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The Golden Age of Kindle 2.0 and Beyond — Part 2

(As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been working on completing this new chapter of The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle, and it only makes sense to blog some of the content here over the next few days. The chapter will focus on about a dozen possibilities for Kindle 2.0 and beyond – some may be exciting to some, and others to others. This is the second post, but you’ve figured that out already. Here is a link to the first post if you need it. Please feel free to weigh in with your own ideas in comment form).

Kindle Groups

As many Kindle owners have already discovered, the device can be as convenient for reading professional memoranda, manuscripts and other privately sent documents as it is for reading the content one buys in the Kindle Store or the free books that originate from Project Gutenberg, feedbooks.com, or numerous other sites that offer free content. With KindleGroups, Amazon would offer any Kindle owner the opportunity, possibly for an annual fee, to establish a KindleGroups Transmitter account (I’m using this word because it communicates well for now, rather than because I like it) with up to 5 KindleGroups consisting of the johndoe@kindle.com email addresses of up to, say, 1,000 Kindle owners each (although it might well be in Amazon’s interest to expand that number gratis). KindleGroups Transmitters, who would be the only ones paying the annual fee, could then send Kindle-compatible documents to all the members of their populated KindleGroups simply by sending such documents to the umbrella address of a particular target KindleGroup. Each recipient account could be charged the going micro-charge rate of 10 cents per conversion, unless Amazon decided the charge was counterproductive for KindleGroup members.

Companies, organizations, universities and other information-intensive groups would take advantage of this functionality by promoting the purchase of, or even bulk buying, Kindles for their members.

KindleGroups would help Amazon achieve an enormous increase in its penetration of corporate and other group-based markets. Naturally these Kindles would then lead to increased sales of Kindle editions, increased user time on the Amazon PC site, increased sales of all other Amazon products, and logarithmic increases in the spread of the kind of digital culture to which Amazon’s future revenue is intrinsically tied.

These are the basics, I think. Since I ordinarily come at these things from a bookselling perspective, I’ve been thinking for a while that the time should come soon when Amazon should arrange with Stephen King or J.D. Salinger to release his or her next book for the Kindle 60 days ahead of print, and then keeping doing this about once a month. Of course Amazon already knows that: nothing sells TVs like must-see TV.

But then last week I was thinking about a community organizing outfit with which I worked back in my youth, ACORN. They’ve got a thousand or so staffers spread around the country, paying for data transmission, Blackberries, laptops, whatever. They probably have a dozen or more must-read internal memoranda each week, so I got to thinking about Kindlizing their staff communications, which in turn got me thinking that every other info-intensive corporation or association or agency in the country could profit from Kindle-connectedness.

I’m kind of jazzed about this idea. I’d love to hear what others think about it.

Customer Experience: People love staying connected with their Crackberries and iPhones, but these devices aren’t primarily intended for reading and are not easy on the eyes once one moves beyond a two-sentence email or text message. The Kindle is ideal for reading longer memoranda, reports, and manuscripts, and once you (or your employer) springs for a Kindle you’ll never have to read such documents on a tiny backlit screen again. Leave your laptop home, and your Kindle and smartphone will get you through most or all of what you’ll need to do on most road trips. If you are a “transmitter,” what’s not to like about knowing that you can connect wirelessly with entire groups of staff, colleagues, or other group members, and share documents of any length, just by sending them to a single KindleGroups address. Even if Amazon imposed an annual cost of, say, $99 for transmitter accounts, remember that the Kindle’s wireless connectivity is free and you’ll see how nicely it compares with the steep monthly data costs for a Blackberry, iPhone, laptop, or other device.

Likelihood of Adoption (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7. I sent this idea to Jeff Bezos and his team a couple of months ago, but I didn’t get any love. Maybe I am missing something – there is a first time for everything – but my take on this is that it would allow Amazon to start harvesting Kindle sales by the hundreds rather than individually. Of course there is absolutely no point in Amazon moving forward with the KindleGroups idea unless they also provide a “folders” or “Google labels” feature to make it easier to manage content on the Kindle Home and Content Manager screens.

Kindle Owners as Kindle Sellers

This elegant idea is the brainchild of Joe Wikert, blogger extraordinaire who has a day job as an publishing executive at John Wiley. Have I added my own two or three cents to it? Of course I have.

And this smart column by Mary Schmich today’s Chicago Tribune is just one more indication that this is an idea whose time is here.

