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Free Kindle This November (kk.org)
188 points by kgarten on Feb 26, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

A classic loss leader strategy. Given how much Amazon Prime increases Amazon purchase behavior, this makes all sorts of sense if the cost per unit goes down enough.

Details about how Amazon Prime affects purchasing behavior: http://www.quora.com/Who-invented-Amazon-Prime-What-impact-h...

Yep. I am a happy Prime user; since getting it my Amazon purchasing has risen dramatically, stuff I would go elsewhere for I get from Amazon.

I've toyed with getting a Kindle, but while I would buy the books I don't really want to shell out on the Kindle and not like the feel of it....

So from my perspective this would be killer.

Plus with another few million kindles out there you approach some newspapers about a special kindle subscription deal

Amazon already has Kindle subscriptions for a lot of newspapers. Not just ones with national appeal like the New York Times, but ones like the Atlanta Journal Constitution, St. Petersburg Times, and San Jose Mercury News. Overall they have 160 papers worldwide, with 97 of those in the US.


I'm an Amazon.co.uk Prime subscriber. I love it and things that I would normally shop around for I now just get from Amazon (as more often than not it's either cheaper with free delivery or the same price - the hassle of shopping around combined with the uncertainty stop me from going elsewhere. With Amazon I know it'll arrive in X number of days and I'm not going to save more than a few pounds).

Unfortunately in the UK we don't get the same deal as others, we have no movies on demand (which is a shame), but free kindles would seriously disrupt the ebook market here.

By this logic, Amazon will pay you to take a Kindle by the start of next year.

Amazon makes future money on Kindle owners because they're avid book readers and they buy a lot of eBooks. If Amazon were to give away Kindles for free a lot of non-avid readers would pick them up just to have one, which would kill the model. I think a $99 price point (maybe $49 with Prime) makes a lot more sense.

While that line obviously can not extend downwards forever, it would not surprise me at all that the Kindle eventually comes with an $X credit good for about 2 or 3 ebooks as well as the semi-free price tag, which is close enough to paying you that it fits, I think. The market is enormous and once the hardware is all-but-free hooking you in with a few "free" ebooks is a no-brainer. Ebooks aren't free but their marginal costs are almost indistinguishable from "free".

I own a Kindle but rarely buy Kindle books from Amazon. There is plenty of high-quality free content as well as eBooks from other publishers like Pragmatic Press.

Thats my major concern here, i recently bought the Cracked.com Kindle Book and was astonished how amazingly bad the Kindle Version is in comparison to the real one. The included images were pixelated to the point of beeing unrecognizable and the text seemed to be not really formatted for my device.

And thats considering i paid 4$ more than the real one would have cost... so until they produce more quality in these things i stick to Project Gutenberg and read the classics.

For public domain content, Project Gutenberg has become my first stop. When they started, they were just txt and html files, but now they're re now serving up editions for all the major eReaders.

Yes but if it is only free with an Amazon Prime account, Amazon gets many more customers. If it is $49 without Prime then many people may just go Prime and Amazon really wins either way.

Wouldn't Amazon be able to tell if existing customers are avid readers or not by their purchase history? Perhaps, rather than thinking they would give them out on a street corner, they would gift them to customers who reach a purchase $amount/frequency.

Wouldn't Amazon be able to tell if existing customers are avid readers or not by their purchase history?

Sure, if they buy their books from Amazon. I tend to buy from brick-and-mortar stores (a habit I should perhaps get out of, since there doesn't seem to be a store with a decent selection within 100 miles).

The other possibility is a 99 or 59 dollar kindle the comes with a 99 or 59 dollar amazon credit. I'm hoping for that one, since amazon prime isn't available in Canada :(

Wow, even I might actually "buy" a few bits under such a scheme.

Makes sense. Like game consoles, they make the money on the content.

But, unlike consoles, provided a kindle doesn't need the latest, fastest technology, they can keep getting cheaper, til it's negligible relative to the benefits of acquiring a customer.

