Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Lure Of The 99 Cent Sale

What is the price point for a publisher looking to promote an e-book? If you guessed 99 cents, you win. Congratulations. You are obviously someone who likes to read digital editions and who is always on the lookout for a bargain.

What is the price point for the world's largest bookstore when it wants to promote that which is not an ebook because Amazon is fixated on the $9.99 figure and won't budge on that particular price?

Right you are. 99 cents.
Kids say the darndest things

You may have seen the advertisements lately, featuring a pair of sassy kids dressed in clothes you'd associate with your grandparents. Trying for cute, I guess, or pre-pubescent hipsters hanging out at the coffee shop. At any rate, the miniature adults are seen touting the wonders of Amazon's Fire phone to a couple of yuppsters who look like they've just moved out of the family home after finally landing a job out of college, and aren't those precocious youngsters just full of information about the glories of the Fire phone?

But how glorious is it, in reality, if Amazon is now all but giving the phone away for free?

A smartphone that comes with Amazon Prime discounted shipping for a full year? Whatever you buy at Amazon would arrive at no extra charge and in next to no time, but customers are passing it up in droves. What good is anything for free if you can't get the product you want, like a discounted Hachette title? Could it be that the smartphone buying public is somewhat aware of Amazon's attempt to strong arm Hachette into a very bad deal for the publisher? Maybe they've heard about the calls to boycott Amazon until Amazon stops punishing Hachette's authors by making it more difficult to buy their works?

Or maybe the Fire phone isn't such a great phone to begin with. There is competition out there in the technology world, and Apple has been in the phone business a lot longer than Amazon and Apple has some devoted fans who love the way their devices work. Who wants a cheap phone that doesn't boast of an easy-to-use iOS system? Free isn't always better when you're sending a text and you want a virtual keyboard that reacts quickly to your touch. Free doesn't overcome the potential aggravation of an unhappy user.

What about the added benefit of being able to stream movies or read books on a Fire phone?

Would you watch an entire movie on that tiny screen, and who has that much time to watch an entire movie? Maybe on your laptop or tablet, in a pinch, like when travelling, but it's hard enough to see things on a phone. There isn't much appeal in watching some miniature world play out for ninety minutes. The eye strain alone would put you off. If you want to read a book you can download any number of apps that give you access to ebooks, including those owned by your local public library. You don't a Fire phone to do that. You're already doing it without one.

And what about apps? iPhone comes pre-loaded with a few basic apps but there is an app store where you can find an app to do just about anything you might need done. Often for 99 cents. Or free. Amazon's Fire phone just doesn't have the selection, and it can boast of a growing app trove, but it's all about what you have now, not later.

Amazon is promoting its Fire phone because it isn't selling. All that Jeff Bezos knows about selling involves steep discounts to lure customers, but a steep discount works best when it is like versus like. We all know that the fake Prada purses are cheaper than the real ones because the copies are of lesser quality. Is the phone buying public thinking the same thing about the Fire phone?

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