Several Kindle devices are sold at cost, bringing Amazon no profit on the hardware.
“We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break-even on the hardware,” Bezos told the BBC.
Of course, Bezos isn’t necessarily doing the consumer any favors. That aggressive pricing is part of his goal to get Kindle tablets in as many hands as possible in order to broaden the base of consumers for Amazon’s online content – from books to games to video – which is the real cash cow of Amazon.
That strategy differs starkly from Apple’s. Apple makes a profit on every iPhone, iPad, and other iDevice it sells, with much content thereafter available for free, or “slightly above” break-even on iTunes content.
“Amazon is making a strategic move in both customer acquisition and retention,” writes Forbes.com. “...Amazon clearly just wants to provide a medium to consumers that can help deliver Amazon’s online content – such as books and video – which have much higher profit margins.”
Even better, Bezos has found that Kindle users typically start reading a lot more once they buy a Kindle, all but ensuring lost profit is made up for later.
“What we find is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle,” Bezos told the BBC. “But they don’t stop buying paper books. Kindle owners read four times as much, but they continue to buy both types of books.”
What’s the better deal for consumers? A higher-cost tablet that offers a wealth of free and lower-cost content, like an iPad, or a relatively affordable Kindle offering content – from books to games to video – that may cost us more in the end? And who makes out better in the long run – Apple or Amazon?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.