The Kindle doesn’t need apps

I came across a post over on BNet this morning in which the author argues that Amazon need to add apps to the  Kindle soon or it will outpaced by smartphones, tablets, and other platforms.

My initial reaction to that post, while entertaining, was unprintable. Instead I’m going to take this post seriously and explain why I think he’s wrong. Here’s the intro to the article:

To the degree that apps have become the measure of a mobile device’s popularity and promise, the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle is in trouble. The platform has seen only a trickle of new apps and that doesn’t seem to be changing.If Amazon wants the Kindle to break out of its box and ultimately compete with the Apple (AAPL) iPad and other tablets, it will have to address the lack of third party applications. And yet, this will be tougher than simply recruiting development partners. Amazon has locked itself into a box, and getting out of it will be a tough proposition.

Before I dismember him, I want to point out that he did make 1 valid point; Amazon don’t have a visible app category in the Kindle Store. Admittedly, there isn’t much to put in the category yet, but it still needs to be listed.

Where to begin?

First, people who want smartphones get smartphones. Ditto for tablets. Poeple who get a Kindle like to read, and no tablet or smartphone can match the experience of the Kindle in that one activity.

Second, given the price drop, it’s now possible to get an ereader as well as another gadget (assuming you have the money). And if your funds are limited, the Kindle is still better than any comparable tablet and cheaper to operate than any smartphone.

Third, the principle competitors to the Kindle (iOS and Android) already have Kindle apps. Since you can share your ebooks across both devices this makes them complimentary, not competition.

Fourth, the Kindle as it is currently designed won’t work well with most apps. Now the Kindle Tablet, assuming it exists, will need apps.  (But IMO it already exists; any Android tablet fits the bill.)

That last is the killer, IMO. You can’t just throw apps on to the Kindle willy-nilly. We’ve already seen a few apps that aren’t going to work well on the Kindle (Mah-Jong, for example), and I’m beginning to get the impression that Amazon are filtering out the worst app ideas.

BTW, if apps are so important then why doesn’t this article mention the B&N Nook? Surely, it’s in the dire same position as the Kindle. The fact that the BNet article doesn’t mention the Nook is probably a sign that the author shares the Kindle myopia common to tech bloggers.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Krystian Galaj13 December, 2010

    ereader without apps is like fish without a bike.

    1. Nate the great13 December, 2010

      That’s a good one.

  2. Scott_T13 December, 2010

    What it needs are apps to expand its ebook reading ability. Like I dont know… maybe EPUBs!

  3. Danny13 December, 2010

    I’ve downloaded all the free Kindle games, and was all excited about the possibilities, but you know what… I’ve yet to even try those games! My Kindle is for reading period, I don’t want or need any more distractions.

  4. Scott13 December, 2010

    Actually I think Nate is completely missing the point of convergence. Over the years people have said that combining a phone with other functions was unnecessary and not wanted. All people want is one device that does one thing great. Instead people have constantly flocked to devices that do many things. I have family members who are not in the least bit technically sophisticated ask me about tablets and smart phones. The most common reason when I ask is that they want one device that will do it all.

    I own two ipods, a Sony reader, a color Nook, a coupled digital cameras, a blackberry and Android phone. I know that when I head out for any period of time that the only devices I take are the Android phone, a camera and maybe the Nook. Which of those two do I use almost elusively? The Android phone. I always have it with me. I read my books on it, watch videos, take pictures and video. The list goes on.

    I will be the first to admit that the Android phone isnt’ necessarily the best at any one task, but its good enough at all of them. Whether we like it or not, convergence is the path we are going down and devices that ignore that do so at there own peril.

    1. fjtorres13 December, 2010

      Convergence in this particular discussion is somethingof a non-sequitor as the Kindle (and other eink readers) make no pretense to e anything but an optimized book-selling and reading device. Just as SLRs make no pretense to be anything but photo-taking devices. Just as pure audioplayers. And just as dozens of other devices.
      The existence of a multifunction *alternative* in a given market does *not* imply an automatic demise or even marginalization of the single function players in that market; all it says is the market is large enough and broad enough to support alternative ways of providing the needed functionality.
      Even in the cellphone business people tend to forget the the majority of cellphones in use and the majority of cellphones sold in a given day are still plain and simple voice-only devices.
      Media attention does not imply market domination.
      This multi-function vs single-function debate is old and will continnue as long as people keep frojecting *their* preferenes and *their* needs onto others, as we were all cookie cutter clones.
      The reality is that for every example where multi-function devices control a plurality of the overall market there are at least *two* where the single function device rules and will continue to rule for the forseeable future.
      Need we list them?

  5. Zigwalski13 December, 2010

    In the next few years the e ink devices today will disappear and we will have devices like the Nook Color. Yes, there will be apps because that is the secondary market for the device makers to get extra revenue.

    The I Pad and I Phone have proven this business model works and is desired among the user base.

    The Kindle 3 is probably not the best device to have a variety of apps because of the way it is designed. A touchscreen pretty much is needed to have a great user experience. Most apps are not going to carry well over to the Kindle 3 because of this.

    1. fjtorres13 December, 2010

      And a touch screen would increase the cost, no?
      (Ask Sony.)
      And a color screen will either drive up the cost or eat up battery life and add weight or both.
      The Kindle would not be a Kindle if it were designed to support apps.

      As for the iPxx business model: “*the* user base? Just one for the whole market? So there is only room for *one* business model? I beg to differ. See above.

      1. Zigwalski13 December, 2010

        How many people would rebut Kindles if they had a touchscreen and similar features to the Sony. Plenty since most current Kindle users are only going to buy….Kindles. With the high numbers of Kindles sold, it helps drive costs down. Also the Kindle is not metal and not quite as well constructed as the Sony. Also Sony needs to make a good profit off of their readers than Amazon does.

  6. wooosh20 December, 2010

    The Kindle of the future will have touch screen, with high resolution, vivid, moving color. You will be able to read ebooks, but also have inline videos that will run off the device or stream. It will be interactive. That is you can quickly and easily manipulate information on the screen. It will also be as good as e-ink, but be not require an extra light. If this kindle showed up today, at a reasonable price of not too much more, it would out sell ALL kindles on the market.

    Is it needed for reading? NOPE. That’s why all those features are not in the device today. That and the fact that it would cost a lot more. So today’s Kindle makes the most sense. However, someday, the technology to do all the cool neat things will become cheaper and more obtainable. So much cheaper, that they will realize it’s not that much more of an effort to have the color, touch screen tech etc. And when that day comes that it all works perfectly, and cheaply, it will be either Amazon that sells it or some other company. If Amazon does NOT sell it, they will watch their market share dwindle away as people adapt the newer technology that was offered at almost the same price.

    The only thing is, we are not in a place where they can offer us all those things for almost the same price. So THAT is why the Kindle rules today. Again, if it were easy and cheap to make a better one, they would certainly offer you the color e-ink, with backlighting, touch screen and video. And when that day comes, the way e-books are used will change.

  7. Erik Sherman25 April, 2011

    Just came across your reaction to my BNET article from last fall. I’d say that market developments even since then suggest that my view at the time was correct. The new Nook Color will run some number of apps, Flash video, etc. Amazon is pushing to get developers to write Kindle apps. That’s because Amazon and B&N can too easily lose customers to more general tablets that can also run an ebook app. You may have thought that the devices weren’t competitive, but they are – because they compete for consumer dollars. And many people would rather do more with a device than less. That’s why your take was, in my opinion, incorrect.

    1. Nate Hoffelder25 April, 2011

      Yes, their actions since do tend to prove you correct.


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