As with other early adopters, many Kindle owners tend to be somewhat evangelical buzz agents in spreading the word about the device and all it can do. I have to admit that when someone sees me out and about with my Kindle and asks about it, they better have 10 or 15 minutes to spare. Amazon has taken a couple of major steps in recognition of this propensity:

· A prominently displayed “See a Kindle in Your City” page on the Amazon website, promoting the concept of meet-ups in cities and towns all over the country so that Kindle owners can show off their Kindles to prospective Kindle buyers. Although one might expect some reticence to participate in this day and age, early indications are that it is becoming a popular feature.

· Right from the start, Amazon has offered a very attractive 10% Amazon Associates affiliate fee for all purchases from the Kindle store, including the Kindle itself. In other words, if you buy a Kindle through a link like this one embedded in my website, an email, or in any other content, Amazon will pay me 10% of your $359 purchase price. This can get lucrative in a hurry.

What happens when you combine these two initiatives? You get Joe Wikert’s idea, and it is a keeper. Kindle owners are already carrying a lot of water for Amazon via word-of-mouth enthusiasm about how much they love their Kindles, and all Amazon would need to do to return a little love (and, in the end, greatly multiply the love they get back), would be, in Joe’s words, to provide “something as bare-bones as one screen with a couple of text-entry boxes where we can put the prospective buyer’s name and e-mail address …. thanks to the magic of Whispernet the info would go right to Amazon and they could then send the prospect a message with more info on the Kindle. They could also track you or I as the lead originator, so if an order results, we’d get credit for it.”

Joe goes on to suggest some great operational ideas such as credit in the form of “a free Kindle book or two” and “a leader board showing the top 10 originators. There would be a lot of friendly competition to hit the #1 slot!” What’s more viral than a proposal that could turn every Kindle into an order-taking device and every Kindle owner into a Kindle salesperson?

I love Joe’s idea, and I believe it is well within the realm of Amazon’s engineer capacities as well as its marketing vision. Although “a free Kindle book or two” would be nice, I tend to think the setting up each Kindle with an Amazon Associates tag would be more flexible for Kindle owners (who might want to use their credit to order groceries from Amazon) and also more powerful over the long haul for Amazon. Each Kindle owner could automatically receive an Amazon Associate tag and account (if he doesn’t already have one), and the Kindle could be “wired” so that an email could go out automatically with a “click this link to order your Kindle now.” Amazon could even set it up so that the $35.90 affiliate fee could be split with the buyer, so that in addition to your handselling you would also be offering a prospective buyer a nice 5% discount for jumping on it right away through the link.

The profit motive would of course inspire a lot of evangelism – $17.95 a conversation is nothing to sneeze at. I feel a new chapter of my book percolating as I think about the possibilities here — I hope you won’t mind if I credit you for the idea when I wrote about it.

Customer Experience: Every time you someone asks you about your Kindle, you come a little closer to paying for it. 20 conversations and you are reading from a free Kindle! Duh?

Likelihood of Adoption (on a scale of 1 to 10): 9. What was it I said in the last paragraph. Yes, it was “Duh?” Not that there isn’t a downside to all this viral thinking. Amazon would not want to be responsible for the marauding hordes of Kindle owners preying on potential buyers in every upscale community from La Jolla to Kennebunkport, or the guys sitting in those cushy easy chairs in every Starbucks with an “Ask me about my Kindle” sign taped to their foreheads.


Kindle Content Affiliate Program

If you liked the “Kindle Owners as Kindle Sellers” concept, you’ll love the Kindle Content Affiliate Program. (I know, it needs a catchier name, which no doubt Amazon will develop. I’m just going for informative here, not sexy).

One of the features that I love in the Kindle Store is the ability to get a sample chapter of just about any Kindle edition sent wirelessly to my Kindle within a few seconds via the Whispernet. What I’m suggesting here is just a new Kindle-to-Kindle wrinkle that would allow Kindle owners to buzz to their Kindle-owning friends about the latest book their reading, with a brief note and a sample chapter. Once again, the engineering required would be a snap, and from any e-book you were reading you could click on the menu bar and pull up a screen that would allow you to type in a friend’s kindle.com email address (or select it from a list of your Kindle contacts) and send off your note and sample with an easy-to-click invitation for your friend to buy the title that you recommend.

Since Amazon already established an affiliate account for you and your Kindle (see above), it would be easy for Amazon to pay you an affiliate fee whenever your recommendation results in a purchase by the friend you’ve contacted. Or, better yet, let Amazon split the affiliate fee so that 5% each goes to you and your friend.

