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Amazon’s Smart Move – Kindle for the iPhone

by Van Baker  |  March 4, 2009  |  1 Comment

Amazon has made a very smart move with the launch of its Kindle Reader for the iPhone. The Kindle faces a challenging market mostly due to its $360 price tag. While mobile professionals have applauded the Kindle it has little appeal outside the mobile professional segment and this is limited to somewhere between 10 and 15 million people in the US. For the average consumer that goes to work in the morning and spends their evenings at home the Kindle offers minimal perceived value over paper. Just because it is digital does not mean that it is better.

Enter the Kindle reader application. There are roughly 18 million iPhone users and some percentage of them will at least want to try reading an e-book on the phone. They may find that it is perfectly acceptable to them and continue to read e-books on their iPhone. They may also find that the screen is just too small or that it is too bright to read comfortably for hours at a time. Either way it is a win for Amazon. If the consumers are happy with e-books on their iPhone Amazon sells more e-books. If they find that they like the concept of e-books but the iPhone just has too many trade-offs then they might consider buying a Kindle. Admittedly some will try reading an e-book on the iPhone and decide that e-books are just not for them because they prefer paper but these consumers would not have been a candidate for the Kindle or Amazon’s e-books anyway. They will just buy the paper book and they might buy it from Amazon. In short the Kindle reader on the iPhone is a no lose for Amazon.

But what about Apple. Does this mean that Apple loses in this scenario because they don’t get the e-book business for the iPhone. Apple has already declared they are not interested in e-books as they do not believe it is a big enough business. Steve Jobs has been widely quoted as stating that no one reads anymore and there may be some truth to that especially when discussing digital natives. They tend to do a lot of reading but it is mostly short form content as opposed to books. As such the iPod generation may not be a good target for e-books. Apple still wins because those consumers that are drawn to e-books will likely appreciate the availability of a reader for the iPhone that gives them access to the largest e-book library available.


Van L. Baker
Research VP
20 years at Gartner
29 years IT industry

Van Baker is a vice president and research director for Gartner's Retail and Manufacturing Industry Advisory Services. He covers consumer behavior as it relates to electronic commerce and emerging Web 2.0 technologies in the retail industry. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Amazon’s Smart Move – Kindle for the iPhone

  1. Van – excellent analysis! I too believe this is a big win for Amazon because it offers another distribution channel for their Kindle e-books. I just downloaded my first one today (The New Rules of Marketing by David Meerman Scott). I didn’t have a Kindle, but I figured I would give the iPhone application a whirl. Apparently the books sync between the Kindle and the iPhone to include last page read, bookmarks, etc. Integration with the iPhone will definitely position the Kindle above all other e-book readers should I decide to buy one.

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