The Apple Tablet – A Kindle Killer?

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So, there's lots of talk going around these days about the forthcoming Apple tablet (notice I'm not speculating here, I do believe the tablet is coming), and whether it will be seen as a Kindle killer, or any other ebook reader, for that matter. I, for one, don't expect it to kill the Kindle. Kindle already has an established user base, and I don't see all of those buyers abandoning their Kindle just because Apple is releasing a new tablet. But will an Apple tablet eat away at the Kindle market share? That's another story.

Let's look at it this way. The Kindle has been around for a few years now, and when it first came out, well, it was pretty darn expensive. OK, so it wasn't like buying a new car, but it was pretty expensive for an item that's sole purpose was for reading books. At that point, it was mostly people with disposable income and techies who were your main buyers. Since then the Kindle has been growing in popularity, and is even now being used on some college campuses as a replacement for all those bulky (and expensive) textbooks. Imagine having all of your textbooks with you at once, and not having it mean you're carrying an extra 20 pounds in your backpack. That's a pretty nice feature. To top it off, Amazon touts the Kindle as the number one item gifted on their website to other people this past holiday season. That's a lot of people with a Kindle already. (We don't know that actual number of Kindles sold, as Amazon doesn't release that info)

We can see that the Kindle already has some marks in the win column, and like a good sports team, I don't expect it to go from greatness to wallowing in defeat in one season. But that doesn't mean they won't suffer some losses. When the Apple tablet (and other tablets, lets face it) are released, one huge leg up they will have on the Kindle will be the fact that for a few hundred dollars more, you get a device that can do WAY more than just read ebooks. Too me, that's a huge selling point. I, personally, don't have a Kindle, but I do have the Kindle software for my iPhone, and I love using it to read books. Sure, the pages are smaller, but for the most part, that doesn't bother me. Because I can read in the dark without a book light, and my iPhone can do a LOT more than just read books, and you can get it for less money than a Kindle. Of course, there is the service contract for the phone part, but you can also get an iPod Touch and put Kindle software on it for less than the cost of a Kindle, and you've still got a device that can do a lot more. I love that added value, as then I get a lot more for my buck.

Now, let's take all that's great about the iPhone, and make it bigger and more powerful, and you'll have the Apple Tablet. It will read e-books, but it can also help usher in a new era of digital publishing. Imagine reading a book and having it embedded with video clips, full color pictures and the ability to post tweets from within the book. Or reading the latest Sports Illustrated with video highlights from the games of the week, or for the stories. Now add in the fact that it will do that and then some, and now you're looking at some serious competition for not only the kindle, but laptops and netbooks.

If Amazon is smart about it, they won't try to fight the tablets, but instead, embrace them. Take their whole e-book business to another level and add features that the Kindle can't do. Make Kindle software available for tablets, and now you've just increased your customer base. Sure, they may not be buying your hardware, but they are still buying books from you. Market the Kindle as a low cost ebook reader, but also embrace those who will spend the extra money on a tablet. If they want to survive in the long run, they'll need to adapt to a world that keeps moving forward in technology, and not expect the status quo to remain indefinitely. The Kindle will survive, but it won't emerge unscathed. The time has come for the tablet computer, and it will be one heck of a ride.

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