I love it: now when I buy a Kindle book from Amazon.com, I can have it on my iPhone, my iPad, my Mac laptop, my Windows laptop, my Mac Desktop, or my Windows desktop.
This makes me feel like I really own the book. If I have a spare 10 minutes, just about wherever I am, I can read the book. It’s great usability. Great convenience.
And I love the business strategy implications. By making Kindle books available on every possible hardware device, Amazon chooses not to reserve them for people who buy the Kindle hardware. Is this a sacrifice? Helping competitors? Does the iPad make the Kindle less desireable? Yes? Does having Kindle books available on the iPad mean Amazon.com will sell more Kindle books? Yes.
On the long term, Amazon wins because it focuses on what it does really well. Kindle books become the standard. It’s called focus. And strategy is focus.
In the retail business you have some companies who live on copying packaging. They put imitation products inside imitation packages to fool people, so they get the wrong thing. I hate that. How do they live with themselves?
But it’s not illegal.
And it’s also the history of innovation. From VisiCalc to SuperCalc to Lotus 1-2-3 to Quattro Pro to Microsoft Excel, copying makes things better. From CP/M to DOS to Windows, copying makes things better. The original Macintosh operating system borrowed from an earlier mouse and window system developed by Xerox. The iPod was not the first MP3 player, nor is the iPad the first tablet computer. These were not new ideas, but they were improvements.
And all the cool new phones now are copying the iPhone.
Do we hate the people who copy ideas? We all do it. Kids learn their moves in sports by copying other kids. We learn to write better by copying writing we like. We learn to get along with people by copying people.
The entire history of human creativity is built on copying. What, if not copying, is the cause of those identifiable periods in music and art and writing, like the Baroque or Renaissance? What except copying makes Gothic cathedrals? Try to name a good movie that didn’t borrow from some earlier movie. Even Shakespeare was often redoing older classical themes.
And yet, when I look at all the stuff in the market that’s copying something else, it makes me mad. Do your own thing. Be original. Make it better. Don’t just copy my thing. Even if it’s barely legal, it’s still sleazy.
A lot of great art starts with copying, borrowing themes, ideas, and so on. But business, starting with one idea and adding to it, making it better, creating new things based on old things, that’s progress. Business copying, looking like somebody else just to steal some respect, is just bad business.
I’m glad cool new innovations based on existing stuff succeed. I hope all sleazy business copies fail.
(Images: galtiero boffi, Konstantin L/Shutterstock)
(Important: late-breaking news. Since this was posted earlier today, Amazon has reversed its position on this. Macmillan is back, but with its own pricing on the Kindle. This is important. Here’s a link.)
eBook wars, you say? On one hand, it’s about time. On the other, wow, this is strategy in action. And interesting spectacle too. That’s why in athletics the championship games are more interesting: two big winners squaring off.
Mashable led over the weekend with Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Ebook War Has Already Begun, a post by Ben Parr, whose work I like a lot. Posted Saturday, it’s about Amazon and Macmillan. It’s hard to tell who’s making the move on whom here, but the announcement was that Amazon.com was removing Macmillan books from its web store:
According to the New York Times, the reason the books were pulled was the iPad. Macmillan told Amazon that it wanted to change its pricing and compensation agreement, upping the price of some books from $9.99 to $15 and splitting sales 70/30, the same model Apple uses for the iPhone app store and its upcoming iBooks store. Amazon’s apparent response was to flex its muscle and pull countless Macmillan books off the virtual shelves.
Last Friday I posted how the competition is win-win for all sides. We get a choice: Kindle books, just text, for one price, or Apple iBook books (pizazz) for a higher price. You get to decide. Ah, the magic of commerce.
But with Amazon.com and Macmillan biting off each other’s noses, it’s not so clear. Ben Parr wrote:
That’s why Amazon decided to use its biggest weapon, Amazon.com itself, against Macmillan to send a message to every publisher: If you don’t play by its rules, then you can’t be in its store. While a publisher can likely survive without the Kindle, the same cannot be said for Amazon.com. Publishers simply cannot afford to leave the world’s largest online retailer.
Who wins? In this case, the losers are Amazon.com and Macmillan, and all Macmillan authors, and anybody who wants to buy their books. Amazon? Don’t we all go there because we can find all the books imaginable there? And now we don’t? Although you can still buy Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded on Amazon.com, you can’t do it directly. They list it as available from third-party sellers, even though it’s one of the most important books of the last year. And here’s some irony: Priceless, William Poundstone’s analysis of free and fair value and all, is another victim.
Remember the old days, when things like this were about giving customers what they want?