Hey Gang, this isn’t precisely in the mobile world, but it straddles the edge. Using Sprint’s EV-DO network, the Kindle is Amazon’s revolutionary e-book reader that works without need for a computer. It is self-contained, and reasonably compact, and has a certain unique aesthetic. Not cheap at $399 plus the cost of content, but it provides a wealth of options that may make it the right fit for avid readers, frequent travelers, and gadget hounds.
The unique part of this device is the delivery mechanism. Using a cellular network to deliver the content, the Kindle is a reader that lives on its own, and is designed as a mobile device, unlike say, the Sony reader which is designed as an add-on to a computer.
But lets talk about the true impact of this device, regardless of its success or failure for Amazon. First, it points out the enduring appeal of long-form literary content. Books, or long form content, continue to have impact and in this world of Twittering, blogging, crackberries, etc, there is room and a desire for thoughtfully produced prose. As a former high school English teacher, that warms my soul. But since this is a blog about mobile, let’s think about the things it says about the mobile industry.
First, there is no discrete data charge. I know that Sprint would not give away bandwidth for free, it makes sense that someone else is paying for the data. Amazon may be footing the bill because it makes strategic sense to do so. But let’s think about this for a moment. The only party paying any cash here is the consumer, so regardless of who explicitly pays the bill, you, the consumer is. Is that a bad thing? No. After all, access and bandwidth have a cost, so if you use it, you ought to pay for it. But in this case, the cost of the data is bundled either into the product cost or into the content cost. Regardless, this is, potentially, a watershed event. Imagine if the cost of bandwidth were bundled into the cost of your mobile content. Perhaps your subscription to your favorite mobile app is $3.99/month, plus the cost of your data plan. What if the cost of your favorite app was $4.99/mo with no data plan? This model works in other parts of the world (usually involving “adult” content) put it changes the data equation to payment associated to access, rather than tiered plans, as we have today. If these costs are layered into the content, perhaps we’d see an uptick in the number of mobile data users because they wouldn’t have to pay for a chunk of access, but rather only the access they use as part of a content experience. I think this model has great potential. Content owners, are you listening, the data plan is not your friend. Work out deal so that access to your content does not require an additional payment to the carrier!
Secondly, the rise of the Kindle means that the digital content folks at the publishers are doing a great job in creating new opportunities for their companies and artists. I know that Matt Shatz at Random House is doing yeoman’s work in taking that mammoth publishing house into the digital and mobile worlds. Also, check out small start ups like Incelligence that are working hard to bring book content into the mobile age. This means that long-form content is vital to the mobile user. I hope that the bar keeps moving up here.
Finally, this is an intriguing concept. There is now a device that is not a phone, not sold by a carrier, that has no subscription cost, that is hanging off a mobile network. While not a complete game changer, this is a first step to a potential world where devices have casual access to mobile networks without subscriptions and contracts. Interesting development.