it will have within two years -- is a $49 entry-level device.

The $49 Kindle

That would be nice. But remember, that device will not allow you to get the full "eBook II" experience. So if you want to read Gone With The Wind, it will be fine. But if you want to read the new interactive edition of Twilight, you'll have to go to a tablet.

Or you could

...simply have a pre-frontal lobotomy and avoid the entire 'reading experience' all together =)

sry, couldn't resist.

Hard to disagree in the long run

Actually, even though we said as much in our forecast report last summer, that doesn't mean the Kindle won't still sell millions this year (probably another 5 million). But compared to 20+ million iPads in 2011, it's clear which one is going to dominate in the long run.

That said, as Kindles get even cheaper (we're predicting $99 this year), having one just for beach reading or keeping in a travel bag is doable even for people on middle class budgets. My long-term money is on Kindle Flame (my name, not theirs), the much-needed Amazon answer to tablets. Imagine a tablet that is basically an Amazon media store (Amazon now has a video streaming business, which Apple does not) that can run apps and makes shopping from Amazon a killer experience.

I have a Kindle and really

I have a Kindle and really like it. I don't mind the toggle and I like that I can read it on the beach. I like keeping all my stuff on Amazon. But, I'm not opposed to Apple. In fact, I own all Apple computers, desktop, laptop and Mac Book Air which is really the best purchase I ever made. I toyed with the idea of getting an iPad but it didn't do work, just play and read. I was convinced that I made the right choice, funds being limited, when I consistently see business traveler play with their iPads then pull out their laptops. I don't want to have to carry multiple devices. My MBA is perfect for everything. And my kindle is light and the battery LASTS FOREVER! If and when Apple puts productivity into the iPad, then I'll consider it. For now, I just want to read on my Kindle and work on my MBA. The iPad is an accessory that I don't really need...

I read way faster on a e-ink

I read way faster on a e-ink device. Perhaps because it's a single use device?

Reading in eInk

I have the opposite experience. I scan much faster through an LCD screen. Perhaps it's my aging eyes, but the brightness helps.

Future of Books vs. Future of Reading

I think the future belongs to "content providers" (authors/ publishers/ curators, etc.) who are best able to envision the future of "Reading" (how the reading habit is changing and what it might likely evolve into) as opposed to the future of "Books" (how books are bought, consumed and owned).

Historically these two trajectories have coincided - or at least significantly overlapped - but as of today it looks like their future paths might diverge, more than they might stay converged.

It is larger than a Paper vs. Kindle vs. iPad/ tablet issue.

Sometimes you just want to read

I agree with previous commenters about the relative comfort of reading on the kindle, and I also like the fact that it is inconvenient to jump out to notes, videos, or check my email, or my twitter feed, etc. To me reading is more fun with fewer distractions that prevent me from really getting stuck into the book.

What is "reading?"

The concept of a "book" and of "reading" will change over the next five years. A book will not be a string of written words -- it will be an experience of words, images, and multi-media. Yes, the written word will be the molten core, but they will be surrounded by a supporting cast of other media. Why? Because an author is taking you out of your life and bringing you into theirs. And if he or she can do that more effectively with more than the written word, they will.

True 'reading' is morphing...

... just like movie viewing is.

There are those that aren't satisfied with the entertainment experience being what it was and need more to pique their interests when it comes to reading or movies, or even eating which is becoming theater in many cases. But for those, there will be viewing aids that allow them to become fully immersed in the "Lands of Harry Potter" or "Twilight" or whatever floats their boat, and a book would have NEVER been enough. This is why so many movies either come out in 3D or are designed for iMAX, or are even being recreated in 3D... but there are equally as many who avoid these like the plague.

For many, the visuals form and unfold from simply reading the words- they rely on the ability of their cerebral cortex to create the surrounding images, sights, smells, whatever the words in a book opens up for them. I might be showing my age, but I recall as a child laying there with my eyes closed listening to an adult in my life reading a book to me and going where "Alice" went or being on board the ship in "Captain's Courageous" or climbing the tree in "Swiss Family Robinson"... of course I was 15 before we had a color TV =)

My wife and I read to our children, and I got great joy watching the smiles on their faces as they laid there and I KNEW they were seeing the same kind of images we saw. I hope for some of us, reading remains the same as it is now.

eBooks vs. Kindle

George, I couldn't agree with you more. I used to love my Kindle, but now that I have an iPad I am very frustrated about how clunky it is to move around in a book on Kindle and I keep trying to swipe to the next page (which would be much easier that having to click).

