Monday, 27 August 2012

What makes Spotify and Kindle so special?

Boring but nice Sunday afternoon 

A recent guest post on this blog discussing the matter of audiobooks has proved popular (by this blog’s standards!), no doubt to the credit of its author as well as the popularity of its subject matter. In my comments to the post I claimed that as far as I am concerned, Audible is not offering a good product, at least not by the standards offered by Amazon’s Kindle and Spotify. The question, therefore, is this: what makes a cloud based service “good” by ISO Moshe standards?
This question is not a trivial one. In both of the good cases I have quoted there are good alternatives to choose from, most notable the pirate solution. In Spotify’s case, that piracy option offers a comparatively large inventory of music to choose from, if not larger; it offers a DRM free solution that, once acquired, can be used everywhere; and it costs nothing but a bit of your time and Internet bandwidth. On its side, Spotify offers immediate access to the music you want – it takes but seconds from the time you think of something you want to listen to till the time that something is playing, regardless of time and place. There is no searching the web for a downloading site, no need to copy files from a PC to the phone, and no need to maintain a personal music collection. Listeners also get the bonus of knowing they pay the salaries of record labels executives through their Spotify fees (but hardly anything to the artists themselves).
The story with the Kindle is different but not dissimilar. Piracy offers a smaller selection of books and requires harder searching, but it’s free. Amazon offers a usually reasonably priced catalog that includes almost all the books I’m interested in (having the facilities to pretend to be an American helps in this regard). Ebooks can be selected an downloaded to the Kindle device immediately and automatically, and as a bonus the authors get paid (albeit, as some published cases indicate, often poorly in comparison to other members of the book’s supply chain).
To sum up, it appears the following qualities are required in order for me to count a service to stand above its competition, including its pirate competition:
  1. A reasonable price, that is, a price one normally does not think of before spending.
  2. A large selection to choose from, almost indistinguishable from “everything”.
  3. Immediate delivery, anytime and anywhere.
  4. Direct delivery to the devices the material will be consumed through.
It’s interesting to note that by my reckoning, iTunes fails the above criteria. It fails in the pricing (an album costs more than a month of Spotify) and it offers poor delivery options (most obvious example: can't get your music on an Android phone). Spotify rectified the situation there; Aussies are now required to wait until a Netflix equivalent is finally able to materialize here and allow us to watch our videos in peace.

Image by andyj682, Creative Commons license

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