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Set the Kindle Free!

Some interesting rumors floating about regarding Amazon’s wildly popular Kindle, most notably that given its price reduction history, it will be free in November of 2011.  This is what Kevin Kelly is predicting: that Amazon will be soon handing out free Kindles, perhaps to Amazon Prime members.

In October 2009 John Walkenbach noticed that the price of the Kindle was falling at a consistent rate, lowering almost on a schedule. By June 2010, the rate was so unwavering that he could easily forecast the date at which the Kindle would be free: November 2011.

Since then I’ve mentioned this forecast to all kinds of folks. In August, 2010 I had the chance to point it out to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He merely smiled and said, “Oh, you noticed that!” And then smiled again.

Jason Kottke comments on this:

The Kindle has never been knock-it-out-of-the-park great…it looks like Amazon’s strategy is not to build a great e-reader but to build a pretty good free e-reader.

I don’t think that’s Amazon’s angle.

If Amazon is to eventually make the Kindle free, it’s not about how good it’s e-reader is.  It’s about having the market flooded with devices that drive book (and media) business through Amazon itself.  In that regard, the Kindle will become a virtual storefront for Amazon, just like iPods and iPhones and iPads are storefronts for iTunes.

Other e-readers are trying to direct traffic through the e-commerce pipes of their respective masters, so right now it’s all about dominating the market and marginalizing the competition.  Guess who’s got the UX chops and budget to do that?

You got it.

It’s all about the books and making it easy for customers to browse, research and buy books from Amazon.  Amazon already has the most simple and delightful e-commerce user experience in the world, so to tie that to a massively popular device like the Kindle?  Touchdown.

On a side note – and if you’re not doing this already – shelling out $79/year for Amazon Prime is the smartest thing you’ll do all year.  Every Christmas, my Prime membership pays for itself a few times over.

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