eBook future: Kindle and iBooks on one platform

Posted on by Mike Evans

Ibooks_20100127As an avid ebook reader I welcome Apple's announcement of the iBook Store and the iBooks application for the iPad. 

Many have suggested that the iPad will kill Amazon's Kindle. I doubt it. In the long term it could kill the physical Kindle, or force Amazon into a search for a reader to match the iPad. But Amazon, in particular, is probably more concerned with providing content rather than hardware. Because of this, the iPad is going to be good news for Amazon and the Kindle ecosystem.

Already we have the Kindle app for the iPhone and I have purchased and read a number of novels on the little screen. Buying from the Kindle store is just as easy and seamless as getting a track from iTunes. And Kindle editions are generally cheaper than equivalent books from Sony's UK partner, Waterstones. Just this week I downloaded Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for under £4.25, including tax and electronic shipping direct to my phone.

By the time the iPad appears we will have a Kindle app for the larger format, so I can read my current iPhone-only books on the new LED screen. And, of course, my current page will be remembered by both iPhone and iPad when I switch machines. Amazon already have a Kindle app for Windows and the Mac desktop version is due soon. So Amazon is not relying solely on Kindle owners for their income.

Similarly, Apple's new iBook store should work in the same way. There will almost certainly be Mac desktop and iPhone/iPod Touch applications with similar synchronisation to that used by the Kindle system. It will be no hardship to have both iBooks and Kindle apps resident on the iPad (or iPhone) and it gives consumers the chance to pick and choose the best deals. 

Where does this lead the current No. 2 in ebook readers, the Sony PRS? High and dry, I suspect, unless Sony get smart and introduce Sony Reader apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and other platforms. Unfortunately for Sony, they are stuck in the hardware business unless they launch a bookstore to challenge Apple or Amazon. They therefore have little incentive to launch apps for other hardware platforms. That would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

The current crop of e-ink readers have served us well, but they remain a one-horse act with many disadvantages, including lack of speed, absence of colour and poor contrast, particularly in low-light conditions. So far I have bought 60 books for the Sony but I have no confidence that I will eventually be able to read them on the iPad or other devices, despite the fact that they are in epub format.  These restrictions annoy users and the market will inevitably shift towards the two major ebook ecosystems--Apple and Amazon--with the knowledge that books can be read on many platforms.

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