During Amazon’s Q2 earnings call, which revealed a slight positive bump in Amazon’s business (but not positive enough to please city folk, who then traded Amazon’s share price down steeply), Bezos took some time out to specifically mention that Amazon customers spent over $1 billion on Amazon goods via mobile, including Kindle purchases. And then made that throwaway comment about the tablet PC sector.
This intrigued some of the audience, who then questioned the executive team, only to be nudged aside by Amazon’s CFO Tom Szkutak, who refused to acknowledge whether or not Kindle sales were “material” to Amazon’s bottom line, only noting they’re “growing nicely” and he’s “very pleased” with how that business is developing.
Here’s the thing though: Skutak and Bezos totally dodged the trickier aspects of all of this fuss about e-publishing hardware and e-books. The Kindle e-reader is repeatedly touted by Amazon as being a runaway success, but it refuses to actually discuss sales figures. It’s failed to innovate the device, which now looks very shabby compared to much of its competition–it’s only continuing to be a success because of the way Amazon’s chained it to its e-publishing system, meaning it’s the only e-ink e-reader that you can access Kindle books on. Meanwhile, there are Kindle Apps for the iPhone, Android phones, and the iPad as well as desktop Macs and PCs, and surely this is where many folk are accessing their Kindle content: Apple’s tens of millions of iPhones sold can’t be matched by tens of millions of Kindles (you’d see more out and about, for a start).
The e-reader device segment is busily frustrating its future hopes in a price-slashing “race to the bottom,” and at some point soon Amazon and even competitors like Barnes and Noble’s Nook, are going to realize the the e-reader market is not about e-ink hardware, it’s about selling e-published content that can be read on the explosively-growing tablet PC hardware. After all, exclusive deals like that achieved with agent-turned-publisher Andrew Wylie demonstrate that e-publishing is where all the interesting changes to the publishing game are going on.
So why all the shenanigans about dodging matters relating to the tablet PC market, Amazon? Aren’t you ready to embrace that your business is almost being innovated out from under your feet? Embrace the tablet. Target the tablet. Promote the tablet. Because the Kindle hardware isn’t convincing anyone (those city analysts aren’t dumb you know …)
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