Reading (Kindle) vs. Long Term Health Issues (iPad)

While you make several valid points, there are a few additional items you might not be taking into account.

1) Amazon makes two great Kindle cases. The more expensive one includes an LED light you can pull out (and uses the Kindle's battery so no extra batteries to buy) and easily allows you to read in the dark (I know cause I use the Kindle rather than the iPad to read). When you charge the Kindle, the battery is charged as well since it uses the Kindle's power to run and has no significant impact on the Kindle's battery life.

2) Devices such as iPhones and iPads generate a wide a spectrum of light wavelengths, particularly blue and red light, that can cause long term health effects. The light is proven to keep your brain active long after you set the device down and impacts health in the long term by affecting sleep patterns. This normally affects melatonin secretion which is the sleep-promoting hormone produced by the brain. Using these devices cause disrupt sleep by enhancing alertness and affecting circadian rhythms. The Kindle does not generate these wavelengths and thus has no long term effect on health. There are numerous studies on this on the web including WebMD.

3) You can take an iPad with you on vacation, but can you read it? iPad screens work wonderfully indoors but take it outside on a sunny day and good luck reading an eBook on it. If you are just sitting by the pool getting some sun on a nice summer day, it's almost impossible to read an eBook on an iPad. If you do get to a point where you can read the iPad in the sun (either getting into shade or covering it as you read), your eyes will get strained quite rapidly.

There is no doubt that the iPad is an incredible and versatile tool for any professional on the go. However, for night time or outdoor reading, I'll take my Kindle any day and use the iPad for everything else. Either way, carrying an iPad and a Kindle is still way lighter and easier than lugging around a 5 pound laptop...

I have to wonder

..if the title of the post was "Kindle remains strong in spite of competition" if most of the comments would have extolled the virtues of the iPad and/or other devices as being far superior to the Kindle? "Internet Human Nature" seems to support the contrarian attitude when it comes to comments about posts- only rarely do you see the 'me too' type of comments in support of an article's position.

I've found that when people agree with the position taken in a blog post, they tend to 'cyber nod' and walk away UNLESS a lot of people really bash a position they feel strongly about, and then the supporters will weigh in to disallow the negative comments from completely burying the original position.

Kindle the service versus Kindle the hardware


I think it's best to think of Kindle in two buckets. Kindle the hardware and Kindle the service. Amazon is primarily a service provider. The Kindle hardware is as much about making a market, I don't think that Amazon really cares what you read your book on so long as you buy the book from them.

Without Kindle hardware would Apple have put so much effort into its Retina displays and would publishers have agreed on a publication standard that they could sell books electronically. By showing people that there was a market and showing commitment even by building hardware Amazon was able to light that fire. I don't think that they will be that bothered when the Kindle isn't needed any more as by now, it has served its purpose.

Kindle the service however is very much alive, vibrant and the kind of future that publishers at least envisage for their books. This was a clear takeaway for me when I attended Mobile Monday London's evening on the tablet eco-system on Monday this week.

Not sure I agree about the service making the difference

This is the 3rd or 4th post suggesting this, and I'm not sure it's the issue. While I agree hardware is hardware (to a degree- Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader) and I also agree with comments about BAH! I *HATE* a single purpose device and the price being higher than what seems reasonable... I'm not all too taken with Amazon's services.

For one thing, the browser and music player bundled in the 'experimental' services both really, well, SUCK. And the fact you can't save preferences, like your static IP settings, that BLOWS. Trying to import music onto it is a chore, so it's Kindle plus iPhone still.

For another, there are tons of other sources for content besides Amazon that are better. But one thing I DO like is the ability to read more formats of content than you can with the Nook, which is one of the primary reasons I selected it for my wife.

We went WiFi only, and bought one of the "Amazon Only" covers with the built-in light that draws its power from the Kindle- about the only thing she finds it lacking is a pop-out stand to allow her to put it in front of her on a surface for comfortable hands-free reading.

What to expect when you're expecting...

Personally, I would prefer one device that can do it all, do it well, and do it at a reasonable price point. I think I'll be waiting a little longer. But, there is an interesting article in the WSJ today about eReaders vs. Tablets: http://preview.tinyurl.com/200tablet

The notion of being able to run the Android OS on devices that don't necessarily ship with it, is in interesting little wrinkle to this discussion. HW and SW interoperability is a characteristic that I think (though I have no data to back this up) tech-savvy consumers will embrace. In numbers? Doesn't matter.

