According to a ChangeWave survey, the iPad is about to surpass the Kindle as the favorite among consumers buying e-readers, and the just-announced Google Editions bookstore may help accelerate that trend. Regardless of the outcome of the Amazon/Google battle, Apple looks to reap the rewards.


A new ChangeWave survey of some 2,800 consumers suggests single-purpose e-readers are doomed, which isn’t surprising. However, the fact that it’s happening so quickly certainly is. The iPad was launched in April of this year, more than two years after the Kindle. That’s a considerable length of time to establish customer loyalty, and for a while, it looked like the Kindle had that in spades. As August, the Kindle accounted for more than 60 percent of e-reader ownership, compared to 16 percent for the iPad. However, by November, that had changed drastically, with the Kindle at 47 percent and the iPad at 32 percent.

Looking forward, not even prices as low as $89 (the price of the Kindle 2 during a promotion last week) appear enough to keep the Kindle in its position of preference among e-readers. The iPad is now the choice of 42 percent of prospective buyers, versus 32 percent for the Kindle. If there’s any good news for the Kindle, it’s that the iPad is its only real competition among e-readers. The Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader barely register at 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively. More people prefer using software on their smartphone than either of those devices.

Looking into why the Kindle is losing ground so quickly, the ChangeWave survey suggests content is the answer. When asked what types of content owners use their device for, the Kindle was more popular than the iPad for books — 93 percent to 76 percent — but for magazines, newspapers, and other reading, the iPad won handily.

If there’s any downside for the iPad, it’s probably that iBooks has failed as a competitor to the Kindle Store for book buying. Apple has yet to challenge Amazon in book sales or catalog size. For that matter, the iBooks software is, in my opinion, fatally flawed without wireless bookmarking across multiple devices like the Kindle App provides.

Another competitor for both stores looms on the horizon. The Wall Street Journal reports Google is preparing to launch the company’s long-delayed e-bookstore by the end of the year. Unlike Amazon and Apple with their proprietary stores, formats, and applications, Google Editions will be much more open. Consumers will be able to buy books from multiple online retailers, storing books in an online library through an account with Google. Books can be read online using a web browser on a traditional computer, tablet, or handheld device, and will also be available offline. Details of the format are not yet known, but I expect we’ll see an app for that, too.

For Amazon, this is more trouble. Having lost the ability to set book prices because of Apple and iBooks, the online book retailer is now facing in Google a competitor selling books everywhere on any device. For Apple, lets just say it: iBooks is doomed. What possible reason would there be for buying books from Apple now? Google Editions will let you shop around for the best price from many retailers, read your books on any device with a web browser, and bookmark without having to sync to iTunes.

If Apple keeps gaining ground on Amazon at this rate in the hardware battle, it’s bound to come out as the clear winner. Amazon looks to be doing fairly well in the short term in the fight between digital storefronts, but Google Editions will definitely give it a run for its money. No matter which angle you approach it from, Amazon looks to be in for one heck of a fight.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Sounds to me like iBooks has served it’s purpose quite well, and I’m sure Apple is happy with it. It served to help knock down the amazon ebook monopoly, spurred interest in the iPad as a book reader, and legitimized color LCD reading.

    I’m sure Apple will be quite happy to sell the #1 hardware platform for ‘kindle books’ and ebooks in general, and take a smaller portion of the content market…

    1. While it may be true Apple is content enough with how book selling is playing out in terms of hardware, looking back to the launch of iBooks the sentiment professed by Steve jobs was quite different regarding software. He made the point of Apple quickly cutting into Amazon books sales. Going forward, I can’t believe anyone at Apple would ever be content losing out to Google in any market, even one as marginal towards profits as e-book sales.

  2. This story is ridiculous! Amazon is selling Kindles as fast as they can make them. There will always be a market for dedicated ebook readers. I would also assume most of us iPad users use the Kindle or Nook app for reading so Amazon still makes money. About the only thing is this story that I agree with is that Apple’s iBook store and reading app is crap.

  3. This story is ridiculous. Amazon is selling Kindles as fast as they can make them and there will always be a market for dedicated readers. And most people who read on their iPad use the Kindle app so Amazon is still making money on that. About the only thing this story got right is that Apple’s iBook store and reading app are crap!

  4. Uh, iBooks has had wireless bookmark syncing since June… I use it every day.

  5. Did it cross anyone’s mind that Amazon has made a point of making Kindle software available on every platform and may not even care that much about hardware?

    We sure haven’t heard much about iBooks in months…

  6. Not sure about other people, but I prefer iBooks, even with the slight difference in prices and selection. I’ve lost books before to Amazon’s DRM where it was no longer useable on another laptop. I don’t trust that items purchased from Amazon will be supported in the future. The Apple books are in a standard publisher format, while the Amazon books are totally locked down in an Amazon environment, putting your trust in the longevity and technical support experience of Amazon, where their goal may be similar to music producers – sell us the same content over and over again in new formats.

    I have also used other apps on the iPhone for reading – Borders Reader, and some apps for books out of copyright. The public domain books are fairly straightforward, easy to bring up the same book in each system and compare the reading experience, iBooks was very responsive and had lots of options for page transitions and has ability to display page numbers. I found the Borders app to be very buggy, with purchases only showing up as garbled characters.

    It took over three weeks and hours on the phone with someone on the phone at Borders, walking me thru DELETING my items from the mobile app, installing a program on my laptop, REORDERING the items, then syncing to my i-Device. This convinced me – you want a system that is not proprietary formats, and you want someone with excellent customer service. To me, the retailer with the best format and customer service is Apple. Not only that, but it has the best syncing strategy.

    You can pick and choose what you want to carry, just like a song or a photo. The Borders app required you to always have all your content synced or to delete it. If you deleted from the Borders app, it could not be redownloaded again without repurchasing. The iBooks app lets you decide which items to carry in your device. When you look at a long term solution for people that read more than a few books per year, the Apple solution is more manageable. I think as people actually use the apps, that more folks will enjoy using iBooks. Regarding Google – they do have a lot of scanned public domain and unknown copyright items, would be disruptive to have those items only available at Google Books.

    Will be interesting to see how long Google can maintain a monopoly on those items, or if the source libraries release the electronic copies to other institutions and repositories. Anything that is truely public domain, I would expect to appear in the other online bookstores. Stuff with questionable copyright, such as recent scanned books without permission of author/publisher, I would expect Google to try and benefit from those items, just like Google benefited from bootleg Youtube footage of copyrighted videos.

  7. This look to turn-up to be one ferocious battle, and the winner would ultimately rule the market. Google or Amazon or Apple?????

  8. Let Google profile what you’re reading? You’ll get what you deserve.


Comments have been disabled for this post