To: Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com
From: Sven Larsen, CMO, Zemoga
Re: Give a Kid a Kindle
Jeff – first of all, congratulations on the success of the Kindle. It’s an amazing utilitarian device that puts you decisively in the hardware business. And it’s really helped kick the e-book business in to high gear. It looks like we’re well on the way to the media future Nicholas Negroponte speculated about in his 1995 classic BEING DIGITAL.
I know you’re familiar with BEING DIGITAL. Its whole “move bits not atoms” might be antithetical to what Amazon does but you can’t tell me that your moves into streaming video, music, cloud based storage and the whole Kindle program haven’t been informed by that kind of thinking. I’m don’t know for a fact that you and Mr. Negroponte have ever met but I’m sure there must have been some late night drinks at Davos, where the two of you speculated about the digital future.
Maybe when you two got together Nicholas might have mentioned another project that’s near and dear to his heart – the $100 computer. Nick first brought this up in the late ‘90s and it morphed in to the ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD PROGRAM, an admirable initiative that has had some limited success but also some problems. OLPC sells their computers to governments, relies on an open source operating system, the machines are powered by a hand crank, and the OLPC machines have had a lot of custom software written for them. Probably the biggest impediment to the program’s success is that Nick has never been able to get the cost of a machine down to that magic $100 mark.
But then I look at your crazy Kindle success. An easy, lightweight machine with a super long battery life (up to two months without wi fi use), that can hold thousands of books, PDF documents, newspapers and magazines. And that’s just the start. You put a dictionary in there! And the ability for the device to read the book out loud in English! You’re even working on creating a browser for the Kindle so it can become a web surfing device. With 1.8 million out of copyright books available (including many of the world’s great works of literature – Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dickens, Tolstoy, the list goes on and on) giving a single Kindle to an underprivileged child either in the US or the developing world is like giving away a library. What an impact your device can make for education around the world!
And then I look at that new price point you’re advertising. You know the one where if I agree to see ads I can purchase a Kindle for $114. We’re getting awfully close to the $100 computer there, aren’t we?
But I know you can do better. That $114 is your retail price. You’re probably not making a crazy margin on the Kindle because you know you’re going to make your money on the e-books and other content people buy to consume on it. But I’m sure you can do a little better on the price. Can you get it down to that $100 sweet spot? Come on. Share your employee discount!
Actually, if what I assumed in the previous paragraph was true maybe we can come up with an even better deal. OLPC tried a “Get One, Give One” program that was mildly successful (They moved about 100,000 units. Nothing to sneeze at.) but once again there were a couple of barriers to purchase. To participate users had to donate close to $400. And while the OLPC machines are great for kids who would have no other access to a computer, they’re not very useful for the average American consumer. But you’ve got the best-selling e-reader in the world. A device everyone wants. And you’ve got a vested interest in getting Kindles in to the hands of as many people as possible.
So how about this? I already own a Kindle. But I’ll buy another one for a $100 (get advertisers and book publishers to help you get that price down) if you promise to give one to an underprivileged kid in inner city America. And when you’ve given one to every kid who needs it in America, start giving them out in other countries too. Don’t wait for governments to buy them or get in to other people’s agendas about what content should be on them. Just give them away. And create a whole new generation of e-book consumers and Amazon loyalists while you’re at it.
There’s no doubt that kids who learn to love reading at an early age will become e-book consumers as adults. And right now you own the e-book market. Here’s your chance to not only change the shape of digital publishing but also change the world (someone’s got to do it now that Jobs is retiring!).
Go for it Jeff! Give a kid a Kindle!
Your loyal reader,
PS: Anyone else want to buy a $100 computer?