Customer Experience: An idea like this one is bound to optimize the Kindle’s astonishing potential for putting readers into contact with each other and with authors or publishers whom they wish to follow. The same things that customers enjoy about the recommendation features of the main Amazon site would be made even more seamless for Kindle owners. Meanwhile, it’s yet another means for voracious readers to help defray their Kindle and Kindle Store expenses.

Likelihood of Adoption (on a scale of 1 to 10): 9. This one synchronizes chapter and verse with Amazon’s signature marketing and customer experience strategies. It would also easy for Amazon to protect Kindle owners from spamming abuses of the feature by requiring that such messages originate from a Kindle and allowing Kindle owners to block particular senders.

Click here to read The Golden Age of Kindle 2.0 and Beyond — Part 1

The Golden Age of Kindle 2.0 and Beyond — Part 1

Click here to read The Golden Age of Kindle 2.0 and Beyond — Part 2

(I’m in the process of completing this new chapter of The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle, and it only makes sense to blog some of the content here over the next few days. This chapter will focus on about a dozen possibilities for Kindle 2.0 and beyond – some may be exciting to some, and others to others. Feel free to weigh in with your own ideas in comment form).

Not long ago (as I type away in July 2008) a reputable tech website posted some intriguing information stating that an unidentified “insider” had leaked information to the effect that two new versions of the Kindle would be released in late 2008 and early 2009. The first release would involve software enhancements to the original hardware – thus ensuring, presumably, that existing Kindle owners would be able to get these enhancements without having to spend more than the $359 to $399 they have already laid out. The second release, in 2009, would involve a larger (but not necessarily heavier) device with a larger, perhaps flexible screen. I have no reason to doubt the story. It has been widely quoted and referenced as authoritative elsewhere on the web, despite some internal contradictions regarding timetable, it strangely worded notion that the new models would “hit stores,” and its lack of attribution. It certainly makes sense that Amazon would lead with next-generation software, so that the leak of the story doesn’t bring sales of the existing device to a standstill.

We’ve all got tons of great ideas about the improvements that we absolutely must have as Amazon releases the Kindle 2.0, 3.0 and beyond. Many of the ideas that have been suggested in various blogs and communities as well as in messages sent directly to Amazon at kindle-feedback@amazon.com, and I expect to see a good portion of them realized in future Kindle generations.

I’ve already participated in this process as an individual Kindle owner, and I will continue to do so. Here, rather than add my voice to those of thousands of other Kindle owners who have weighed in with good suggestions for fixes to the obvious design flaws such as those pesky next-page bars, I’m going to take a different approach and try to suggest some enhancements of a more radical nature, changes that could create some serious viral energy to expand the reach and the function of the Kindle. Then I will suggest a roughly equal number of changes that would build upon the Kindle’s concept and on Amazon’s commitment to electronic reading generally by opening a big tent around the Kindle and its content and inviting programmers, publishers and, perhaps, even competitors inside.

You can blame me for these, but please, give me no credit for them. While it is true that some of these ideas occurred to me before I read about them somewhere else, others were generated by some of the truly creative and thoughtful people on other Kindle websites and communities, and still others were shared with me via email by readers of the beta versions of this book. Many are mash-ups, if you will, of all three of these fountains of Kindle ideas, and this is as it should be. I will certainly try to give credit where I am aware that it should be given, but I am also bound to miss out here and there.

Kindle Reading Subscriptions

Amazon launched the Kindle with a fairly rigid pricing scheme: customers would pay a relatively high price for the device, with two important promises as counterweights to that price:

· they would be able to buy individual e-books at a significant discounted compared with the price for print-on-paper versions; and

· Categories Uncategorized Tags , , , , ,

Projecting a Kindle Future

After a decade of interesting but ultimately failed efforts by various electronics manufacturers to hit the sweet spot of potential for an electronic book reader, Amazon launched the Kindle reader in November 2007. Although the Kindle quickly attracted critics and naysayers who predicted failure for the device, they failed to understand either Amazon’s passionate commitment to the Kindle concept or how well the company is positioned to achieve dazzling success. Amazon’s relationships with readers, early adopters, authors, and publishers provide the company with tremendous advantages over any competitor that might consider bringing an e-book reader to market, and Amazon has not squandered its opportunity. The device sold out about five hours after launch, sold over 200,000 units in its first six months (based on figures released by its Taiwan-based display-screen manufacturer), and is unlikely to look back after it reaches the one-million mark in Kindle units in circulation sometime early in 2009.

