Kindle Fire, Musicians, Movies, and Change at the Speed of Sound: How Amazon is Transforming Itself Into a Marketplace for the Mind, with the Kindle as Its Primary Portal

February 6, 2012
By
Here’s a fun infographic from (of all places) Staples, via Nate at The Digital Reader

I took Betty and Danny out for dinner Friday evening before the three of us caught a couple of terrific live performances by Ernie Halter and Javier Colon at the Berklee Performance Center, and along the way we ran into a 20-something rocking her Kindle Fire at one of my favorite Boston bookstores, the Trident Bookseller Cafe. Conversation ensued.

Well, we didn’t actually “run into” her. She was sitting there minding her own business and reading on her Kindle Fire and after we finished a sumptuous meal (Trident is the rare bookstore-cafe combo that truly excels at both functions), I passed the time while Betty was in the loo by interrupting the poor woman’s reading and peppering her with questions about how she uses her Kindle Fire. I explained my interest to her in terms of my job here at KND, as if. She was co-operative, although I suspect she was relieved when I allowed her to go back to her reading.

What I learned:

  • The Fire is her first Kindle. (Which to me is important. There will be millions for whom the Fire will be their first Kindle, and for all those people they are a lot less likely to miss the lovely eInk display that I love so much because, er, they never had it. She raved about the way the Fire allowed her to change font sizes and color schemes while reading.)
  • She reads on the Fire. She really likes books, but not having to carry them is great.
  • She has also enjoyed watching movies, listening to music, and checking email and the web.

None of this, on an individual level, is earthshaking. In fact it is totally consistent with the answers that we are getting from hundreds of you who have been participating in the Winter 2012 Kindle Nation Daily Citizen Survey (Click here to participate, and after you participate you’ll find a link to the live results.)

But taken together, what jumps out from our survey results and other information such as that included in the nifty infographic (above right) is that the world of shared culture — books, movies, music, the web, our social networks and more — is changing at lightning speed. If that world was changing at 100 mph in the first year of the eInk Kindle back in 2008, the velocity of change has now surpassed the speed of sound, and those 82 million tablet users in 2015 may mean that we are ultimately on the way, figuratively speaking of course, to … what shall we say? The speed of light? The speed of thought? Whatever it’s going to be, it’s not your father’s dial-up.

What am I saying? Am I just stringing words together to get to the end of the paragraph? In 2008 it took only 30,000 copies sold to make our first Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle the absolute number one bestselling ebook in the world for the entire year, and neither authors nor publishers were particularly enthusiastic about the future of ebooks. Now there are a dozen or so authors who have sold over a million Kindle copies, and there are growing legions of authors who are making a very nice living with a publishing approach in which print publishing and all of the gatekeeping silliness that goes with it is, at most, an afterthought.

And of course it’s not just books, because a big part of what all that change is about is that, when you take price and functionality together, the Kindle Fire is the greatest content delivery system ever for the mind, and it has allowed Amazon to continue to transform itself into so much more than a bookstore. Amazon is becoming a marketplace for the mind, with the Kindle as its primary portal

While our survey shows that Kindle Fire owners spend more time reading than enjoying movies and music and apps and audiobooks on their Fire tablets, that’s partly a matter of how we invest our time generally and partly a natural consequence of the fact that we have spent the past four years here building a community of the greatest readers in the world. As more and more of our readers become Kindle Fire owners and more and more of you devote energy to seeking out the sweet spot between quality and price in the world of music, movies, apps, audiobooks, and more, it will be incumbent for us here at Kindle Nation Daily to find interesting, helpful, and non-intrusive ways to build a community that includes the greatest movie viewers in the world, the greatest music listeners, and so forth. Indeed, in the next few days we will get that party started at a new subdomain of our Kindle Nation Daily website, and if you would like an invitation to the party just drop an email to kindlenation+fire@gmail.com.

It won’t be all about us. It will be up the smart people in the worlds of movies and music and books and other arts and forms of expression and information-sharing to figure out how to maintain and enhance their relevance in a changing world.

We’ll continue to hear a certain amount of whining from some — including booksellers, publishers, authors, musicians, etc. — who are unwilling to invest the necessary energy to imagine and realize their roles in that changing world, as if the toothpaste of change can be forced back into the tube, to slow things down again velocity-wise.

But meanwhile there will be plenty who can make it work.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe

There will be booksellers like Bernie Flynn of Trident Booksellers whose passion for what they do will help them find ways to keep their stores thriving as competitors close their doors blaming the Kindle, the chains, Amazon’s used book business, or the latest bogey man du jour.

There will be venues like the Berklee Performance Center that continue to find the real world sweet spots where working indie musicians like Ernie Halter can connect with a loving, and growing, digital music audience that is more interested in music of distinction than the music of superstars.

And there will be artists like Halter, who make the kind of authentic investment in such connections that allows them to keep making a nice living pursuing their passions.

Which reminds me of a story Ernie Halter told onstage Friday night….

At some point a year or so ago, while on tour, he got a call that came … of course … from his mom. Ernie’s mom claimed that she had just seen something on the web about Justin Bieber covering Halter’s song “Come Home to Me.” In Hong Kong. As if you can ever prove what happens in Hong Kong.

“Sure, Mom.”

Ernie Halter with Selena Gomez and the Biebs

Ernie Halter with Selena Gomez and the Biebs

But it turned out…. Well, it turned out a few months later that Ernie had a gig at La Cave in Costa Mesa, CA., and the room was packed, and right there, at the best table in the club, well, there was nobody sitting there … until early in the show, a couple sat down: Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. Yes, Bieber had covered the song, and that night he joined Ernie on stage and they performed the song as a duet — here’s the Youtube video.

Sweet, but of course I had a question, and after Ernie’s set Friday night I had a nice conversation with him. After I told him that I thought he had a terrific stage presence, I told him I just had one question: “Did you get paid?”

“Well, not directly,” Ernie said. Which I think is exactly the right answer in today’s fast changing world, from somebody who showed me Friday evening that he understands what’s important — and what probably never changes — about connecting with audience, and with other artists.

 

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