The Kindle Fire is a beautiful device (and by that I mean it looks pretty nice from a distance). What’s more, it’s at the right price and has a library of content to beat the best on offer. Yet I find it worrying, exceptionally worrying.
Worrying because it marks a shift away from a singular focus on digital books and towards other media forms. Digital books (and their publishers, traditional and self) have benefitted from Amazon’s desire to move their consumers towards digital consumption and purchasing. Benefitted enormously.
Amazon’s strategy though, as the launch of Fire makes clear, is about ALL media forms not just books. As the company builds digital sales of those media (a MUCH bigger market than books), digital books will become less important overall. At some point it may just be the case that they will cease development of a dedicated ereader, just as Apple is close to ceasing the development of a dedicated music player (or at least has relegated the music only devices to the bottom rung of its offering).
More importantly, Amazon is popularising mobile, digital media consumption and at relatively cheap prices. This long-term strategy is all the time building the competition plain text ebooks face.
There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.
The possibility then that the Kindle Fire presents is one where the dedicated device that has done so much to build the digital book market is, however distantly, headed for a quiet retirement and the publishers who think they have it all so sorted now are going to faced a changed game yet again.
But maybe these are just wasted fears! I certainly hope so.
* I’m a pessimist on this score and think that possible is a definite.
I was on Nadine O’Regan’s The Kiosk show last Saturday discussing the impact of the economic crisis on the Arts. Critic and journalist Sara Keating was in studio with me and Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact (they of Hard Working Class Heroes) was on the line (the snow caused some travel trouble) and we had a lively discussion about whether or not the Arts had felt the positive impact of the Celtic Tiger or whether artists had largely been left behind.
On balance I was with Sara in much of what she said about the growth of Arts administration versus the funding for artists themselves and I think that comes through in my little rant about focusing funds on bursaries and direct funding to artists as the develop their skills.
However, I think myself and Angela were on the same page over the reality that most artists, writers, musicians, actors or playwrights make very little money, in good times or bad so the recession will hardly impact them. It’s one of the reasons why a reduction in the artists exemption doesn’t bother me too much.
It was a good segment and I think I gave a decent account of myself. If you are interested in Self Publishing and will be in Ireland on 16th October the conference is great value, features industry experts and will really bring to life the issues involved.
There’s also a session on Digital Publishing that even publishers will find useful if they haven’t yet made a move into that space yet.
Interesting effort here by RTÉ who seem to be getting the hang of cross media productions following the success of their Judging Dev and Our War enterprises: Look Of The Irish
The Book Oven opens for business finally and impressively with the first in a new set of tools to make publishing easier and funn-er! Read the post about it here and sign up for their Bite Sized Edits program here.