To note, they don't care to make money on the device, thats why you can read your kindle books on Android, iPhone, PC, etc.

It's not they don't care to make money on the device directly, it's just they don't know how to.

Making money on the device directly is simple: You charge more for it. Keeping in mind that Amazon makes a pretty good margin on the content it sells with negligible infrastructure requirements (the kindle infrastructure would be negligible compared to the rest of Amazon.com + AWS), they don't need to make money on the device itself.

The company that uses the revenue model of making money of the device and selling the content for a negligible profit is Apple. That's how they run the iPod department for one. Devices are sold at a high margin but almost all the revenue for itunes sales go to the content providers.

Exactly my point, Amazon makes money on the content.

If it was viable to charge more money for the device, I'm sure they would but they need those (or some other) devices in people's hands. Therefore, they can't charge more for the device. That is my point, they don't know how to make more money with it without totally changing their strategy.

which in other words means exactly "they don't WANT TO make money on the device"

This was Apple's line back when the iTunes Music Store opened, but I'm not sure it's still true (especially with respect to Apps + App Subscriptions).

The use of the graph is ridiculous in this post. If the author wants to predict a free Kindle in the near future and back it up with some one line quote from Bezos, fine. However, that graph is pointless. I can craft countless other curves to those four points that are just as "predictive" as that one yet would predict vastly different prices. Further, if that graph was correct, Amazon would start paying us to take Kindles soon after. Just keep following that time axis!

Fitting points to a time line and drawing it out to infinity is a pointless and erroneous predictor. Read Proofinesss by Seife. He talks about these and other mistakes made by people trying to back up their arguments with error prone data and approaches.

At least my reading of this was that the author was obviously just having fun with the idea that "Hey from just 4 points of data we can extract that the kindle will be free in nov 2011", however Jeff Bezos' reaction of "Oh you noticed", even if also somewhat in jest, was interesting enough for the author to ask in what ways would a free kindle be possible.

Even if Arrington's idea is a year and not a week old it certainly would seem to make sense, especially with Amazon adding free video to free 2day shipping with Prime.

I agree with you, and the use of any graph actually detracts from the point. It would have been better if the author had offered the data points (sans graph) and provided a transition paragraph to explain a thesis of "does the cost drop enough to give it away".

Amazon would start paying us to take Kindles

I fully intend to take delivery of a Kindle once a day or so instead of working. It's gonna be pretty sweet.

Danger of extrapolation: http://xkcd.com/605/


"last week" == Feb 2010?

"But last week Michael Arrignton at TechCruch reported..."


Did you know that two-day shipping is Amazons' default mode of operation in Germany and Amazon Prime gets you overnight shipping there? Can't buy German Kindle books yet, though.

(I guess this is true for other 'small' countries, too)

Why does Amazon Prime exist in Germany, but not Canada? Heh. I knew it existed in the US and not Canada, so I assumed that most of Amazon's "cool stuff" was just US-only.

Canada's 28 times bigger than Germany. I would expect the cost to ship something across Canada is much higher than the cost to ship something across Germany.

This may be true in some of the rural areas, but to Ottawa, the free shipping takes 1-2 days.

I think in the US, Amazon is in one special state where taxes are low or something. So they have to ship from there, too. Hence, the mean distances Amazon has to ship to in the US is way longer than in smaller countries.

However, USPS is slow even for short distances. I presume it is optimized for mean shipping time of all US destinations instead of minimum shipping time of individual packages. And population density in the US is slightly smaller than in Germany, so shipping is more bound to be slightly less efficient.

I guess Canada has a considerably lower population density, so shipping gets more expensive. Maybe the Canadian postal service does not offer fast shipping at attractive prices?

It's probably a result of the very intimate relationship they have with DHL and the German postal service.

DHL is actually a part of "Deutsche Post"

Let's say:

Free 3G-Kindle for a 30$/12 months contract that includes 2 books a month and a newspaper subscription. Seems a pretty good deal to me.

