What Were They Thinking?

Such great device names:  KindleNookBlioEctaco JetBook Lite Spring Design AlexTxtr. JournESkiffCool-erPlastic Logic Que.  iRexPixel QiBookeen CybookeSlick ReaderAstak EZ ReaderBeBook. Not exciting enough for you?  How about the oh-so-brilliantly named Sony Reader?

Most of these names are flat out horrible.  What were they thinking?  These manufacturers are not only trying to build their brands in a crowded marketplace,  they are trying to create a new market for a new generation of devices against a well established device that does not require electricity to operate, has a long history of appealing to consumers, and a brand known and recognized by millions of consumers.  The book.  Perhaps it should be referred to now as “POBs” (plain old books) the way landline telephones are called “POTs” to distinguish them from all the modern alternatives).  

What were these manufacturers thinking?  How about hiring someone who specializes in modern product naming instead of asking your grandmother or your nephew to come up with something “cool.”  Even relatively poor naming choices in other technology fields and consumer products are better than these pathetic nominees.   It’s difficult to get consumers to lay down hard cash for new technology when their current tech products work pretty well.  Since POBs work really well for most people, and they have tremendous psychological attachments built into them (not to mention sentiment and practicality), e-reading devices are fighting an uphill battle for consumer acceptance.

When they have great names, as well as great features, products become more than devices, they can become objects of desire, objects if status, in short, they become meaningful brands.  Who in our country has not heard of the iPod, even if they don’t care for Apple and will never buy one?  Who has not heard of Google?  They beat Yahoo on more than their name, but there is no doubt that the name contributed to their ascendency.

I think “Nook” has to take the cake as just the worst consumer product name ever.  It’s stupid and makes me think of hiding in a corner of a church or a basement room.  And generates the typically stupid jokes about “getting some” as in ‘nookie,” which is really great considering that more than 70% of books are purchased by women.  

OK, Barnes & Noble has never been a consumer product manufacturer before, but come on, if you are going to play in a new business sector, why wouldn’t you learn the rules of their game?  And granted, the book business has never paid much attention to consumer marketing, I’d expect more from a smart retailer like B & N.  And hint to whomever there is in charge of this project – just because it sold out its first shipment, that does not mean you named it well.  For the inevitable “Version 2” please consider a name change!

I have to say that the “Kindle” is not much better.  When Amazon first announced it, there was a lot of snickering about this moniker too.  Kindle of course evokes kindling, which we use to build a fire, which is maybe OK as it implies getting something off the ground, though a fire that burns widely is not something good, and kills a lot of trees (maybe that was the idea here – Kindle will kill trees so print books can’t be made anymore?)  But of course, kindling is itself made of wood, so who knows?  Either way, the name Kindle suggests nothing to do with books, or reading, or imaginative experience of any kind, and it doesn’t exactly spur us to want the device, so I continue to wonder, what were they thinking?

“Blio” sounds like a cartoon character and a failure at that.  I can’t even think of a good joke related to how it sounds, which is pretty sad.  “iRex” sounds like what a five year old kid tells his parents he has done to his room.

Que might actually be an OK name, but of course it’s not for sale yet.  iRiver has created an intriguing machine called the “Story” but it’s not for sale in the USA yet.  And there are any number of Korean and other obscure machines out there with equally obscure names.

What were they thinking?  

People do like their gadgets these days, and more people than one might have imagined seem ready for an electronic device that allows them to stop killing their shoulders and backs carrying heavy bags full of books.  I know that the target market for e-readers is not the hip youth of America, they’re reading on laptops, desktops and cell phones at a rate that boggles the mind.  It’s the baby boomers who are flocking to e-readers everywhere, at least initially selling out Barnes & Noble’s buggy and slow Nook and enabling Amazon to claim that they are now selling nobody-knows-how-many-but-a-whole-lot of e-books (according to the ever effervescent Jeff Bezos.)

Imagine how many more devices could be sold if someone came up with a really cool name.  OK, “iPhone” is taken and so is “Droid,” but there has got to be a great technology with an equally great name on the horizon.  I hope someone is thinking  of it now.   My money is on Apple and Google, two companies who live and breathe technology and its applications to real people’s lives.

Oh, and while you’re at it, how about making the device we’ve all been waiting for too?

PS- Huffington Post’s humorous quick post on the Nook and Kindling names here.

Posted by David Wilk on 12/16 at 10:17 PM
(79) CommentsPermalink

The Art and Science of Pricing Content in a Digital Universe

I recently read an excellent piece by Michael Cairns in his Personanondata blog called "Your Price May Vary"  - that in turn references an article in The Economist entitled "E Pluribus Tunum" about online pricing of music.  I’ve been reading and thinking about pricing models for a long time, and I am still not certain what is the best path for pricing strategies.  But I have determined that there are some essential principles I think the book industry needs to pay attention to. As Michael points out: "Pricing is complicated: publishers can approach this in an unsophisticated manner but in doing so they are unlikely to maximize their revenue. More analysis is likely to show that a variable approach to pricing and packaging will generate more revenue."  My principles thus far include:

1. Pay attention to what customers want and are willing to pay.  Prices cannot be set by publishers based on existing models, cost structures, margin requirements, etc. 

2. It’s a buyer’s market with a huge amount of competition for what the consumer values most (her time!)

3. In times of change, it pays to be flexible.  Experimentation is called for.  A rigorous and scientific approach to data is critical.

4. The content marketplace is highly segmented; what works for one type of content and publishing will not necessarily work for any other.

5. New rules apply.  Therefore our business models need to be open to change, as do our minds.

Earlier this week, Susan Danziger’s excellent DailyLit announced it is changing to an all free model, with sponsorships covering costs.  Today (December 5, 2009), Atlantic Magazine announced it would be the first magazine to sell short stories on Amazon’s Kindle: http://bit.ly/4KFjJ4.  If you look around the web - the biggest publishing ecosystem the world has ever seen - you will find many variants on pricing models for content.  Book publishers have the benefit of learning from all who have preceded them.  Study wisely.

(my next blog will provide a specific business case for a new model of pricing; I am looking for publishers who have experimented with pricing models for online content and welcome communications on this topic).

December 5, 2009


Posted by David Wilk on 12/05 at 08:46 PM
(74) CommentsPermalink
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An e-book business site, but their blog covers book business stories as well.

The Digitalist 

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Teleread "Bring the E-books Home"

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Invention Arts

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