Obviously, the real money for Amazon is in getting a near-monopoly on e-books. They’ve already provided free reader apps for computers and such. But the numbers guys think that, pretty soon, they’ll be giving away the Kindle just to encourage everybody to buy e-books.
Given the number of middle-aged and older adults (like my parents) who still aren’t on the Internet, and given that a lot of older adults are big book buyers, giving away a wireless device may be the only way for Amazon to creep their way into that market. It might also allow existing magazines and newspapers to switch over to electronic publishing altogether (though they really need cheap photo rates on color Kindles, then!). If older readers can use their own choice of font sizes, that might repay them for the anxiety and annoyance of using an electronic device. Maybe. (I still suspect that at some point, corporate America will just abandon those who don’t like computers and the Internet.)
If this is the plan, what I said earlier this week about Amazon wanting to hold onto Amazon Prime physical customers by giving them freebies is even more important. And lookie here. Amazon may be giving away Kindles to Amazon Prime customers. (If they give them to everyone, that means existing Kindle owners will have one to give away.)
In many ways, the Kindle is “crippleware”, particularly with its absurdly high prices for publishers who want to use photos or illustrations beyond the cover. But if it’s cheap enough, people who’ve held back till now will be okay with that. Also, if Kindles are “free”, you can bet that sales of competing devices will drop.
Well, don’t hold your breath or anything. But if you’ve held off buying a Kindle this long, you might want to hold off a little longer.