The current buzz is about the coming of the free Kindle.
Well, don't get too excited yet.This isn't new speculation. It just seems to be gaining momentum because some bloggers have recently discovered the idea.
Just so you know, though, I think it's a great idea and a real possibility. I'm just finishing up a book about Jeff Bezos and Amazon, and this seems like just the kind of bold move he might make. He's not afraid to take chances.
But the current web of speculation:
I write about it today because Myles Tanzer, a blogger at the Village Voice, wrote about it today because Amy Gahran, a blogger at CNN.com, wrote about it yesterday because blogger Kevin Kelly wrote about it in February because Michael Arrington wrote about it a year ago and because blogger John Walkenbach wrote about it in 2009.
Hasn't happened yet. But that doesn't mean it won't.
The buzz started when Walkenbach graphed the declining price of the Kindle, and noticed it was pretty much on a straight-line decline. Straight lines eventually hit the X-axis, which means the price hits zero.
So the price should hit zero in about three months.
Kevin Kelly adjusted the graph with a new data point.
So the price should hit zero in about eight months.
Oops. Not quite a straight line. It seems that John and Kevin neglected to put in all the data points. Like the original price in 2007. Plus, the last data point wasn't available yet. I added a best-fit straight line (linear regression) to my data.
So the price should hit zero in about 15 months. Wanna bet?
I should note the other info from the previous bloggers that led them to believe this would happen.
In August 2010, Kevin Kelly asked Bezos about those unusually straight trendlines. Bezos smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that.” And then smiled again. Yeah, well, Bezos might say that just to yank his chain.
Michael Arrington quoted “a reliable source” that says Bezos wants to give a free Kindle to every Amazon Prime subscriber (Amazon customers who pay $79 a year to get unlimited free two-day shipping and one-day shipping for $3.99 per item.) Although, as a former real journalist, I have to say that no real journalist would report something like this with only one anonymous source.
Amy Gahran pointed out that the economics of e-book sales might justify a free Kindle. Market researcher Forrester estimates that people bought $1 billion worth of e-books in 2010, and that by 2015, it will grow to $3 billion annually. I bet it'll hit $3 billion by June 2012. Hey, I can guess as well as the next market researcher.
For now, the Kindle still leads the market for e-book readers at its current price. Research company ChangeWave estimates that the Kindle had the largest share of the market in early 2011, at 47 percent. Apple's iPad (which does much more than just read books and is more expensive) had a 32 percent share. The Sony Reader and the Barnes & Noble Nook were laggards, with just five percent and four percent of the market, respectively. However, Amazon had the market almost to itself until the iPad was intoduced, so it looks like it could use more price cuts.
E-books are clearly a huge part of Amazon's future. The question is whether the Kindle itself will be a part of that future. After all, Amazon also provides free applications that allow people to turn their computers and cell phones into e-readers in order to buy and download e-books from Amazon.
If Bezos wants to keep his share of the e-book market, maybe discounting the Kindle to $0 makes more sense than trying to discount the e-books themselves. He's been fighting the publishers to cut the prices, and losing. It's a delicate balance.
But I'm sure Bezos has a flow chart to figure out if it could work.
If it does, go for June 2012. At least I used real data.