Rumours started circulating a week or two ago that Amazon was planning to make its Kindle-formatted books available on Apple’s iPhone. Well, a week’s a long time and Amazon today releases its Kindle reader application for the iPhone. Like Stanza and eReader, this is a free download from the iPhone App Store.
But unlike Stanza, for instance, it doesn’t support open standards such as ePub. What it does is open up the large Kindle ebook catalogue to iPhone/iPod Touch users. And, just as a deluge of smartphones from other manufacturers is about to head our way, Amazon is also expected to make its Kindle reader apps available on other platforms – Kindle ebooks everywhere.
For those who think Amazon is crazy and will end up cannibalising sales of its own Kindle ebook Reader, Amazon has an answer. It will actually increase sales of the reader and Amazon thinks many customers will want both their smartphone and their Kindle to read books on. They see the smartphone as good for short reading and the Kindle for longer sessions, especially with its superior battery life. Reinforcing this will be a feature that will synchronise your reading so both your iPhone and Kindle will open the book you’re reading to the same page. On the point that it will actually increase Kindle sales, I wholeheartedly agree. Once again, Amazon is showing a lot of undertstanding of the digital domain.
One reason is that it also helps address a big objection that’s been levelled against Amazon’s Kindle, namely that its proprietary format and limited support for any other content formats locks you into using a Kindle once you’ve bought your books. Well, no more. It certainly locks you into using the Kindle-formatted books on Amazon-developed technology, and it gives Amazon a lot of control over its technology development, likely to be a critcal competitive advantage. But consumers will shortly have plenty of choice over which gadgets they buy to read their Kindle ebooks on.
At this stage, you can’t buy Kindle ebooks from within its iPhone app. You need to go to the Amazon website to make your purchases. This will no doubt be addressed at some stage as, presumably, will be the continuing restriction on sales to readers located outside the US.
More coverage from Teleread, ReadWriteWeb and the Wall Street Journal.
Have you uncovered any news about potential Kindle devices with other forms of wireless transport?
The US based devices use the Sprint CMDA/EVDO based technology, but of course there are many, many more GSM/UMTS based users around the world–and many in the US too now that AT&T has rallied around the iPhone.
If the Kindle remains an Amazon exclusive device, carriers (or other competitors) will be struggling against Amazon’s momentum. Even if it were to remain Amazon’s device, it will need to work on other wireless technologies in Australia and NZ where CDMA is being abandoned. Wireless technologies will have a big impact on device costs… Typically a device manufacturer wants advance purchase of at least 100,000 devices to do a custom run.
Interesting question, Curtis. I haven’t got any info on other wireless transport options but it’s hard to imagine that Amazon wouldn’t be looking at the GSM/UMTS technology for its (eventual) international expansion.
It also raises the question of how Amazon’s move to put its reader app on other (non-Amazon) devices will affect its wireless strategy. My understanding is that, in the US, the cost of the wireless is built into the cost of a book/newspaper purchase. This isn’t going to work when the customer is buying the book from within their iPhone. Perhaps that’s why they are currently insisting that the books be purchased from their website rather than directly from inside the iPhone app.
And if this is the case, it might indicate that Amazon has been caught on the hop with this move to the smartphones. If it was planned from the beginning, I doubt Amazon would have taken the wireless route that it did with the Kindle.