Yesterday at the urging of a friend, I ordered “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock on my iPod touch via the Amazon Kindle app. In doing so, I became one of many people who are helping the iPhone become more than just a phone. It’s […]

Yesterday at the urging of a friend, I ordered “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock on my iPod touch via the Amazon Kindle app. In doing so, I became one of many people who are helping the iPhone become more than just a phone. It’s latest role: e-reader. Book-related apps saw an upsurge in launches in September, according to a survey conducted by Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile application analytics company. So much so, that book-related applications overtook games in the App Store as a percentage of all released apps. The trend isn’t an aberration. In October, one out of every five new applications launching on the iPhone was a book, Flurry said.

Why is this important?

Because from August 2008 to the same month in 2009, more apps were released in the “games” category than any other and, as a result, the iPhone (and iPod touch) became a new handheld gaming platform, one that impacted Nintendo DS. The Japanese game device maker acknowledged that the iPhone and iPod touch were among the reasons why its profits declined drastically in the most recent quarter. Flurry emailed me some notes regarding its “Smartphone Industry Pulse” newsletter for October:

The sharp rise in e-book activity on the iPhone indicates that Apple is positioned to take market share from the Amazon Kindle as it did from the Nintendo DS. Despite the smaller form factor of the display, we predict that the iPhone will be a significant player in the book category of the media and entertainment space. Further, with Apple working on a larger tablet form factor, running on the iPhone OS, we believe Jeff Bezos and team will face significant competition.


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Since its launch, the iPhone has quickly mutated from an Internet-enabled smartphone to a gaming device — and now an e-reader. It is only a matter of time before someone figures out a new role for the iPhone. Unless the Apple Tablet becomes a reality, I think there is going to continue to be a market for dedicated e-readers, mostly because it is impossible to read large amounts of text on a smaller screen.

Related posts: “What Is It About e-Readers?” and “Will Publishers Ever Make Money Off e-Books?”

Related reports from GigaOM Pro (subscription required): “Evolution of the e-Book Market” and “How Barnes & Noble Can Avoid Getting Netflixed”

  1. Friends of Dave (friendsofdave) ‘s status on Monday, 02-Nov-09 03:08:05 UTC – Identi.ca Sunday, November 1, 2009

    [...] http://gigaom.com/2009/11/01/iphone-e-book-reader/ a few seconds ago from api [...]

  2. Phone, music player, gaming platform, e-reader, wow I guess it’s only up to the developer’s imagination as to what they can do with the iPhone…. Medical checkup device, payment platform etc. etc.

    1. Wow, imagine that, developers creating games and applications on what, for all intents and purposes, is a computer. Just like they did with the “real” computers in the past. Those developers… such imagination.

      Sorry for being so short here, but this rear end kissing of the iPhone like it’s some magic box goes a bit beyond admitting that it is a very well built device.

      1. I agree, its a computer platform, but tell me who else has a device that comes close? The fact that this “computer” has a portable form factor has indeed shown some innovation by the developers. Rear end kissing aside, I tend to appreciate innovation where I see it.

  3. Friends of Dave (friendsofdave) ‘s status on Monday, 02-Nov-09 04:18:02 UTC – Identi.ca Sunday, November 1, 2009

    [...] http://gigaom.com/2009/11/01/iphone-e-book-reader/ a few seconds ago from api [...]

  4. Contrary to your argument that it is impossible to read large amounts of text on an iPhone or iPod Touch, I find it is not a problem at all. I have both and have the usual apps on both to download and read books at my leisure. Like reading a book, most folks I suspect read awhile and then put the book over on the nightstand and turn over and go to sleep. With me I just put the iPhone and the Touch over on the bed away from me and go to sleep. Both devices have fine enough resolution to be able to read text with no strain. I suspect if one is older and need glasses to read, they should probably be bi-focals with a short focal distance. Mine are and it is a pleasure to be able to pick up the thing and in moments be reading right where I left off the last time.

    Your argument about the impossibility of reading large amounts of text on these devices sounds like either you have an axe to grind somewhere or you are just making stuff up to keep your word count up.

