I Don’t Need A Color Kindle

Even if Amazon’s got a Kindle 3 locked and loaded, it won’t be shipping with a color display. At a shareholder meeting today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that while he’s seen such technology “in the laboratory,” it’s “not ready for prime time production” and a color screen Kindle is “a long way out.”

I’m perfectly fine with the Kindle ($259) staying black & white in the near term – as Amazon doesn’t need to provide a full-on iPad competitor. In fact, I’d further simplify their e-reader line by dropping 3G connectivity – which increases the cost of entry, both in terms of hardware and ongoing cellular service. So let’s go WiFi-only. Macworld Editor Jason Snell also suggests possibly dropping the keyboard for a more compact form. Facebook, Twitter? Pass. Focus on providing the absolute best (monochrome) digital book experience. I’d also take a (free) RSS reader that caches content. Not a hard requirement, but a nice-to-have.

Amazon thinks they’re moving a lot of units now. But should they drop the price to $99 in a stripped down model, the response would  be overwhelming. Although, $129 might be a more realistic price point to cover engineering, hardware, marketing, etc while making a few bucks on the front end. At $99 or $129, I’d immediately buy three. One for Melissa and I, and one for each of our moms. (All of which Borders is probably banking on with their upcoming $150 Kobo reader competitor.)

(via Engadget, who also provided the inspiration for a Colorware Kindle visual)

14 thoughts on “I Don’t Need A Color Kindle”

  1. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind something simpler. Obviously, though, Amazon wants 24/7 data access so people can buy books on a whim.

  2. They could probably work deals with Boingo, AT&T, and other WiFi providers to partially close the gap but for less cash. I bet a lot of ebook purchases are made in airports…

  3. “Amazon thinks they’re moving a lot of units now. But should they drop the price to $99 in a stripped down model, the response would be overwhelming.”

    It’s odd. Price point really is key. They should basically just give away a stripped down wifi model with software-keyboard, while keeping their groovy wireless model for a pricier XL version.

    I buy a lot of books, but I really like the dead tree format. The apparent value of a Kindle to me is close to (though above) zero. But if Amazon gave me a cheap Kindle, I’d likely grow accustomed to it, and buy more books from them going forward.

  4. If it’s possible I completely disagree and agree with this post Dave. On one hand I think device price will ultimately be the feature that brings the Kindle to the masses – as I said a while back
    I can see $150 or a little less as the prefect pricepoint on a Wi-Fi only Kindle

    But I do not think they should throw out the 3G version entirely. We use 3G quite a bit and I think there’s still a market for that instantly available service – especially when on the road or in rural areas that still get mobile service. So for that I’m still willing to pay a little more even when the iPad and other nice (but heavier) tablets are available.

  5. I think Amazon needs to view the Kindle as a loss leader–the shaver, and the books as the blades. Sell enough Kindles at almost any price, and the extra book sales will make up for it. And yes, a price close to $100 (whether $99 or $129, but not $150) would likely get me to buy one or two. Where I simply won’t otherwise. I can get by with the Kindle App on the iPad just fine in most cases, other than the whole gorilla arm thing (or whatever you call the iPad variant–post iPad stress syndrome (PiSS)?)

    I think the 3G modem will sell more books, but I have no idea how much extra that 3G radio costs vs. a WiFi only model. If its low enough they should just leave it in. Yeah I know Apple wants $129 for a freaking 3G radio but that’s probably ridiculous. HP wants $125 for a Gobi 3G radio (more expensive than a dedicated GSM unit) with GPS. And they’re almost certainly marking their costs up 100% or so. Still, probably a significant chunk vs. a $129 price point…

    Yes they need to get rid of the physical keyboard. If they can do it with their new tech to bind the touch layer under the glass so it doesn’t dim the display (which makes the Sony models quite unacceptable in my view) then it can work. As long as its not too expensive.

    Given the slow refresh rates, and the free 3G, it doesn’t seem likely a real web browser will be forthcoming, so like you say an RSS reader (for free over Wifi, pay some fee for 3G) seems like the best fit.

  6. How much bandwidth can a kindle consume while not generating revenue? I have no idea what else it does besides download books.

    And how expensive is the 3G hardware (chipsets and such) vs wifi only?

  7. 3G chips aren’t insanely expensive, but surely more than WiFi. I don’t know Amazon’s cellular service contract details. But I assume their terms are better with AT&T (current partner on new units) than with Sprint (launch partner) because they’re smarter and have more leverage due to successfully launching the product and moving many units. (I know how we did it at Dash, but our data usage patterns were different, we didn’t have the scale or negotiating power of an Amazon, and we went through a third party to broker the deals.)

  8. I love my kindle, I have never bought a book through it, I buy books (lots and lots of them) through my computer as it way easier to shop that way. Also I have never made a note in a book so the keyboard has been useless to me. I feel a stripped down model (no keyboard) would be a nice third kindle option. It would be lighter. But they should keep the screen the same size. I also have almost constant wifi contact where I go so 3G is not critical to me.

    I also own an ipad and thought the screen on the ipad would be worse for reading than the kindle’s e-ink screen, however that is not the case, I don’t mind the ipad screen. But the weight of the ipad makes it come in second (as an e-reader) to the kindle. So once again, if Amazon is listening, its the weight of the kindle that makes it a superior choice for reading, so making a lighter version would be even better.

  9. “In fact, I’d further simplify their e-reader line by dropping 3G connectivity – which increases the cost of entry, both in terms of hardware and ongoing cellular service. ”

    This would be the biggest, most idiotic mistake – Amazon relies on EBOOK SALES and the current 24/7 prepaid 3G connection is a no-brainer for both Kindle users to get their next “fix” and Amazon to make sure Kindle users won’t bother converting and transferring free books to their Kindle.

  10. Dave,
    I “almost” agree with you. 3G has one thing WiFi truly does not have: Zero configuration for the end user. WiFi requires passwords, logins, clickthroughs, all sorts of wacky ways hotels, cafes, and airports require you to get free WiFi. 3G just works. It means the Kindle isn’t a computer. My grandmother (non-computer user) uses one.

  11. To be clear, I’m not saying sell one stripped down Kindle model at a lower price. I’m saying offer an introductory priced model in addition to more full featured units. Sort of like the graduated iPod line… Shuffle, Nano, Classic, Touch.

    For whatever it’s worth, my senior citizen mother knows how to sync an iPod. If syncing software is solid (or I help with WiFi setup), she’d have no problem with a non-3G Kindle. However, she (and others like her) would indeed need a computer or home network. Point taken.

    And I’m still not clear where Amazon makes their money. It’s not quite the razor/blade model here given the low book prices and cell service. Yet the hardware isn’t insanely priced either. They may be purely focusing on building their user base. In which case I’d think they’d want to open it up at a lower price point.

  12. Why in colors??? What’s wrong with black and white? I mean, we’re supposed to read from it, not stare at the green in our face.
    I didn’t like the colors, I prefer the old-fashioned colors, that’s me.

  13. I’m sure that everyone will agree that black&white display looks much more natural than color one. Those who need color display are looking for another toy, not ereader to actually read.

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