iPhone getting a Mobipocket eBook client. What’s that mean for Amazon’s Kindle?


TextonphoneGiven the iPhone SDK availability, this should come as no surprise, but it’s nice to see confirmation. Mobipocket will be introducing an eBook client for the iPhone later this year according to Martin Gorner, president and CEO of Mobi. MobileRead got the information at the IDPF conference where Gorner spoke. That’s good news to us folks that read digital content, but what does it mean for Amazon’s Kindle?After all, the Kindle format is a DRM-tweaked version of Mobipocket’s format, so there’s a key partnership between the two organizations. The iPhone and iPod Touch user base is far and away larger than that of the Kindle, which is great for the eBook market, but may hurt Kindle sales in the long run. Of course, the Apple products certainly have a smaller screen when compared the Kindle, but they offer connectivity options as well as a simple e-commerce experience through the iTunes store. Could the Kindle burn out even before sales get stoked?Note: the image shown is from the TextOnPhone eBook web service that I video demo’d earlier this year.


Hank Roberts

A year passes like nothing.

I’m sure glad I’ve still got my old Clie TH55 so I can read most anything that’s available anywhere I want.

Until something better comes along, it’s just fine.


Any updates on the ETA of this client? The eReader release was a big deal and I’m moving ever closer to buying an iPhone. Slowly Apple are checking off the boxes on my list of features I must have on a portable all-in-one device. Only A2DP and a keyboard to go ;)

Michael Cohn

Kevin, you get the wi-fi in your home because you’re paying your ISP by the month. Stop paying, and you stop getting wi-fi (unless you steal it from your neighbor). With the Kindle, you buy it once, and you have free wireless connectivity forever. Stop buying electronic books with it, and you can still browse the store remotely as much as you like.

The real profits on this device are going to be on the purchases over time. In that sense, the free wireless is analogous to the free physical delivery that you get from Amazon in many cases. Amazon has a great distribution network that they end up being able to afford *overall*…even if some of your purchases technically are losses for them. The same thing is happening with wireless service on Kindle. Amazon is betting that there will be enough purchases overall to create enough profits to pay for the service.

Although I’ve owned my iPhone since they were available, I have only bought one song on it directly, just for fun when the service became available. Always seemed silly to me, but if there really are a lot of people with your preferences out there, then good for Apple.

Kevin C. Tofel

Michael, before I had my iPhone I was indeed buying music directly on my computers. Since I’ve had my iPhone, I’ve bought about 80% of my music directly on the phone. Yes, that means over WiFi by default. The excellent buying experience I was describing is on the phone, so you lost the bet. ;) I also don’t have any need or requirement to connect my iPhone to a PC as my mail is all OTA, i.e.: I rarely sync the iPhone.

While you’re not paying for incremental wireless charges for the Kindle, the connectivity is really not “free”. It would be equally inaccurate by me saying the WiFi in my home is free. The $399 paid for a Kindle includes the EV-DO service but the price is essentially built in. Look at it this way: there are other eInk devices out there that use current gen display technolgies (not prior gen like the Kindle) that cost $299 (Sony’s Reader comes to mind). What does the $100 premium in the Kindle offer? Wireless connectivity for one thing. Yes, that’s a difference because you can’t currently buy music on the iPhone over EDGE. That of course will change next month with the next gen iPhone.

Michael Cohn


Are you buying that music directly to your iPhone, or are you buying it on your computer and then transferring it? Or maybe you are buying it directly to your phone, in which case you have to be using wi-fi (not the AT&T Edge network). If you’re not getting the music from your computer (and sometimes even if you are), you’re paying for bandwidth. And I bet the excellent e-commerce music-buying experience you’re referring to is happening on your computer, not your phone.

With Kindle, the wireless connection is free, and as long as you are getting a signal, you can download content directly to the device, all the time. That’s the difference I’m talking about.


PDAs and phones have had eBook clients for ages. This is nothing new or exctiting. What people tend to not understand is the difference is in the screen of the device, not the software. I’ve used eBook software on my Palm TX (PalmFiction) for years, but reading on a backlit device has its pros and cons. I would never attempt to read a book when I am outside of the house for example, since that would be masochistic. On an eInk screen, however, I would have no troubles. Conversely, reading in the dark on a backlit device is much easier.

Stephen Feger

I’ve always wanted Mobipocket to get access to the same distibution system and content as the Kindle, especially since they’re both owned by Amazon.

But if they did that, I think it would seriously affect sales of the Kindle. We all know the iPhone will sell like hotcakes and going to the iPhone as an eBook reader has a lot of advantages over the Kindle (some negatives too obviously).

I actually think that this means it’s more likely that we will continue to see a break between the content available to Mobipocket and content available via the Kindle. That’s disappointing.

It’s all about the content.

Mike Cane

Just think of that software as another iPhone opportunity to torment me, Fiend Kevin!

Apparently, you two have recruited MobiPocket as Auxliary Fiends!

Kevin C. Tofel

Good point, Mike. I completely forgot that Amazon actually does own Mobipocket since they bought them in April, 2005.

Mike Cane

Well, this is a big surprise! Amazon *owns* Mobi. You think if *MS* had bought Mobi and come out with Kindle, we’d have seen *this*? Did anyone tell Bezos this is happening?

I expect eReader and all the rest to be on iPhone (and don’t forget iPod Touch too!) as well.


Excellent points. But the eventual difference may be in flexibility.

Which device will allow owners to load their own text files for later reading? Newspaper or Web articles? Web pages? For a teacher/school to load materials, tutorials onto the device?

Kevin C. Tofel

Michael, I appreciate your opinion. Bear in mind that you’re offering the perspective of someone who owns both devices. I currently have both in-house as well and understand your point of the reading experience. I also come from 5-years of reading eBooks on small-screened Windows Mobile devices, so I’m used to the smaller display sizes. However, to appreciate Kindle’s reading experience, you actually have to have or use a Kindle. You can’t get your hands on one until you buy it, whereas the iPhone can be experienced in retail stores. I think folks may miss the “Kindle experience” as a result. Your point about the connectivity and e-commerce experience are a little lost on me. Buying music through the iTunes store has been a simple and excellent experience for me. No connection to any other device is needed.

Michael Cohn

Um…no. I own both an iPhone and a Kindle, and there’s no comparison in terms of reading experience; the Kindle is much better. It’s not just the bigger screen; it’s the way it’s made to be held just like a book, turning pages with your thumbs, etc.

As far as Apple’s ‘connectivity options’ and ‘simple e-commerce experience’…I doubt either will be better than the Kindle, which offers free connectivity, and which allows you to buy and download directly from Amazon right there on the device, even when it’s not connected to anything else.


‘A’ Mobipocket eBook client.
‘an’ eBook client for the iPhone later this year

A if the next word is a consonant
An if the next word is a vowel

(Some exceptions exist but not in the above cases)

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