Saul Hansell has a column in the New York Times titled “The Lessons From the Kindle’s Success” that points out that Amazon.com’s Kindle appears to not be the flop that many expected (and that most earlier ebook products have been).
Amazon doesn’t report numbers for Kindle sales, but the Times piece cites Citibank’s Mark Mahaney as forecasting Kindle sales of 380,000 this year and predicting that the sales of Kindle hardware and software could reach $1 billion by 2010. Not a flop, indeed.
Hansell goes on to extoll the virtues of the Kindle in which he stresses, among other attributes, the narrow but deep niche that the Kindle addresses (rabid book readers) and the end-to-end experience that the Kindle provides with its wireless access to Amazon.com’s ebook store. Hansell concludes, “[Y]ou can’t underestimate the miracle that happens when you make something really easy for people”
Hansell also admonishes Jeff Bezos about falling victim to “the temptation to believe that the Kindle is the only right answer and refuse to offer e-books for other devices.” He suggests that Amazon would serve both itself and its readers best by also making electronic books available on laptops, iPhones, Blackberries, “and who knows what else.”
Exactly so. This is precisely the “delicate balance” I’ve discussed in the past between offering an optimal experience with a closed, integrated tightly system and providing the flexibility of an open platform. (See “Digital Convergence: Will Sony Get it Right This Time?“) As obvious as it sounds, striking the right balance between control and freedom, between rigid integration and a flexible openness, seems to elude many companies.