When Amazon.com developed the Kindle, they showed the world how adaptable and innovative they could be. By embracing both the internet and new technology, Amazon.com have become worldwide leaders in online trading. The Kindle, an e-book reader now in its fourth generation, is a product that strengthens the Amazon.com business through accessibility, content and price. The Kindle has proven to be a huge success and is a perfect example of how a traditional business, by moving out of their comfort zone, can achieve a much greater success. This section will detail the reasons for the development of the Kindle and what makes it the leading e-book reader in the current market today.
Why the Kindle?
The Kindle acts as a tool that works for Amazon.com, channeling its products in order to give the customer an even better experience by adding mobility, compression, faster access and more competitive prices. The Kindle's development was actually driven by competition. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com saw a threat in 2004 with the creation of Sony’s Librie, ‘a prototype e-reader reading like ink on paper, not like electronic dots on a screen’ (Slywotzky, 2011). Bezos recognised the threat and acted quickly by identifying what Amazon could do differently, and as Kelly explains on the Network Economy, 'wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown' (Kelly, 1997, para. 8).
Bezos saw that the Librie only offered a limited amount of accessible books, so when the Kindle was released he made sure it offered wireless internet connection and could not be matched on content, 'on launch day, Amazon.com had 88,000 e-books available for download - more than four times the number Sony offered' (Slywotzky, 2011, para. 6). They could have found themselves in real trouble if Sony had displayed more marketing sense. In this case it was the smart business sense of CEO Jeff Bezos that saved the possible downfall of Amazon.com.
Moving away from tradition
When the Kindle was released Amazon.com had to change their way of doing business. They had to move away from the traditional exchange of goods and services where one buys and then owns the product. As we are now finding ourselves in the ‘age of access’ where, as Rifkin explained 'markets are making way for networks, and ownership is steadily being replaced by access' (Rifkin, 2001) the Kindle allows the user to download an electronic form of a book, but only under the Digital Rights Management agreement. DRM ‘restricts the free use and transfer of digital content’ (Wisegeek, n.d.) so Kindle owners don’t completely ‘own’ the books they purchase but they have the access to read them whenever they want. Walshe explains, 'You're not buying a book; you're buying access to a book. No, it's not like borrowing a book from a library, because there is no public investment' (Walshe, 2009, para. 6). The trade-off for this ‘lock on its library’ type system (Walshe, 2009, para. 9) is cheaper prices and fast, global access.
What makes the Kindle successful
As the internet allows people to access information on a global scale, information has become a valued part of the economy. Therefore ‘content is king’ when it comes to the world-wide-web, and it is for this reason that the Kindle has been such a success. Content has always been a strong point of Amazon.com by allowing customers to write reviews and share opinions on products, while also being given personalised recommendations. Even though the Amazon.com product review system has been described as 'a weak network effect' (Leibowitz, 2002) because of its ability to just be ‘used’ as a reference without actually buying a product, Amazon.com has also been described as 'a complete solution for the user' (Slywotzky, 2011, para. 8). By developing the Kindle, Amazon demonstrated the type of innovation which has led to it’s exploding growth and success. In July 2009, 'the sales of Kindle books had for the first time, outnumbered sales of hardcover books' (Stone, 2008).
In a nutshell
It is this type of innovation that has been described as 'the principal driver of growth in the Knowledge Economy' (Flew, 2008). When considering this, Amazon.com have demonstrated how they are able to evolve with the changing economy that is now strongly embracing intangible, rather than tangible goods. As the Kindle has now become their most successful product, claiming as of December 2011, 'it’s the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com for 11 straight weeks, we’ve already sold millions of units, and we’re building millions more to meet the high demand' (Kindle Fire is, 2011, para. 1), it is easy to see why Amazon.com has become the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon saw an opportunity with the Kindle, acted quickly to develop something innovative by using their knowledge and then brought it to life with new technology. Amazon have repeatedly proven that they make the most out of what is available and haven’t been afraid to step out of their comfort zone. The end result has been loyal, happy, returning customers leading all the way to their immense success.