180$ for the Kindle at current price, 100$ for royalties to publishers and Amazon will keep 80$ and the money extra the user spends on buying extra books.

Prime is already amazing, but this would just blow minds to pieces.

A problem with this is that he is using two different Kindles in the graph - WiFi-only and cell. The Kindle 3 is available in two versions. One of these, the Kindle Wi-Fi, is initially priced at US$139 / GB£111, and connects to the Internet exclusively via public or private Wi-Fi networks. The other version, considered a replacement to the Kindle 2, is priced at US$189 [1]

So the price of the comparable Kindle today is $189 although the graph predicts $100.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Kindle

This is a great example of something that has perplexed me for a long time in my own businesses:

How do you drastically lower the price of something (or make it free) without pissing off all the previous customers?

Amazon has a lot of latitude in setting the price of a Kindle. That is because the device is essentially only useful when purchasing content from Amazon. They should lower the price if it would increase demand for their content.

If it weren't for the fact that many users wouldn't use a FREE Kindle, they probably should give Kindles away. Buy 10 eBooks and get a Kindle free would be a good strategy.

This is a serious question:

Why do we need Amazon anymore?

If anyone can write a book and make an ebook and accept payment and distribute the book... why do you need an amazon?

Could I buy a reader for $500, pay $5 for ebooks, and the author and publisher still make more money?

It seems like giving away the reader for free with a proprietary format is just an attempt to lock in readers and create need for a service that isnt really needed.

It’s a brand-name on the consumer’s end. Meaning that the lay person will not only be searching their content library, they’ll also be more familiar and trusting for buying if it’s through Amazon.

By creating a reader for their content library, they’re actually providing a different service than just books: ease of use. The consumer doesn’t have to worry about seeking out the book, trying to figure out if it’ll run on their device (Yes, this can be screwed up), trying to buy it, and then trying to locate the file to install it.

I remember the predictions of a $99 Kindle for Christmas 2010.

Only 40USD off. That's what, 2 pizzas and sixpack? Pretty damn close if you ask me.

It's also 40% off.

Alternatively: The kindle 2 was what, 300USD? I think that's about what it sold for the majority of the time it was released.

So a reduction from 300 to 100 is 66% off, while a reduction from 300 to 140 is a little bit over 50% off. If your guess is 66% off and actual is on the high end of 50%, that's not a bad guess in my book.

It was $139 at the time of the predictions IIRC.

Correct, the price on the latest generation has remained constant so far.

I didn't have Prime until very recently. My rationale was that I pretty much always got free shipping anyways (Super Saver is free if you purchase more than $25 at a time, which isn't hard, and I don't care about the delivery date).

However, the free movie streaming actually convinced me to sign up for Prime (comparably priced to Netflix streaming, plus I get free two day shipping on all my Amazon purchases). I think that Amazon could potentially get a lot of new people to buy prime if they give away a free Kindle, which would probably be a net win for them.

Everything looks linear until you zoom out and find out it's exponential.

Kind of the ultimate blow to the iPad and iBook. Even if the iPad has color and is backlit, just how many people will choose a $600 book reader over a $0 book reader that's 'almost' as good?

Those who want a device that can be used for more than just reading books.

Of course. I was speaking in regards to the folks who try to sell the iPad as a better book reader. I don't doubt the iPad will continue to sell.

But the iPad _isn't_ a better book reader. Electronic paper reads much better in sunlight. I did a side-by-side comparison with the iPad and the Kindle and I much preferred to read on the Kindle.

I prefer the Kindle as well, but some people think that a color screen is a very important feature on a book reader.

(Don't ask me)

Color is important when it comes to newspapers and magazines, but most books that adults read don't have pictures--much less color pictures.

It's not an ultimate blow. They're two different platforms.

It is an ultimate blow for all of the other book readers (Nook, Sony's readers). Amazon is in iPod territory here: their readers are better and cheaper than the competition and likely to remain so, at least for the short-term (next 2-3 years).

