Amazon and the Kindle: A case of corporate contradictions

Every entrepreneur runs the risk of competing with themselves. Case in point: Amazon and its Kindle value proposition

Amazon.com has apparently lost its corporate mind. I say "apparently" because it hasn't really -- but it has suffered the consequences of being entrepreneurial, as evidenced by its pricing policies for Kindle e-reader titles.

As I write these words, Amazon has priced the Kindle edition of Michel Roberts' "Strategy Pure and Simple II" (2001) at $15. It asserts you save 40 percent off the list price of $24.95.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Communication is king in the corporation, as Bob points out in "Don't let layers of management obstruct the flow of information" | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]

This brings up the question of how these savings are calculated, as it has priced the hardcover edition of the same book -- not the paperback, mind you -- at $10.69.

Well, not exactly -- it appears the book is out of print and only available through third-party resellers. However, these are new copies we're talking about, and it puts Amazon.com in the uncomfortable position of violating the entire Kindle value proposition, which is that once you've bought the device, every book you buy saves you money.

It's a problem many entrepreneurial companies face as they grow. They pursue multiple independent strategies, which is a wise thing to do as the chances of hitting paydirt are better when you try more possibilities.

The downside is that they can find themselves colliding with themselves in the marketplace. When this happens, they can look quite foolish.

Services companies face this when they go to market in more than one way -- their (for example) SOA and health care sales teams can and do bump into each other in a prospect's hallway, at which point the company finds itself competing with itself.

What does this have to do with running or working in IT?

IT lives and dies on the quality of its relationship with the rest of the business. One way smart CIOs improve those relationships is to encourage managers at all levels to reach out and develop personal networks throughout the company. As they do, they'll find themselves holding informal conversations, sometimes with the same people. Once that happens there's a danger, and the more political the company, the worse it is.

Some of those people might play them against each other, trying to manufacture inconsistencies or to get one to make promises another will have to keep. This doesn't mean you should try to ride herd on these personal networks and informal conversations -- but it does mean you should alert everyone to the risks.

As for any advice I might have for Amazon, I don't think so. Jeff Bezos is a far cannier retailer than I'll ever be, and I'm guessing he's figured this out and has decided the occasional inconsistency isn't a big enough problem to bother about.

This story, "Amazon and the Kindle: A case of corporate contradiction," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com.

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