Will the Kindle Be Free?

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.


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4 responses to “Will the Kindle Be Free?

  1. That is pretty doubtful.

    For one the group that develops the Kindle is totally separate from the ebook division at Amazon. That is why the ebook division develops Kindle apps for every mobile phone platform even though that must kill some sales of Kindles.

    Though it would be somewhat possible for Prime members, but still hardware costs plus cost for Sprint EDVO makes that also unlikely.

  2. I love the heft of a book in my hands (especially an older one), the smell of the paper, even the satifying ‘whap’ of snapping a book closed.

    Kindle can’t give me that. Though if they want to hand me one, I probably wouldn’t say ‘no’. 🙂

    • I love the look, the feel, the smell of books too. But the Internet giving (usually) the instant ability to find information, read original manuscripts, and look at primary source material beats most physical libraries for many purposes; and the ability to buy and read a book instantly from home or abroad beats most bookstores. Alas. Were teleportation practical (and had I my own teleportation book locker), neither physical libraries nor bookstores would have suffered decline.

      OTOH, instant access to digitalized mss and libraries have resulted in much more total book use, and the same with instant e-book gratification. So I can’t grieve too much, though I still want my teleportation. 🙂

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