I have both devices and use them in completely different ways. The iPad is a poor book reading device but great for other things.

I can pick up the Kindle and use it just as I would use a paper book but I'd never use it to surf the web even if it was possible.

I bought a $139 Kindle. Immediately de-linked it from my Amazon account and I manage it with Calibre. Fully loaded with tons of pirated MOBIs and PDFs.

To make matters worse, I bought one of the hard covers from a Best Buy which caused power shorts, then I called Amazon and got a replacement with a light from Amazon for free. Then I returned the lightless hardcover back w/receipt back to Best Buy. I wasn't trying to get a $60 cover for free, but this method works, no social engineering even required.

Loss leader indeed.

This chart is bullshit. The cheapest Kindle is $139, not $189, and became available at the same time the $189 Kindle did.

I guess that actual data ruins the beautiful line?

So the 3g will be free a bit later.

The thing I hate about kindle (hardware) being a loss leader is that it requires Amazon to keep it locked down so that you can ONLY buy content through them.

I'd rather pay for it up-front and actually have an open e-book market on the back end. As opposed to having to root/jailbreak it and/or go through painful file conversion processes to read other e-books.

It isn't locked down at all. You can read ebooks from o'reilly, baen, pragprog, and many other non-Amazon stores on it right out of the box.

It simply doesn't implement competing DRM schemes.

EPUB is not a competing DRM scheme. It's the standard for virtually every other reader and store, and the kindle doesn't support it.

Which is a completely separate issue from the claim that the kindle is a locked down device that can only view content bought from Amazon.

In my experience, every DRM-free ebook store I've dealt with has been happy to sell me a .mobi.

Still, the reason they doesn't support epub is most likely because it would make it easier to get books from sources other than amazon. The OP was finding it regretable that they have the motivation to do things like this.

Conversion between (DRM-free) EPUB and MOBI is pretty much trivial. It's a pain, but it's hardly a problem.

Download Calibre to manage your ebooks. It makes conversion pretty much transparent, and with the right plugins you can set it up to remove the DRM from the books you purchase.

Why not get a professional epub drm removal software here:http://www.removedrmfromepub.com

Speaking of rooting/jailbreaking, I put together a simple guide for those who want to jailbreak their Kindle and use Luigi's standalone terminal:


This is exciting for many reasons but one being educational systems may finally start adopting the digital tablet.

Studies have shown the kindle is not robust enough for most classroom settings. Lack of note taking, slow page turning, etc. slowed down classes and caused students to eventually print out assignments:



I pretty much agree with that and prefer my iPad for those types of things. But the Kindle will evolve and just the thought of getting away from the textbook fix would be nice.

If Amazon Kindles were starting to appear in schools, iPads and Apple would be right there. Apple has always been good about getting computers into schools.

The textbook industry got so crazy that most kids have TWO of each now because they need them for school and home, because the 5-6 2 inch thick books of outdated materials are too heavy. So what is more kludgey and when could you ever really write in books themselves? I never wrote in textbooks even though I bought them and never took the time to sell them. Can't people take notes outside the book?

Plus if you have Kindle accounts/books you can also pull these on other devices (maybe now) and especially laptops and PCs.

That is a good point about the note-taking. I was thinking in context of higher ed, but high school/middle school... maybe it would work.

Although I will say I do remember kids taking notes in pencil in the margins.

Also - two textbooks? seriously? I can't imagine any school springing for that added expense, or even parents for that matter.

Part of the two textbook thing is related to not giving students lockers at some schools nowadays.

I can't imagine the cost/waste of all those textbooks and how silly it will look when we look back on how we do it now.

My university tried this and got sued for it. These things are not yet ready for prime time because they are not accessible enough for those with disabilities.

here is the results of the court case: http://www.ada.gov/case_western_univ.htm

Wow, if anything I would feel ebooks would make it more accessible for the blind by being usable in braille readers and text-to-speech! This was a lawsuit that shouldn't of happened.

