Real world stories about innovators and innovative companies are an important way to learn and we place high value on them at Innovation Excellence. We are very pleased to begin a series of case studies on companies who have been curated by Hult International Business School and Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center) in their book Greenovate!
The book Greenovate! documents 53 case studies that are defined by “sustainable, green innovations” (or “green ovations”). Each profile combines business innovation with a synthesized concept of sustainability, from startups to leading global organizations. The second case study in this special Greenovate! case study series is:
AMAZON.COM – Kindle Wireless eReading Platform
Eliminate traditional print waste and costs through eContent, available anytime, anywhere through a simple eReader that is customized for users.
Kindle combines new wireless and eInk display technologies. Amazon provides a critical mass of titles. Purchase process is painless and computer-free.
Beyond saving trees, digital content eliminates pollution and waste from papermaking, printing, transportation and storage. eInk technology is very energy efficient, consuming zero energy in steady-state.
The annual energy required to read a newspaper on a Kindle (including device production, data transmitting and energy use) is estimated to be 90% less than that used for a print copy or a newspaper
TACKLE THE ELEPHANT:
Print media consumes over 160 million trees per year in the US — even small reductions by stakeholders conserves significant resources
BIG BOLD STATEMENT:
One aspect of Amazon’s core mission is to provide “any book, anywhere at any time” — the Kindle brings this goal one step closer to reality
Decline of print media has forced writers, publishers, and booksellers to find new ways to remain viable with electronic media
The target market — prolific readers — is often purists for whom the feel of traditional reading is a minimum requirement
WHOSE IP IS IT?:
As with digital music and video, it is very difficult to deal with intellectual property protection of digital print — authors and publishers are skeptical
CHICKEN OR THE EGG:
eReaders took off slowly as customers wanted lots of content before purchasing and publishers wanted a big e-market before going digital
NO UNIVERSAL STANDARDS:
A common, easily readable and transferable format of the e-books was not available to users who avoid new technologies
Amazon created a subsidiary to develop a device that was closer to an enhanced book than a digital device that displayed text
The project was further supported by advances in wireless connectivity and e-Ink display, which allowed reading digital texts without a computer
Amazon’s size and influence in print media enabled the company to bring customers and publishers together in a viable model for both, enabling cheaper overall prices while maintaining profitability
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has made the Kindle his pet project, ensuring strong organizational support and commitment to successful implementation
By eliminating shipping and production costs, the profit margin for Amazon could be bigger than for paper books, providing new growth sources
Amazon has developed a proprietary system to support the Kindle (similar to Apple’s iPod and iTunes), thus creating barriers to entry
The substantial growth and margins for the eBook industry will spur innovation and new entrants to challenge Amazon
With an estimated 1.2 million or more Kindles sold through 2009, digital reading could save thousands of acres of trees
The Kindle is bucking the trend to free, ad-supported content on the internet. If Amazon, other eReader manufacturers and content companies can build on this success, the print media industry could develop new, more environmentally and financially sustainable business models for the future.
image credits: amazon; ixlcenter
Tyler McNally, Ronald Jonash & Dr. Hitendra Patel are co-authors of Greenovate! — Companies Innovating to Create a More Sustainable World and members of the leadership team at IXL CENTER, the Center for Innovation, Excellence & Leadership at Hult International Business School.