Long rumoured, talked about on discussion forums from all around the world, and now finally announced. The Kindle Fire, Amazon's first entry into the tablet market, has been met with excitement and contemplation as journalists scrabble to predict the impact of the cut-price tablet on Apple's dominance of this particular tech niche.
This is not a tech blog though, and I'm more interested in how the new device might or might not affect the fortunes of indie authors.
The device has the potential, and I use that word specifically, to significantly broaden the audience for digital book releases, including those by independent authors. Why potentially? Why not certainly? Simply put, the Kindle Fire is not specifically an eReader device.
Yes, it is certainly a child of the eReader, and a device that would likely never have seen release had Amazon's experiments with the Kindle not been so successful. However, one quick scan over the current advertising for the product reveals that Amazon are not pushing this as an eReader that does more, this is an iPad competitor that happens to do digital books.
Between Amazon's app store, video content and the built-in browser, digital books appear to be a secondary feature for the tablet despite it bearing the Kindle name. At a $199 price point, and with the world's biggest internet retailer behind it, the Fire is destined to succeed and pose a genuine threat to the more expensive, frequently unavailable iPad. However, it will do so by offering a similar feature set, not by being a colour eReader.
In other words, purchasers are coming for the Angry Birds and video rentals. If indie authors are lucky, these people might stay for the digital books. In my opinion, the greatest benefit in the Fire for us self-publishers is that those who might have formerly been on the fence about ditching dead tree books, may have their final shred of resistance broken down by the bright pictures and iPad-on-a-budget features.
The one thing that the Amazon Kindle can't do though is turn non-readers into bookworms. The Kindle Fire may well outsell its book-focused older brother, but those newly ensnared by Amazon's web of content will not immediately be interested in what's been uploaded to Kindle Direct Publishing that week. Indie authors should not assume that any excess sales of the Kindle Fire over ordinary Kindle devices mean that they have a significantly wider set of people who might buy their books, but instead just a portion of that growth.
On the other hand, the press attached to the tablet might drive Kindle device sales as a whole, at which point the benefits of the iPad competitor are more widespread for independent publishing. It's difficult to decide at this point, but the majority of evidence points towards the Kindle Fire being more about Amazon providing more of our streaming content as a whole in a market continually less obsessed with physical media, and less about selling even more digital books.
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