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April 11, 2011

New ad-supported Kindle: lame name, but good idea

kindle special offers

Amazon today announced a new Kindle version -- one that will save you a few bucks if you don't mind being sharing screens of Jane Austen with ads and sponsored screensavers. The Kindle with Special Offers costs $114, compared to the regular price of $139 Kindle, or $189 for 3G.

My take? First, the name is lame. Sounds like the marketing department wanted something so politically correct that it couldn't be accused of disguising the new version's intent: to generate revenue for Amazon and for advertisers. But KwSO? Ugh.

And as for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' statement: “We’re working hard to make sure that anyone who wants a Kindle can afford one.” Hey, we're all adults here. You can just say that you're trying to find new revenue streams for the Kindle. After all, the New York Times, and every newspaper in the world, is also trying to find new ways to monetize digital content.

Still, I bet plenty of folks will buy the ad-supported Kindle, and be willing endure ads such as those offered as samples: $10 for a $20 Amazon gift card, or $6 for 6 audible books. Companies such as Groupon have made digital deals seem chic, a sort of insider's club. And everyone's used to seeing ads plastered all over websites. So what's wrong with a few more? (Actually, I'm amazed publishers haven't tried this with print books, but I don't want to give them ideas.)

The big battle will be for Amazon to keep the ads and other discreet and tasteful. Not as easy as it sounds, once big money is involved.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:06 PM | | Comments (5)


Who would put up with years of advertisements in order to save $25 off a $139 product? That's ridiculous. I'm poor and I wouldn't even do that, especially for a product that's used for reading, a medium that traditionally has been ad-free. Crass commercialism is encroaching on more and more of our lives. Now we can't even curl up with a good book without seeing something that tells us our future happiness depends on our ability to accumulate money and spend it on whatever worthless widget someone is trying to sell us?

The ad-free Kindle is a good product. Offering an advertisement-infected version of it just dilutes their brand and gives readers negative associations, especially at this price point.

If you're going to put out a product that tries to sell me more products, at least give it to people at a deep deep discount. A $30 Kindle that has advertisements, well, that might be something to consider. A marginal discount on a still expensive product? Forget it.

I just can't believe that name.

Amazon missed the boat on this. This could have been a wonderful, magical (to steal from Apple) product. However, they are basically saying that looking at ads over the life of a device is only worth $25. At $99 you are reaching impulse buy territory. At $50 you are at "no brainer" territory. at $114 this is just the first salvo in the subsidized electronics price wars

I agree with the above comments.

The customer discussion on this is interesting. See the Amazon forum:

Some who felt that they wouldn't want the "Kindle with Ads" for themselves also felt that it DID put the Kindle in a price range at which they might be willing to give it as a gift to a friend or relative. Go figure! Pass the hot potato on to the next sucker. lol

Nook beats Kindle on all points. As an owner of a Nook color, I find all this very funny. Nook has a price point of 139, with no ads and a way better unit. So to say the adds are a way to make it cheaper for the average guy is a lie. The e-reader wars will at the very least give us cheaper better e-readers, and that's probably the best way to get more people into e-reading. I enjoy my Nook color, but if Amazon built a better unit for cheaper of comparable price I'd buy it, but asking the public to buy mediocre goods when they can pay a little more for better bells and whistles, it's a no brainier.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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