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Pulling the Sword from the Stone: Amazon’s Kindle Books to be Available on Mobile Phones

Did you feel that? That was a tremor in the publishing world. There have been many of them over the past several months, but yesterday’s announcement from Amazon could be especially game changing in my opinion.

Amazon announced plans to make its Kindle titles available for a variety of mobile phones. Earlier this year they announced that they would no longer support PDF or Microsoft Reader formats for their ebooks, effectively locking buyers into its Mobipocket or Kindle formats.

Since the Kindle format is only an offshoot of the Mobipocket format, I wonder if these mobile device efforts will revolve around an updated Mobipocket Reader. The Mobipocket Reader software is already available for a variety of mobile phones including Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian. If Amazon plans to revamp this application to make it available for other handhelds including iPhone – and they can duplicate the easy buying experience Kindle owners already enjoy – this could really change the landscape for ebooks.

In an article entitled The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age, published earlier this week, Ars Technica’s John Siracusa lamented that dedicated ebook readers are not the entire answer, and asked why Amazon didn’t realize that devices like the iPhone were where reading was headed.

I do still believe that dedicated readers are more appropriate for a mature e-book market, when consumers can more easily justify the cost of such a specialized device. But that doesn’t mean a dedicated reader can’t succeed. The Kindle is the best example, hitching itself to the star of Amazon’s existing retail store. Maybe Amazon will haul the ungainly Kindle right across the critical mass threshold and it will become “the iPod of e-books.” Then again, maybe Apple will finally figure out that the iPod (and, yes, the iPhone) is “the iPod of e-books.” Amazon’s efforts are handicapped by the hurdle of that separate hardware purchase, so the door is still open for a strong competitor targeting an existing reader-capable hardware platform, whether it be Apple or someone else.

John also suggested that Apple was best positioned to lead us to the ebook promised land.

Will Apple wake from its apparent slumber and pull the sword from the stone—the sword that’s currently taped to its hand and sheathed in a teflon-lined crevice? That’d certainly be the shortest path between the present and the inevitable e-book future.

I say if Amazon plays this right and creates applications that open their ebook store to a variety of devices - including iPhone- they may actually hold Uther’s sword. But controlling formats and owning the largest selection of current and best selling books won’t in itself make this a winning solution. Amazon needs to deliver the right experience, making both the buying and reading of ebooks easy and enjoyable.

What do you think – major shift, or just another ripple?

(Image credit DaveQ)

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  • Luis

    Hi Chris,

    It looks like an attempt of getting a winner standard trying to respect traditional intellectual property rights scheme. After reading your post, it looks like a movement in the right direction for Amazon. Amazon could be again more a purely information company by giving less important to the concrete device than to the information (contents) itself.

    I see selling physical books and a device, as, probably, just a stage towards a more ambitious project.

    Great post!


  • Scott Rooks

    I think people are going to buck at the idea that they have to pay for more software that will probably just be a bipp on the screen in another 3 years.

    Come on Amazon get over it and just sell what you sell best, books and leave digital readers to someone like Microsoft or Apple to give away free.

    Free is always better, just like at the library!

  • Chris Kindle

    Just came across your blog on Google. Interesting post, you bring up a few good things to think about. Good luck with the blog.

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  • Ryan Deiss

    I think it's a smart move for sure. As mobile phones get more powerful, this will bode well for Amazon.

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  • Danny - Kindle Case Blog

    The decsion to place apps all over the place was a stroke of genius from amazon. Whilst the kindle 3 caters to the true book reading crowd - the app caters to everyone else in between

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    Hehe, Amazon wanna occupy the mobile market.

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