Willing to pay for sync?

Matt Assay had an interesting post up on the Register today about Amazon’s kindle store outselling Apple’s ibooks. His thesis is that this is driven by the fact that Amazon has a much larger range of titles and that kindle will run and sync across lots of platforms.

It’s sometimes said that people won’t pay for sync, and that they don’t value choice. Kindle’s ebook sales compared to Apple’s iBook sales suggests otherwise. Syncing across different devices matters. Choice matters. The proof is in the sales figures.

Even given the weasel words and spin that are customarily embodied by corporate sales figures, I’m willing to believe that Amazon are selling a lot of more ebooks than apple. However I’m not entirely convinced that sync is the reason for that. Mr Assay’s assertion about the reasons for this difference in sales really amounts to a hypothesis. I am a happy Kindle user, and while I only represent a sample size of one, let’s see if my experience supports this hypothesis.

I finally jumped aboard the Kindle store when Amazon released the Kindle App for Android. I’d been waiting for the paperback release of The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross (I am a huge Stross fan). The reason I don’t buy hardbacks is because I just don’t have that much space to dedicate to one book in my tiny flat. Much as I’d like my own Library it’s not going to happen in this lifetime. So the availability of kindle on a device I already owned together with a kindle version of a book I really wanted to read sold me on the idea. At this point I figured the worst that could happen is I’d waste a few dollars if the reading experience wasn’t that great.

Reading on the small screen of my HTC Hero was remarkably easy; I devoured the book in a couple of sittings. Over the next few months I bought more books and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to buy yet another bookcase. I finally gave in and bought a Kindle this year so that I could take more books on holiday with me than I normally do, since the battery on the Kindle would last all week whereas my phone would barely last a day.

I almost never read the same book on both devices. The sync functionality goes unused. So let’s see how Mr Assay’s hypothesis does against my experience.

1) Kindle ebooks can be read on a lot of different platforms.

Check. It was Kindle’s availability on Android that first got me hooked. At this point I wasn’t ready to invest in a hardware Kindle and I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy an iPad just to read books on. If I’d been an iphone user maybe the story would have been different.

2) Range of available titles.

Check. A specific book I really wanted was available, the fact that they had that title it was pushed me past my reluctance to spend money.

3) Synch between different devices.

Nope. I really don’t use it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it’s there, but it played no part in my decision to buy or continue to buy Kindle ebooks.

There is also another aspect of the Kindle store that wasn’t mentioned that I think is very important. Amazon believe in making it as easy as possible for you to give them money. UK credit cards have always worked in the amazon.com store, which is where I first bought Kindle ebooks from. When the UK store became supported in the Android Kindle app Amazon made it very easy to transfer your account from the US store to the UK store. This has never caused a problem and all the books I bought from the US Kindle store still work just fine. My Kindle has never warned me about the maximum number of Kindles I can connect to my Kindle account before I become de-authorised.

I always get that feeling that Amazon is more interested in selling you stuff. Whereas Apple is interested in selling you things; the stuff is just there to entice you to buy the things that the stuff runs on.