The e-book world is fascinating to me. As a long-time reader of digital texts and a mobile aficionado, the rapid pace that is gripping the e-book scene is great to see. The news today that Amazon (s amzn) has opened the Kindle up to developers so they can make apps for it is surprising on the surface. The Kindle has been the most locked-down reader since its release, and it is interesting that Amazon is trying to turn the Kindle into a platform. I don’t think it will succeed, but not for the reason that is already floating around the web.
It wasn’t long after Amazon released this news that some started the speculation game. Why is Amazon doing this? Surely it’s because they are trying to deal with the heat that Apple (s aapl) is going to put on them with the mystical tablet / e-book reader? Amazon doesn’t want to be caught with its Kindle feet mired in quicksand, so it is turning the Kindle into a platform to cut Apple off at the pass. I don’t think that’s the main reason for Amazon’s big move.
Now, Amazon may very well be concerned with Apple’s move into the e-book world, if indeed that comes to pass. But the fact is, Amazon is already facing stiff competition from readers with platforms that developers can tap into. That platform is Android (s goog). Barnes & Noble (s bks) didn’t choose Android as the platform for the Nook just because it’s open source, although that probably played a role. No, it’s a safe bet that B&N chose Android because it is already a complete platform that is optimized for handling mobile devices such as e-book readers.
There is already a vast developer network for Android, happily churning out thousands of apps. Many of those apps can be used by readers today, with little special attention required. This is why the Nook is not the only reader based on Android — there are quite a few of them getting ready for release. This is the real competition that Amazon faces with the Kindle, because it is already in motion no matter what Apple does with the fabled tablet. Amazon realizes it is move forward or stagnate, and opening up the Kindle for developers is something they must do to compete with Android.
I don’t believe opening up the Kindle will help Amazon deal with these upstarts in the long run. Android is already a complete platform, and I don’t see developers making the Kindle into one. Why spend a lot of effort to do so when these Android-based readers are already out there? No matter what Apple does, and if they enter into the e-book market it will certainly get even murkier for Amazon. Open Kindle or no.