E-books: Services and Gadgets

Earlier this week Amazon held a press conference where they presented the state of the kindle ecosystem and new kindle products. One thing that Jeff Bezos talked about that I found interesting was his remark on services vs gadgets. That today people want services not just gadgets. They want good hardware to complement the services but the hardware itself is not sufficient enough if one want to create a good and best-selling product anymore. In the case of Amazon of course he was refering to the kindle ecosystem of apps, syncing, cloudsorage, direct kindle publishing and more. He also discussed the pay-for Amazon prime service that includes kindle book lending.

Overall I can see his point with services, not just in the case of Amazon but many companies are now offering similar type of services to complement their hardware. Would people buy the Kindle e-readers to the same extent had there not been the kindle ecosystem behind them? Of course not. That is one of the main reason they sell so many readers. In the case of Amazon the readers are more of a complement to the kindle service then the service is a complement o the e-readers. I know of a lot of people that doesn’t even bother with getting an e-reader but use other devices to read their e-books on. I myself did get an e-reader, a Kindle, and why a Kindle? Because of the Kindle ecosystem and service. I’m not saying in any way that the Kindle service is ideal, I do have a lot of issues with it too, but unfortunately I don’t find that there are any really good e-book services out there, so in the end i ended up picking the kindle anyway.

Of course, like with most of these various “services” the Kindle ecosystem is created out of a selling perspective, it is in the end there for Amazon to make money off, whether through subscriptions, book sales, hardware sales or other. Combining hardware and services adds to the selling point and make people more interested in the device as it adds functionality only hardware cannot offer. The same thing goes for Apple and their ecosystem of “i” devices, itunes store and icloud. It also gives the companies a larger range of ways to make money off, and the more you lock people in to the system the more dependent they will be of it and the more they will use it for purchasing and accessing content. As Jeff Bezos himself put it in his presentation: “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices” e.g. making money off the content.

Even though the digital content systems, such as the Kindle ecosystem, generally strangles up your usage of the material you purchase in ways that would not be comparable in for instance a physical book context, many of the functions of the services function well such as the quick delivery, distribution and syncing. These functioning components of the system are also the components that make people choose these services. And it’s not all bad, as the statistics Amazon presented at the same event state: that 12 months after purchasing a Kindle, people read 4,6 times as much as they did before getting a Kindle (2011). Or as Jeff Bezos put it: “What happens when you build a great service? People read more”.

Increase in reading is great. I don’t really find it that important what people read as long as they read. Digital services such as the Kindle ecosystem also offer discovery and access to literature in a different way compared to physical books which has also shown to make readers more open to trying out genres and literature they say they would not have considered otherwise. Even though ecosystems such as the Kindle have a lot of good points, hopefully in the future there will be ecosystems that will take the reader and buyer of content even more in to consideration. Digital content is still a bit complicated and there are a lot of things that i think consumers of digital content do not reflect over much, such as their rights to the content they purchase or how the formats will work in the future.