Kindle marketing attack against iPad is misguided

Amazon has a Kindle ad campaign targeting the iPad, but the Apple tablet is a superior reading platform in many cases

Amazon is responsible for the mainstream acceptance of the e-reader thanks to the Kindle, and it has a virtually insurmountable dominance of the market. Yet, Amazon seems to have some sort of Napoleon complex about the Apple iPad, as evidenced by its new marketing campaign.

The new Kindle TV ads poke fun at the iPad for the glare that occurs when trying to use the tablet as an e-reader outdoors in daylight conditions. The backlit LCD display is a handicap when trying to view the display in direct sunlight -- especially compared with the E-Ink display of the Amazon Kindle. Touché.

However, the ad is slightly misleading in that the iPad is a better reading platform in a variety of scenarios where the Kindle is weak, and is misguided in that the iPad is not really Kindle's competition. While Apple is focusing on competing tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon should be focused on its challengers--the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader being the primary competition.

I have a Kindle. My wife has the latest Wi-Fi Kindle. It is a great device, and the new $US139 price point will probably enable Amazon to break sales records and distance the platform from competing e-readers this holiday season. It is, in fact, a far better reading experience than the iPad in bright lighting conditions such as direct sunlight.

The iPad is superior in other scenarios, though. For example, I can read on my iPad at night while in bed without having to have the lights on thanks to the backlit display. In marginal lighting conditions--such as normal indoor lighting or lighting on commercial airplanes -- the higher resolution of the iPad offers a better reading experience. When reading while on the treadmill, I find it much easier to turn pages by swiping the screen than trying to push the "Next Page" button on a Kindle. There are also advantages to the Web-surfing capabilities of the iPad when it comes to clicking on footnotes and other reference links.

The direct comparisons are irrelevant, though, because the Kindle and the iPad are not competition for each other. There are few customers in the market for an e-reader who will look beyond the Kindle, Nook, and Reader -- all available for less than $US200 -- and opt for the iPad instead. Similarly, users in the market for a tablet will not consider a standalone e-reader as a suitable alternative.

In fact, the iPad is a partner to the Amazon Kindle. The real value of the Kindle to Amazon is not the device itself, but the Kindle-format books users buy to read on it. Because the iPad (and virtually every other platform) has a Kindle app, many of the iPad owners who choose to use the tablet as an e-reader will still benefit Amazon's bottom line.

The Kindle ad campaign is catchy in a way reminiscent of the Apple "I'm a Mac" campaign, but it is unnecessary and misguided. Amazon should stop Quixotically tilting at Apple windmills, and focus on its actual e-reader competitors. Better yet, Amazon should embrace the iPad and market the benefits of buying Kindle-format books that can be synced across and read from virtually any device.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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