Kindle reborn

This morning’s Observer column.

The newest version of the Kindle e-reader is out. And guess what? “Due to strong customer demand,” says the Amazon website, “Kindle is temporarily sold out. Order now to reserve your place in the queue… orders placed today are expected to dispatch on or before 17 September.”

This is interesting, is it not? It’s not all that long ago, in the fevered run-up to the launch of the Apple iPad, that conventional wisdom held that the Kindle was a dead duck – roadkill for the iTunes/iBooks steamroller on the highway to the future. I mean to say, the Kindle was sooo clunky: you had to press buttons just to turn the page and how 1980s is that? With the iPad, you just swooshed your finger and – hey presto! – the page turned. Cool.

Then there was the impact of the iPad on publishers, who saw the Apple iBook store as a way of breaking Amazon’s stranglehold on sales – and, more important, the pricing – of ebooks. And so it came to pass that the Kindle was consigned to the role of brave but outdated pioneer. Amazon might have triggered the ebook revolution, but it would be Apple that would wind up running the show.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it is based on an elementary schoolboy mistake, namely the assumption that, in a networked world, it is the hardware that matters most…