Bottom line: This entire market is embryonic. Just one year ago, Apple had yet to give birth to iPad. In general, we're still on 1st and 2nd generation devices. Who knows what "the seventh son" be able to do? (whether that invokes Orson Scott Card or Willie Dixon for you--I think both are welcome here) :)

Kindle vs iPad

If the Kindle is doomed as an e-book reader, why are there so many iPad owners who are also Kindle owners? I am thinking of getting an iPad 2 which seems to overcome many of the drawbacks of the iPad like bulky, heavy, awkward...
That will not get rid of my Kindle because the iPad will not fit in the same pocket as the Kindle, it is too big to carry around all the time and runs out of power nearly daily instead of bi-weekly. When it comes to reading PDF files or books, I think the iPad 2 probably wins. I say probably because I do not yet own an iPad 2. I did try out a Kindle DX but sent it back because it was bulky, heavy and awkward plus it didn't display PDF files in any print larger than the Kindle 2 did. We will see.

Mac user since 1990

and I would give up my Kindle for anything. I've used iPads and all I can say is you must have an older Kindle. Yes, the Kindle's only good for reading books, but I have a computer for the rest of my digital content.

Seriously, I can't figure out where you're coming from on this one unless you're mostly into reading magazines and comic books.

Kindle vs iPad

Mark: I think you need to go back and re-read my comment. In no way am I anti-Kindle. I have a Kindle 1, a Kindle 2 and a Kindle 3. I use it to read everything but PDF's. I have not read comic books for over 60 years. I have no magazine subscriptions so I don't have any experience reading those on the Kindle. I have 2386 documents in my Calibre library. I carry my Kindle with me everywhere and read on it daily. Perhaps you read the word "iPad" and went off half cocked? Happy reading, Al

Roald Dahl's Matilda gets an

Roald Dahl's Matilda gets an e-reader. Brilliant!!
(if I can't use URL's here, go to unshelved dot com slash 2011-3-4 )

I just came across this

I just came across this company and think they get the idea behind the 'extended' ebook. I really like the idea of how you can post a question as you're reading and someone from your network sees it and can respond. Check out the video at their site: http://www.inkling.com/

While I know you have said

While I know you have said earlier in the thread that you prefer reading on the iPad, due to the backlit screen, that's only under some controlled reading conditions, and for some people - take the iPad outside into bright sunlight, and you'll immediately see the appeal of E-Ink in comparison. Also, having effectively unlimited battery life due to the E-Ink technology is wonderful. Personally, when I'm reading a book, I don't want a multi-media experience and the distractions of the internet and games; I want a book! And I think the Kindle (or your favorite other E-Ink based device) will provide the best "book" experience.

Finally, price is a factor - on a limited budget, it's easier to stomach a Kindle (especially considering the life-cycle of a device like this - if it lasts two years, you're doing well) than a more full-powered tablet, as our own James McQuivey pointed out above.

iPad vs Kindle

I don't have an iPad. I do all my reading on my Kindle. Enough said, I have no argument with you.

ebooks of the future

The ebooks of the future will become more interactive. Imagine that you are reading about how a 4 stroke engine works (mechanical/automotive engineering). You will be able to touch the engine to see the animation. You will be able to slice the engine open at any cross section with the animation still active and get an inside view. You may be able to peel off the layers and go deeper.

I think the next generation ebooks will branch off in different directions based on the discipline. Imagine Science fiction books embedding movie clips, automatically generated from text.

There will be a new kind of markup AML (an animation markup language) and animation will just become an alternative view of text.

Not sure whether we will still call them ebooks, though.

Why even compare both

I think you mean iBooks when you said eBooks. I don't like one thing about Kindle. The PDF viewing is not very user friendly. I mean the PDfs with Graphics on a Kindle 3 just because of screen size. I can read easily on my Kindle on my way to office in a taxi, which is not the case for iPad which is much heavier for reading. Also because of the glare in the day light.

Electronic Readers

Great comments on the "Kindles" and newer versions. Planning to get one for my mum because she is always complaining about all the papers, books and magazines all over the house. Will have to investigate all the various ones on the market and hopefully get the best one!

Kindle and ipad

I completely agree. I loved my kindle before I got my iPad. But after a while it became just one more thing to carry around.

However, I will still use it at the beach.