    I agree with your statement that the iPhone has mutated. Sure and it is many things to many people and it is certainly why it is taking the world by storm and also why there are so many imitators. My wallet and the iPhone and the iPod Touch are the three things I won’t leave home without. Reading material close at hand being the first requirement for the latter two. And yes, I do wear Cargo Pants….

    1. It was necessary to be so rude? It is well known that reading on light emitting devices may be bad for your eyes, that’s why they invested so much in the development of the e-paper.

    2. Bhagwad Jal Park Randy Monday, November 2, 2009

      I totally agree. I’ve been reading on handheld devices since 2004 and have literally read hundreds of books on them till now. I’ve had my iPod Touch for over a year now and I’ve never had a better reading device.

      I’ve read for hours at a time, including the entire 11 book set of the Wheel of Time series and I read a new book on it every week. So it’s not only not impossible but completely doable.

      1. I just bought an iPod touch two weeks ago and was curious what apps you use to read. I have eReader and Stanza downloaded, and of the two I’ve found eReader to be the one I like best. i was just curious as to whether there were any other good apps, or maybe one can allow you to view .pdf files while you’re offline. Thanks.

      2. Out of Stanza and Ereader, Stanza is the better application – for one big, BIG reason – it uses the open format “epub” instead of ereader’s proprietary format.

        This means that books downloaded from say Google Books using epub can be read on the iPod Touch or any other device whatsoever. Existing formats can be easily converted to epub using good software like Calibre.

    3. Hear hear! It’s obviously not impossible to read large amounts of text on a screen. I read all of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall on a Palm Treo, and, since switching to an iPhone (with a better screen) I’ve read a ton of books on it. Currently most of the way through Churchill’s History of the Second World War.

      And to the other poster who wrote “It is well known that reading on light emitting devices may be bad for your eyes” – it’s well known that it *may* be? So in other words, it’s not known?

  5. I just don’t buy (and haven’t) the iPhone as a serious eReader alternative. I can’t see reading anything on it for any length of time (and yes, I have one). Checking something in a technical journal when I don’t have access to something better, perhaps, but actually sitting down and reading – my old eyes just wouldn’t put up with that.

    The tablet OTOH may be a different story. But if the rumors about it are true and it clocks in at $800+ then I may be better off with the netbook + dedicated eReader combo. At least for a generation or 2 until the prices get saner. Personally I buy my technology to solve a problem (which eReaders like the Kindle/Nook currently do) and not to look cool.

    1. Same here. I can’t see myself reading for hours on such tiny device. Poor eyes.

      People already listen to excessively loud music and now this… The generation of deaf and blind, folks.

    2. Who reads anymore? I much prefer an audio book.

      1. Audio books take too long – you can read a book *much* faster than listening to it. The only time I like audio books are when I’m doing something fairly mindless (driving?).

  6. Ever since the Kindle came out, I’ve only ever seen one on the subway in NYC. No exaggeration. Has anyone else ever seen them in the wild?

    1. My 79 year old mother bought one, without my prior knowledge! Does that count as in the wild?

  7. I think that when the Apple tablet comes out, this won’t stop the iPhone from being used as an e-reader device, but only increase this kind of use. Most people won’t own both, but probably a lot of the content for the new device will also be available for the iPhone.

  8. The Amazon Kindle App is only available to iPhone users in the USA currently. Which, for reasons outside of my control, I am not. Sounds good though…

  9. The evolution of the platform is to be expected. I tend to think of it as a maturity moving from early adopter entertainment device to a more task oriented device. The same tasks we normally perform with other technologies will ultimately get subsumed by mobile, and even more quickly than on the web. The best ones will be those that never really did catch on in the PC space.

    I bet a tablet comes in at either $399 or $499. And, reading on the iPhone is probably better than the experience I’m getting reading Makers in a PDF…

  10. Om – i downloaded a GPS app for the iphone, and I immediately wanted to short stock in Garmin. I think the iphone will totally undercut the low-end/casual GPS market. I own a Garmin – but i probably won’t ever buy one again thanks to the iphone.

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