5 Ways the Kindle Can Fight the iPad

Now that Apple has unveiled its iPad, plenty of people seem ready to buy the Kindle a coffin and tell the band to start playing the Funeral March. Heck, after seeing Apple’s sleek touch tablet, even Om came to the conclusion that it would kill the Kindle.

One of the few tech bloggers defending the Amazon e-reader (apart from those who write for Kindle-related web sites, of course) is Brad Stone at the New York Times, who has a list of “Three Reasons Why the iPad WON’T Kill the Amazon Kindle.” Undeterred by his colleague’s arguments, NYT tech blogger Nick Bilton followed up with a response detailing three reasons why the iPad will kill the Kindle. (Ben Elowitz of WetPaint, meanwhile, has come up with 10 reasons.)

It’s fun to talk about how new products will kill other products (which rarely happens, of course), but a more interesting discussion would be about how Amazon could fight back against the iPad. One way it can do that is by strengthening its relationship with authors and publishers, which it has already tried to do by raising its royalty rates substantially (in return for lower book prices, which it no doubt hopes will increase demand). Publishers may be tempted by a relationship with Apple as well, but Amazon has been around longer and has some solid deals on which it can build. Plus it’s just focused on books, whereas Apple’s attention extends to a host of other media, including music, print, movies, etc.

Here are four other ways I think Amazon could fight back:

  • Open Up: One surprising announcement from Apple was that it will support the epub format, the same open-source standard that Google uses for Google Books. Amazon still uses its own proprietary format, which is likely to be a disincentive for some users, particularly if they also want an iPad. Amazon should open up or at least make translation easy. Building an app ecosystem is a good idea, too.
  • Brighten Up: One most obvious difference between the two devices is that the iPad sports bright color, while the Kindle is dim and gray. Colorlessness may be easier on the eyes (although it sucks if you want to read in bed without the light on) but it detracts from any book that has pictures, theoretically a large market. Amazon needs to upgrade the screen, possibly by using the PixelQi screen.
  • Get Social: As Nick Bilton mentions in his post, one of the big drawbacks of the Kindle is that it’s a single-use device. That might impress purists, who don’t want to be distracted while they read a book, but it makes the Kindle fundamentally unsocial. Even smart readers like to share links, send snippets to friends, maybe write a blog post or Twitter message about a great book. Why make them pick up another device?
  • Get Cheaper: One of the things that iPad fans continue to mention is that the Kindle DX is only $10 more expensive than the iPad (although that compares it to the cheapest one without 3G wireless), but has none of the added features such as games, apps, movies, etc. Amazon needs to defuse this criticism by dropping the price of the KindleDX (which will likely make it even more appealing to buyers who don’t want all the bells and whistles of the iPad). Why not make the KindleDX $289 instead of $489?

Jeff Bezos didn’t get to be where he is by backing down from a challenge, so I imagine he’s looking forward to doing battle with Apple on the e-reader front (Om collected some entrepreneurship tips from Bezos in this post, and also did an interview with him after he spoke at the D6 conference). If you have any thoughts as to how Amazon could compete effectively with the iPad, feel free to share them in the comments.

Related posts from GigaOm Pro (subscription required): The Evolution of the E-Book Market and
Irrational Exuberance Over E-Books.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user aaronisnotcool

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