TheStreet has a juicy rumor that Barnes & Noble, a store where physical “books” in “paper” form are sold to “customers” who stand in line to pay with “cash” or “forms of credit” is working on an eBook reader, possibly in partnership with Verizon.
The rumor has all the makings of a real live product. They may offer book downloads over the air and come in a sexier format than the already smokin’ hot Kindle 2. All I can say to B&N is “Good luck, Sally, because you’re going to need it.”
You will agree that Amazon doesn’t have a first-mover advantage, a concept I believe is bogus. There have been ebook readers since the dawn of time. Instead, it has a first-winner advantage. Just as Twitter>Plurk>Yammer and iPod>Creative>Sony, Kindle will always do better than a BNindle and will, in all ways, do better then the unconnected ereaders that are bound to populate the stores in benighted areas. Amazon wrapped easy ordering in with a huge selection to create a package that the average consumer – and the average computer nerd – could easily understand. Sure, it has some fussiness about it – emailing PDFs to yourself to get them sent to your Kindle a huge pet peeve – but no matter what Barnes & Noble does, the Kindle still stands out as the ur-ereader.
Sony has tried to enter this space with multiple partners for years and while I agree that their products are fine if you’re a big old pirate, I doubt many of us have PDF version of the latest bestseller lying around. Just as iTunes changed the way the average consumer gets music onto their music player, the Kindle changes the way people interact with ereaders. Whereas the old music/book paradigm was, essentially:
1. Find a service that isn’t full of spyware
2. Search for songs/books of dubious quality
3. Worry the police will arrest your unborn babies
4. Download music/book for free
5. Install drivers
6. Reinstall Windows
7. Plug in MP3 player/reader
8. Drag music to player/reader
9. Eject player
10. Discover the music is ten minutes of a twenty second loop of Gwen Stefani singing about Harajuku Girls/Discover that the book is written in German
The iTunes/Kindle paradigm is:
1. Buy device
2. Buy music, maybe rip a CD, download a book, whatever! Drink a nice glass of brandy, maybe?
3. Play music/Read book
Which process do you think is more lucrative? This is not the say the BNindle won’t have an incredible ordering system with great hardware and amazing vibrate feature, but there can only be so many sheriffs in town, as Microsoft learned with the Zune, and the second paradigm isn’t easily copied once you’ve bought into a system – and most of the consumers of note, the guys who bought the Kindle 2 just so they could use their perfectly-working Kindle 1 to hold open the back door when they brought in the groceries, are already Kindle-men.
Amazon is a winner here. The BNindle will probably be an also-ran.