Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Power of the Passionate Forgotten

Robert Scoble wrote about the power of the passionate in his blog (
Specifically he wrote “Amazon has launched a See a Kindle in Your City program that lets you find a Kindle user near you and arrange for the passionate to show the nonpassionate what it can do. If Kindle is going to sell 4.5 million units by the end of 2010, as Citi analyst Mark Mahaney predicts, Kindle's first fans will be the ones whose feedback makes subsequent versions better and persuades rail commuters, frequent fliers, and vacationers to be customers.”

I’m an early adopter. I got the Kindle almost a year and a half ago. My wife and I have used it a lot and everywhere. We even have our cases and school books on it. We’ve done the Kindle – college experiment that Amazon and our school is doing already a year ago and declared it a success. Moreover, we’ve been marketing it like crazy and infecting other users everywhere. Airports, gym, coffee shops. Many a times my wife has told me of and old lady asking her what it was and giving a marketing speech about the features and paper-like convenient screen. We would joke that Amazon should pay us for this. Who knows… maybe they will after they hire us as product managers.

The release of the Kindle DX two months after the release of the Kindle 2 has cause much remorse over the purchase of the Kindle 2 for a lot of users, who have asked Amazon for an upgrade.
One customer said: “They have been basically stonewalling all my attempts for the last few days to find a way to exchange the Kindle 2,” she says. “This is not right. It’s not the way early adopters should be punished.” (

In a letter to iPhone custoemrs Steve Jobs wrote:
“…even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these.”

Amazon has lowered the price of the Kindle from $399 (Kindle 1) to $299 (Kindle 2).

“Ultimately they are two different products though many people don’t really understand the difference” says another customer who has managed to use the company’s 30 day return policy and get his DX.

The DX and the Kindle 2 are different products, but how different is the Kindle 2 from the Kindle 1? Is it just a thinner package for the Kindle one, with a software upgrade that allows text to speech?

If Apple branded the reduced price iPhone as “iPhone 2“, maybe there would have been less angry letters from customers (iPhone 3g? 3gs?). Perhaps Amazon learned from Apple’s mistake and did just that?

As an early adopter, I understand that what you buy today will be cheaper tomorrow and I did not send Amazon any angry letters.

A few weeks ago, our Kindle stopped working. It’s actually working, but the screen has a frozen picture on it. I called Amazon asking for any repair service (since the warranty was only good for a year) and they offered their repair program: I return the device and get a refurbished for $180.

I was surprised considering you can get that on eBay for the same price.
I emailed them and mentioned that as an early adopter, although I did not ask for anything when they cut the price by $100, I am asking now, that they at least give me the Kindle 2 for the $180 I have to pay since there’s no repair service.

Unfortunately, their reply was not very helpful. They suggested I sell my (broken) Kindle and buy a new one.
Perhaps Amazon needs to learn another lesson from Apple…


MS said...

Great article, neat opinion piece on the early adopter view with a punch in the end.

As for Apple - it gave the refund-credits only after much hollering from a big section of the early adopter crowd. So Amazon hasn't got much to learn from it.

Network effects and critical mass are important - both for companies that introduce new products, and for early adopters that look for a fair deal.

MechaniGal said...

Oren, very nicely written and analyzed. I hope someone from Amazon reads this. Do you think that Amazon's attitude is a function of the monopoly the Kindle has over its market? If so, surely they must know better; history is replete with examples of where you go with that sort of line of thought.

Allen said...
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