The Killer Use Case for Amazon Kindle
I’ve finally gotten into ebooks, and for worse or better it was due to Amazon. A recommendation by Paul Walk and Andrew Treloar has got me hooked on reading books on my Galaxy tab via the Kindle app by Charlie Stross, specifically ‘the Laundry series’. I hope to write a couple of reviews about these books in some blog posts anon (once I’ve had a chance to chat about some ideas with friends) , but right now I want to talk about what I think the “Killer Use Case” is for Amazon (or any eBook store).
First and foremost I should say that I was desperately trying to avoid DRM’d books, having spent hours downloading books from Guttenburg press (great tablet interface BTW), as well as scavenging around various other free options like Google Books and Calibre. Which while there are some excellent factual free books, the thing that I was missing was fiction. Fiction truly has the capability to drag you out of your own brain and into another world. The trouble with finding fiction is that it is all friend based, that is to say, there is no more powerful a search engine than your friend’s recommending books. More on this later, on to why this is the killer use case.
The killer use case for amazon is quite simple: keep people reading and as those people continue to read enable them to get their friends to read the same things. This is a feedback loop and only needs a simple adjustment to the pay model to capatalise on friends getting other friends to read books.
Here is how I encounter this use case: As I come to the end of the book and watch the percentage bar creeping towards 100% I begin to have a kind of dread. On one hand I can’t help but read faster as I want to get to the end of the plot, on the other hand I don’t want the book to end. As I come to the end of the book and the thoughts begin to flood in, after “The End”, I can’t help but want to talk about what I have just read. More significantly I want to talk about it with someone else who has read the same thing (NB trying to explain the plot to your partner and then talk about it with them is just cruel). So what do I need? Quite simply, a little “donate book to a friend for a £1” button. I’ve already just spent $3-£$5 on the book and if Amazon gave me the option to send that same entire book to a friend for an additional £1 of $2 why wouldn’t I send it to them? I like giving gifts even if I disagree that they are DRM’d.
Side note: best of all Amazon could start to take over the much despised Hallmark gift card market by allowing you to send the book to a friend with a little gift card. How much better to send a friend a book with a gift card than a paper gift card with a sentence or two (and save a tree!).
The point being, Amazon needs to play on the powerful emotions of a reader as they come to the end of their book by allowing them the immediate satisfaction (and bargain) of sending the same book to their friend to read would result in more profit, why:
- This creates the most powerful feedback loop for humans: the gift giving culture – the ‘unspoken’ obligation to send a gift to a friend after you have received one from a friend is hard-coded into a special part of our brains.
- The best advertisement in the world for books is having 2 or more friends talking about it with other friends, it creates book clubs and other such advertisements for books that could never be achieved otherwise.
- Readers get bored and eventually stop reading the same author, but if their friends are reading the same books and then sending them new books by the same author the reader is likely to pick that author back up. This is a good sell to authors for why they should adopt a cost model.
- By having a pile of books stacked up waiting from your friends to read will get people to read more. As easy as it is to dowload a book from Amazon the convenience also makes me wait to download it (unlike finding it at a book store and wanting to buy right there). You wait because you know you can get at it any time and might as well not download until you know you have the time.
- Keep it similar to the cost of hallmark cards, it will replace this psychological market in the reader’s mind
- And worst of all, it will justify the use of DRM. People are used to being able to give a paperback away to a friend to read after they are done with it, why not enable this natural feature and make a little money on the side? By selling the book at a cost that is plausible to buy the book in the first place (£2-5) and then allowing you to send it to a friend for £1, the reader is likely to send it to several friends, bringing the total cost of the book up to £7-£15. Let alone you’ve just created a market segment of reader who are likely to use your eBook store. Of course you need to figure out what to do about the people who have been gifted the book for a £1, if they can re-gift for another £1
- If this feature is not enabled, the natural course for people like me would be to jail-break the DRM via a programme like MobiDeDRM – but this takes time and if it is only a $1 to send it to a friend anyways I might as well save the time (which is worth more than the pound).