Read this entire chapter for no charge now.

Copyright © 2008, Stephen Windwalker and Harvard Perspectives Press.

Using the Kindle as You Travel: Translation Tool, Travel Guide, and More

With everyone who can pedal a bicycle or afford a half-gallon of gas taking off for somewhere, I thought it might be a good time for a post highlighting some of the travel tips contained in my e-book How to Use the Amazon Kindle for Email & Over 100 Pages of Other Cool Tips (The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle):

Using the Kindle to Translate Foreign or Technical Words and Phrases

Much has been made of the fact that the Kindle, as of this writing, is not yet available outside the United States, and that some of its appealing features – all of those that depend on a wireless connection – are useless when a Kindle owner lives or is traveling outside the United States or, for that matter, in a Sprint wireless dead zone. However, there are a surprising number of ways in which a Kindle can come in handy when you are on the road, and here is another. This one is helpful if you are traveling in a land where you do not speak the native language.

Before your trip to France, for instance, buy a Kindle edition of a good French-English/English-French dictionary and, of course, download it to your Kindle. Then, all you have to do is click on the “SEARCH” key on the bottom row of your Kindle keyboard, type any word or phrase into the input field, and use the scroll-wheel to select “Go.” Presto, your Kindle will search its onboard content for the word or phrase. By selecting and clicking on an iteration of the word or phrase from your bilingual dictionary, you should be looking at the translation that you need in a few seconds. It won’t be lightning fast, but it should be serviceable.

By using the same principle and the appropriate reference material, of course, the Kindle can also be used to render professional and technical language and terms. As with any search function, your ability to make effective use of the Kindle’s translation powers is bound to improve with use and familiarity.

Using the Kindle as a Travel Guide

Whether you are exploring the wonders of your own city or state or traveling around the world, the Kindle can help you get more out of a travel guide than you ever thought possible. The first step, of course, is to purchase and download the travel guides and reference materials that you want for your trip before you leave.

Once this content is “on board” your Kindle, you can search and retrieve material from it, without any wireless or other connection, simply by using the Kindle’s powerful local search feature. Technology writer and blogger Mike Elgan wrote recently of using Kindle search to learn everything he needed to know in order to maximize his appreciation and understanding of ancient Greek ruins such as the Temple of Poseidon while en route to the sites.

Once you’ve got good reference material on your Kindle, all you have to do is click on the “SEARCH” key on the bottom row of your Kindle keyboard, type any word or phrase into the input field, and use the scroll-wheel to select “Go.” Presto, your Kindle will search its onboard content for the word or phrase. By selecting and clicking on a reference from your travel material, you can be reading up on any topic within in a moment or two.

Making the Most of Your Kindle Connections Overseas or in a Sprint Dead Zone

There are myriad reasons why you’ll want to take your Kindle on your next trip to a foreign land. Before you go, you’ll be able to download many of the books that you might otherwise have to lug with you. And while it is true that you probably won’t be able to do any more direct wireless downloading during your trip, that need not keep you from making other extensive uses of your Kindle.

To make the most of your Kindle overseas, bring your Kindle’s USB cable, your laptop, and – if you have one – a Blackberry or other smartphone. In each place where you hang your hat, you will want to find the best internet connection available – for these purposes, “best” means fast, accessible, and cheap or free. Just because a city that you are visiting has a Starbucks or some other well-known Internet café does not mean that’s your best source of Internet access. Blogger Mike Elgan has written of finding that Starbucks in Greece was charging $660 per month for Internet access, only to discover that “right next door is a better coffee joint where a month of Wi-Fi costs you zero.” If you are staying somewhere more than a day or two, a little research to find the “best” connection available should be well worth the time. To find Internet coverage while you are traveling inside or outside the U.S., www.jiwire.com is a helpful resource. To check on Kindle wireless coverage areas, just navigate to http://www.showmycoverage.com/IMPACT.jsp and enter zip codes or other information to see mapping of Sprint wireless coverage areas anywhere in the United States.

With a daily downloading blast to your computer followed by a USB transfer to your Kindle, you will easily be able to use your Kindle to keep up with books, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, blogs and other content and read them offline at your leisure during your trip. Just log in to your Amazon account and have your content sent to your computer via the Internet. If you need to receive documents, manuscripts, memoranda, or PDF files while you are abroad, just have them sent to your you@free.kindle.com email address and you can transfer them to your Kindle each morning with ease.

