I don’t think the Kindle has done as well as Amazon would have hoped. Now, to be fair, I base this claim off of no research whatsoever and no knowledge of the year-to-year Kindle sales. My claim doesn’t even qualify as an “educated guess,” it falls several levels below in the “guy with an opinion” category.
But here’s what I think happened. The Kindle was supposed to be the final deathblow to books. The final chess move in a 20-30 year crusade led by Jeff Bezos. From the very beginning, Amazon has disrupted the physical book space. It began by going after physical bookstores and introducing the idea that you could just order everything online. We’ve seen the results. Megachains like Borders going under and Barnes & Noble has certainly felt the effects. The Kindle, then, took things a step further by raising the question, “Well, why do we need physical books at all? Why isn’t this like photos, or music, or movies? Why can’t it all be digital?” So not only were bookstores challenged, but book publishers and printers had to be sweating this product announcement as well.
On paper, the Kindle is a much better deal. You can carry an entire library in your purse. You don’t have to lose space in your suitcase and when you move to a new house, you don’t have to pack up 100 lbs of books. There’s no dust to accumulate. No storage in the basement.
And the experience, the complaints of, “Yeah, but I don’t want to read on a screen” were solved too. There’s no glare. You can read on the beach. You can read in bed; a much better setup than holding a book while also holding a flashlight or clipping on one of those attachable lights that has the sex appeal of a fanny pack.
And the Kindle was cheap. This wasn’t $500-600 iPad territory, this was $70-80. Plus the titles of books were under $10, a lot of them under $5, vs. paying $25-30 for the hardcover copy.
Again, everything on paper made sense for the Kindle to take over, except for one simple truth: a ton of people still like to read their books on paper.
There’s something about holding a book in your hands. Physically underlining passages. Dog earing the top corner of a page. Using a bookmark with some sort of Bible verse or a quote from Mark Twain. “Can you sign this book?” is a much easier ask to an author than “can you sign this Kindle?” It’s more fun to give a physical book as a gift than to say, “Alright, so here’s a $15 Amazon gift card, what you need to do is log onto your Kindle, search for this title, and then enter in the gift code, and then…”
And you can’t beat the ego trip of a book. Even if you haven’t made it to page ten of Moby Dick, it can still be proudly displayed in your library. You can have shelves of leather bound books, an entire room dedicated to these 300-500 page trophies. For comparison, think about if you show someone a stack of CDs or DVDs. The response is usually, “This is disgusting. Are you getting ready for like a garage sale or something?” But shelves and shelves of classic books, that is our immediate ticket to the upper class.
Whether it’s inside in your library or in your hands on the bus, the train, the airplane, books are meant to be proudly displayed.
Except the ones that aren’t.
The ones you’d really rather read in private.
For example, the guy on the plane reading 50 Shades of Gray or Twilight hoping nobody posts this story on Instagram. The shy gal reading a steamy romance novel on the back of the train. The older guy opening up Trump’s Art of the Deal in a liberal coffee shop with no intentions of causing a microaggression.
What happens when there’s a book you kind of want to read, but would be embarrassed to bring outside the comforts of your home. Or, even within your house, something you wouldn’t want your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend to see. Nothing disrupts a marriage faster than seeing a copy of “25 Ways to Improve Your Marriage” or “Divorce: You Should Totally Do It” laying around.
The easy answer, of course, would be using a Kindle. “Whatchu reading?” You quickly panic. Click, click. “Who, me? Oh yeah, just reading some Huck Finn. Totally not Twilight or anything like that.” Part of the astronomical success of 50 Shades was the right place right time; people were a lot more comfortable reading this in the privacy of their Kindle.
But again, same thing as above, a good portion of the population doesn’t want to move away from physical books.
So then what’s the solution? How can you read the “trashy” stuff, or things you’d like to keep private, out on your commute, at the beach, on a park bench?
I’m excited to introduce to you “Undercover Covers.” Undercover Covers specializes in hardcover and paperback covers that you can put over the book that you’re ashamed of. Easy to slide over and, just like that, the problem is solved.
The guy on the plane slips a “Modern Advances in Neuroscience” over Twilight. The shy gal on the train slips an Undercover Cover of Fabio in a ski jacket over the copy of half-naked Fabio. The old guy slips a copy of “Hillary Clinton: Isn’t she the best?” over Art of the Deal.
Now why not take the covers off books you have and use those instead? Part of the fun is these Undercover Cover titles aren’t well-known. Gives you extra street-cred. And, from a business perspective, any time these are Googled it’s leading to Undercover Covers site.
These would also make a great gag gift for the holiday. Or let’s say you want to write a book, but you’re stuck, and don’t have the time to finish. Not a problem. Go to Undercover Covers, design your own cover, slap that bad boy over a copy of Great Gatsby and problem solved! Hand it to a friend and you’ll have them wondering, “This is really good, but I feel like I’ve read this before?”
As with every other idea in this series, you’re on your own from here. Start the business, make the website, do whatever you want. It’s yours. If it works, send me a check that seems fair. If it doesn’t, well, hey it’s not my idea anymore.
I will leave you with one more thing. Here’s a simple slogan for the first commercial or first billboard you put up: “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover 😉 Undercover Covers.”
The “Please, Take this Idea” series goes up on the last Monday of every month. If you want to start a bar, help people get over their fears of public speaking (and flying), or would love to see Applebee’s expand their menu, these previous posts are perfect for you.
Normally I’ll have posts up every Monday, but I am going to take the month of September off, recharge, and come back on October 1st. If you’re new to the blog, you can enter your email in the box below and I’ll send these via email every week. If you’re not new to the blog, hey, thank you for reading again. See you again in October!