I saw a note on BoingBoing that Rick Munarriz’s 9-page essay “Why the Kindle Will Fail” is now available to Amazon Prime subscribers to read for free as part of Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program. This seems pretty funny at first glance: ha ha, everybody laugh at the silly prognosticator. Except when you look a little closer into it, it’s really not all that ironic at all.
I’m not a Prime subscriber, and I’m not about to shell out $2.99 to buy the e-book. (In fact, that he’s charging $2.99 for a 9-page essay that’s too short even to have a free sample is the really hilarious thing here—especially since it was only 99 cents, the lowest amount he was permitted to charge, when he originally published it. Perhaps he doesn’t really expect anyone to buy it anymore but wants to cash in on the Amazon library payouts?)
But its overall mindset can be divined from a couple of articles Munarriz wrote for financial advice site The Motley Fool around that time. Munarriz first called the Kindle “Amazon’s new $400 paperweight” but then after thinking it over for a week admitted that the Kindle probably would change the world through the self-e-publishing possibilities it offered.
In the latter article Munarriz refers to "Why the Kindle Will Fail” as a 2,300-word essay that “starts as an incendiary piece before coming around, as I have since last week, to embrace Kindle’s potential.” I’m guessing that the (misleading) title was chosen to be deliberately confrontational in the hope of spurring sales.
While Munarriz was wrong in calling the Kindle a paperweight, I have to admit that he pretty much nailed the self-publishing explosion dead on, right down to the Kindle’s ever-dwindling retail price:
In the near term, there’ll be a glut of product and not enough early adopters with $399 Kindles. Then things will get viral. Won’t these freshly published writers and newsletter writers publicize their Kindled works? Before long, I’ll bet you’ll see enough Kindle-exclusive content to cave in and buy one. By then, it will probably be marked down to a more reasonable mainstream price.
Though it doesn’t mention his early opinions of the Kindle directly, Munarriz’s most recent article mentioning Amazon calls it “more of a leader than a loss leader,” pointing out that Amazon made 28 cents per share of profit in the first quarter of 2012, significantly beating analysts’ prediction of 7 cents per share. And he does point out that “Amazon isn’t just making more money than the market was expecting. It’s disrupting the publishing world with its seamless self-publishing model.”
So there may not be all that much irony here after all, but it’s still interesting to recall how some pundits looked at the Kindle when Amazon first released it—and to see how clearly Munarriz called the self-publishing market so early on.