In a pinch, if you have a smartphone data plan like the AT&T Unlimited Domestic and International Data Plan, you might even be able to tether your laptop to a Blackberry or other device. The economics of such a solution are compelling; the only problem is that tethering appears to be outlawed under such a plan.

Checking Sprint Wireless Coverage for the Kindle

Just navigate to http://www.showmycoverage.com/IMPACT.jsp and enter zip codes or other information to see mapping of Sprint wireless coverage areas anywhere in the United States. To find Internet coverage while you are traveling inside or outside the U.S., www.jiwire.com is a helpful resource.

The Kindle and GPS – Intriguing but Frustrating

Okay, let’s not get carried away here. The idea that the Kindle comes with any built-in GPS functionality is such a cool notion that it is easy to overstate what you can do with it. My general warning is that if you are going to depend upon your Kindle’s GPS to help you navigate while mobile, there is a fair chance you will end up lost. The main reason for this is that the device relies on Google Maps for its GPS-like services, and Google Maps is not visually optimized for the Kindle. If you’ve ever switched to a larger font while reading content on the Kindle, there is a good chance that you will be frustrated trying to read street names on the Kindle’s representation of a Google street map. I’ve also found that Google Maps often does not “read” the address information that the Kindle transmits regarding its location, so that if, for instance, I am using the Alt-3 command to find a nearby restaurant, I have to delete the data that my Kindle has transmitted to Google Maps and replace it with a street address, zip code, or both.

That being said, these features represent some tentative baby steps in a pretty cool direction — not to mix metaphors. Once you are in the Kindle’s Web Browser, clicking on Alt-1 will provide a Google Maps representation of your current location. Alt-2 will help you find nearby gas stations, and Alt-3 nearby restaurants. I am anticipating more fun, and a better viewing experience, with Kindle 2.0 or 3.0.

Copyright © 2008, Stephen Windwalker and Harvard Perspectives Press.

Stephen Windwalker’s great new resource for indie authors, publishers, and readers

Beyond the Literary-Industrial Complex: How Authors and Publishers Are Using the Amazon Kindle and Other New Technologies to Unleash a 21st-Century Indie Movement of Readers & Writers (Paperback)

by Stephen Windwalker (Author)

List Price: $19.95 2 used & new available from $14.97
In Stock. Signed copies available.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Product Description
Find out why you need a publisher … like a fish needs a bicycle. Here’s the book that is helping thousands of authors to unleash a 21st-century indie movement of writers and readers, by the #1 selling author in the Amazon Kindle bookstore. Elegantly combining mission and manual, Windwalker narrates the end of the old world of publishing due to the failure of major publishers to serve either readers or authors, issues a compelling call for change, and guides authors and independent publishers through the steps that will allow them to succeed and to connect with discerning readers, in the fast-changing publishing world made possible by new technologies such as Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace. Also includes: * A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO PUBLISHING A KINDLE EDITION OF YOUR BOOK OR DOCUMENT * PUBLISHING YOUR FICTION ON THE KINDLE PLATFORM * PUBLISHING PERIODICALS FOR THE AMAZON KINDLE * START EARNING A LIVING TODAY WRITING ARTICLES FOR THE KINDLE

(Also available in a Kindle edition — click here for Kindle ordering info)

Also available in a slightly abridged handy “guidebook” version for Kindle owners, about 70% of the longer version, lean and stripped down to guide you through the essential steps:

The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Publishing and Marketing Books, Articles and Other Content for the Amazon Kindle (Creating Your Own Success Story with New Technologies) (Kindle Edition)

Kindle Price: $6.39 & includes wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

Half a million Kindles by year-end 2008?

The most plausible and empirical calculation I’ve seen yet suggests 210,000 Kindles in circulation!

Missing data point: how many modules did the manufacturer ship before the Kindle’s 11/19/07 launch?

Assuming 40,000 a month the rest of the year, which probably understates the 4th- quarter flow by quite a bit, we’d arrive at 530,000 or so by year’s end. I suspect by then the figure will be closer to a million.

Thanks to Jan at The Kindle Reader for sleuthing out the above-linked post!

e-Ink Touchscreen Possibilities for Kindle 2.0

The latest developments in the e-Ink technology utilized by the Kindle suggest the possibility that the Kindle 2.0 could feature an even more elegant, fully “writable” and erasable touchscreen to allow Kindle users to move beyond the device’s keyboard for input to annotations, notes, email and other functions. Details in a a report by Martyn Williams from the Display 2008 exhibition on the InfoWorld website.