Theoretically, yes, but devices which do not output all of a book's text to anything which claims to be a Braille reader are easier to develop DRM for.

Kindle software for the blind/braille readers is something I can see amazon supporting.

It would certainly be good for their image if they supported blind users (apart from the existing text-to-speech function).

However, a general interface to a Braille display is necessarily one which transmits the letters of the book in reading order, so I don't see how they can implement that without opening up a big gap in their DRM.


I expect that is more likely to make a bigger difference since it has buy-in from the publishers, BN effectively runs most the college bookstores, you can type faster with a keyboard, and most students don't want to carry a ton of books. Would be nice if it supported Latex for Math/Physics notes.

Yeah, but a DX is still going to cost the earth AND be taxed by customs for UK buyers!

Notice that Kindle apps (iOS etc.) are free. They're not charging for the reader.

To win the ebook market big time they WILL have to win the reader market, which will amortize to giving away free readers.

How does paying $80/year make something "free"?

There are a number of ways to get Prime for essentially-free or even straight-up free. Students can get it free for a year [1], and Amazon Mom [2] provides it essentially free for parents of young children. You have to buy $25/month of qualifying goods, but we have not found this to be a challenge if you're still on diapers. (And Amazon is quite competitive on diapers.) YMMV.

It seems to me that Amazon is desperate for you to have Prime, but as what is basically a loyalty program, it doesn't work for them if they simply give it away. The customer has to feel engaged somehow, either by paying for it, or feeling like they're getting something really valuable for some promotional reason. I personally suspect that as the Amazon Mom's year ends or the student's year comes up that the announcement will be made that out of the goodness of their heart, Amazon has decided to simply extend the program for another year or something, and that as they can work out reasonable excuses to give you a free Prime subscription they will continue to do so. Just my best guess based on the business situation.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/student/signup/info

[2]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mom/signup/welcome

Note that Amazon's new free movie/TV-streaming service for Prime members isn't available to Amazon Student or Amazon Mom customers unless they pony up the annual $79 fee:


So students and moms probably won't get Kindles for "essentially-free or even straight-up free."

unsure the circumstances, but i just got one free year as it was offered during checkout, and days after the announcement i was sent an email saying i can watch streaming videos.

also interesting is that we're at the end of February, right where the line crosses $100...

Do Amazon Student members count?

What I don't like about this is the following:

Amazon Prime isn't available everywhere.

What about the International markets? Or is this just a US thing?

this is what happens when idiots discover graphs for the first time.

Even though Amazon is not a wholesaler like Sam's or Costco, but I won't mind getting movies at $35 per year. $79 is too much an yearly renewal for what appears to be just a guaranteed free delivery.

$79/yr is $6.60/mo, which is less than Netflix's streaming-only plan and includes free 2-day shipping on Amazon products.

Prime is great if you're going to use the free 2-day shipping feature, but Amazon streaming is horrible IIRC. It uses Flash, and I'm guessing doesn't have the selection Netflix does.

It's not all bad. If you use Linux for example, their use of Flash allows you to use the service.

Amazon has recent movies, though. For example, I watched District 9 through Amazon On Demand in Jan/Feb 2010. That's 5-6 months after it was released.

Most Netflix Streaming titles are something you'd find on VHS in your mom's basement.

District 9 is available on Netflix as well.

Since they're partnered with "Starz Play", Netflix gets a quite a few new pretty quickly.

BTW, most Amazon streaming titles are something you'd find on VHS in your mom's basement. I just checked and the first movie they tempted me with was "Contact" from _1997_.

Yep, they're even streaming TV shows as they come out like Spartacus.

Lazy. Fit a line and assume the Kindle will continue down the line? This is what counts for expert analysis on HN?

The cost of producing a Kindle is much greater than $0 right now. Consider if that cost (plus the net revenue of a few books) would ever hit $0. Do you guys seriously see a sustainable revenue model here? How about a winning e-book strategy?

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