Why the Kindle Will Fail with Business Book Readers

As I reviewed the specs of the Kindle (Amazon’s new ebook reader), I’ve come away wondering who the heck this product would be valuable for. Frankly, I can’t figure out who the target market for it is, which leads me to believe that the Kindle will fail. I’ve tried to narrow down why I think it will fail to once sentence:

It solves problems that don’t really exist.

Admittedly, this list is based around how business people consume books. Things may be quite different for Harlequin fans, students, or retirees. If the market for this is something other than techie business people, let me know.

Let’s go through a few of the specs to illustrate this point:

1. Electronic Paper: The Kindle’s screen uses e-ink technology that’s designed to be easier on your eyes than a typical computer (or PDA) screen. Amazon has to convince people who spends hours every day staring at their computers, iPhones or Treos that they’re better off carrying a third device to consume the same content.

2. Size: It’s slightly smaller than a paperback book, so it does save a bit of room, but who can honestly say that they don’t have room for a paperback but would have room for a Kindle in their briefcase? I imagine the counter to that is, Yeah, but I can carry MANY books in my Kindle.” to which I’d response, “have you ever honestly had to leave paper books at home due to space or weight concerns?”

3. Wireless book buying: I’m sure people will use this functionality, but it’s only a slight step above walking two gates down the concourse to pick up the same book. Did you save time or energy here? How long would it be before before you save money? Don’t forget to use always-discounted hardcover prices when running your calculations.

And here’s what you give up in exchange for those questionably beneficial features:

1. Social interactions: Say goodbye to conversations being struck up based on the book cover a fellow traveler noticed you holding.

2. Speaking Props: Ever held a book up on stage when giving a presentation?

3. Bookshelf Conversations: Ever had a great conversation with someone in your home or theirs based on a book on a shelf?

4. Sharing: Have you ever given someone a book to read after you were done with it? Have one given to you? Perhaps with markups of things you found particularly interesting?

When I weight the Kindle’s questionable benefits against the trade-offs, I have a hard time seeing how this will take off with business people. Why give up the social interactions and conversations that revolve around physical books for the questionable benefits of a book reading device?

Last night I set an over/under on Twitter of March 8, 2008 for the Kindle to appear on Woot.com. What will an underwhelming holiday season for the latest eBook attempt have on that prediction?

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