A real page-turner

As the iPad continues to capture the imagination and disposable income of the masses, its begs the question, how does Amazon respond to iBooks and the iPad bookstore.

Amazon really had no choice but to ride the bear and include a Kindle app on the iPhone/iPad. The Kindle app will allow you access to the books you’ve purchased within the Kindle store, but does not allow access to any subscriptions you may have such as New York Times or Fortune Magazine.

Obviously Amazon is keeping close tabs on the iPad and what Apple’s grand plan is for the iBook integration within the tablet device. Despite having a very large chunk of the ebook reader market, the iPad will most certainly cut into that dominance and most likely take the lead in ebook sales and units sold.

Amazon is currently plotting their next steps with the Kindle as both device and service. How they proceed in the next few weeks and months could very well determine the long term sustainability of the Kindle in the marketplace and, more importantly, in the mindshare of the users.

I firmly believe that Amazon’s strategy to counter the iPad has to be a combination of two things. Focus on innovation, and concentrate on the hardcore reader. The Kindle’s eInk is a wonderful technology, and quite frankly, much easier on the eyes than the iPad’s backlit display. Amazon wanted eInk to be as close to the experience of reading actual paper as they could make it, and they have done a tremendous job. It’s easy to read, crisp and smooth. It mimic paper better than any other technology I’ve seen. What Amazon needs to do to stay competitive is to invest as much as possible in the eInk technology and make it vastly superior. It needs to stay on the bleeding edge of innovation within the eInk model and offer readers a substantially better reading experience than what’s available on the iPad. Since Apple considers iBooks a complementary component of the iPad, they will never center the device around the ebook reading experience. They will simply try to make it as good as possible without sacrificing the other key selling points of the device. This is where Amazon could make inroads. If Amazon concentrates its efforts on making the Kindle the “goto” device for serious readers, they could throw all their intelligence and creativity into making it the most compelling ebook reading experience available. The iPad would be the multimedia consumption device that also lets you read ebooks, where the Kindle could be the most robust and pleasurable reading experience available. It will take innovation to make eInk more responsive (a major complaint), full color and even more paper-like in appearance. They will also need to lock up some exclusive deals with publishers to keep certain content “Kindle only” and give users a reason to choose the device over the iPad.

The other area that Amazon needs to focus on is the hardcore reader. This is the person who buys a device solely for the purpose of reading books. Presently, there are a whole lot of people who would have possibly bought a Kindle to read eBooks, but are more intrigued with the idea of the added functionality offered by the iPad. Amazon needs to forget that group.

They need to concentrate their efforts on the serious reader who wants the best book reading experience on a digital device. Yes, it’s more of a niche market than they are currently going after, but long term, it might be the best option for their survival in this market.

They need to explore this group intently and focus their efforts on what the serious reader wants and expects from their device. They need to position themselves as the reading experience that the iPad can’t match. The “ultimate” ebook reader. They need to position themselves as the samurai sword of ebook readers while portraying the iPad as the Swiss Army Knife. It does a bunch of useful things, but if you want a truly compelling ebook experience, the Kindle is the only option.

An interesting battle is certainly on the horizon. If Amazon plays their cards right, they should certainly be able to sustain a good share of the market and provide a good and possibly superior alternative to the iPad for ebook readers everywhere.