The competition is really heating up in the e-reader market. Hot on the heels of Barnes & Noble’s newly-released Nook reader, Amazon last week announced its Kindle branded e-book reader software for the PC. With it, users will be able to read their electronic books on their Kindle and on their desktop PC, too. And, before we started feeling like we’d been left out of the party, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed the company is also developing a version of the software for the Mac.
Actually, a beta version of the PC software is already available, but the Mac version is still very much under wraps. Writing in the Fast Company blog, Chris Dannen reports, “An Amazon spokesperson told me late Thursday: ‘Yes, we are working on a Kindle app for Mac.’”
The software will work in a similar fashion to the existing Kindle iPhone app (which is currently available only in America). A Kindle owner will be able to read and automatically sync their books across devices. So for example, a user can read a few chapters on their computer screen before heading out of the house. In their doctor’s waiting room they reach for their Kindle, the Whispersync network would have automatically synced the Kindle with their desktop computer, allowing them to pick up reading right where they left off that morning.
Will customers be excited about reading on their desktop? I don’t think so. The form factor of most desktop machines doesn’t make for a very comfortable book-reading experience. But the upcoming touch-enabled netbooks that take advantage of the touch functionality in Windows 7 offer a far more compelling form factor. A Mac-compatible version of the software is more exciting, however, if we imagine it running on Apple’s impending Tablet.
The tablet will most likely offer e-books and other “print” content via the iTunes store, but it’s also just as likely Apple’s e-books won’t use the same file format as Amazon’s proprietary AZW, which is the default format used by the Kindle today. Being able to run the Kindle software on the tablet means Kindle customers will potentially enjoy the best of both worlds on a single device. And even if they ultimately stop using their Kindle and the Kindle online store, their investment in Amazon’s platform will not be wasted… that’s assuming Apple will allow the Kindle software to be installed on its Tablet.
Sure, a Kindle reader app is already available on the iPhone, complete with the ability to purchase new titles. But the iPhone (well, more specifically, iTunes) doesn’t yet offer a serious selection of e-books and electronic publications like magazines, periodicals or comic books. But once Apple has taken its first significant steps in the e-book market, will it forbid third-party apps from offering similar functionality on the same device?
I’d like to say Apple wouldn’t be so silly or shortsighted. But then I think about the high drama surrounding the ill-fated Google Voice app for the iPhone …and suddenly I’m a lot less certain.