Amazon is offering a lot of bundle packages for its e-readers these days. The newest is the Kindle Essentials Bundle. Clocking in at $110, this includes the basic e-ink Kindle with Special Offers ($80), Amazon’s official Protective Cover ($30), and Amazon’s official 5W USB adapter ($20). I find myself wondering, does this kind of bundle offering betray a faint whiff of desperation?
For starters, I can’t help thinking this doesn’t look like all that great of a deal. The adapter isn’t even the “PowerFast” 9W charger—which seems kind of silly given that it costs the exact same $20 as the 5W one does, so why not toss the better one in? Maybe it’s just that the worse one isn’t selling as well with the better one costing the same, so they have extra units of those to give away?
And if you’re looking for USB wall chargers anyway, you could get ones with a lot more than just one USB socket for the same amount of money, or one with just two ports for even less, from a reliable brand like Anker. Anyway, any gadget-lover probably already has plenty of USB chargers by now; that’s why Amazon doesn’t throw one in with the basic Kindle to begin with. (Nate Hoffelder said much the same thing in his own piece.) The case doesn’t seem like a great bargain, either; my own only cost four bucks (and though it was for the Kindle Touch, I’m sure there are equivalents for the plain-vanilla Kindle too; silicone is silicone).
But as I’ve pointed out a couple of times in the last few weeks, the market for e-ink readers is dwindling by the year. Statista shows their sales peaked in 2011 at 23.2 million units, and were projected to fall to just 7.1 million in 2016. That’s fewer than the 10.1 million they sold in 2010 on their way up. The rate of decline seems to be leveling out, and they probably won’t peter out entirely for a few more years, but it can’t be as economical for Amazon to keep banging them out as it was a few years ago if they’re not going to sell as well anymore.
Amazon’s probably not exactly hurting, even with its stock price dropping a little lately. People seem to have moved on to LCD tablets and phablets now, and Amazon’s got a full line of tablets, including an LCD Fire that’s even cheaper than its cheapest e-ink Kindle—which is probably another reason for the Kindle’s precipitous decline. But it’s probably still got a lot of Kindle inventory in stock, even if it stopped the assembly lines right now, and it’s got to come up with some way to move those less-loved readers and their accessories. So we have all these bundle offers—not just the Kindle not-so-Essentials, but Kindle for Kids.
Of course, Amazon’s LCD tablets have bundles, too—the Fire Kids Edition, and Fire HD 8 Reader’s Edition—but there are and have been a lot of tablets out there, so it’s not unexpected those would need something extra to catch people’s eye. But the Kindle was one of only a handful of e-ink readers even at the best of times, and since its introduction has always been the one most people want if they want an e-ink reader at all. It certainly didn’t seem to need a bundle package to help it sell before.
All in all, I can’t help but imagine Amazon would be happier reducing e-ink inventory—because it doesn’t seem likely people are suddenly going to turn away from LCD tablets that can do so much more. Especially given that Amazon just introduced one that only costs fifty bucks.