With Apple’s announcement of the iPad and the Apple iBook store, people have been noticing the ongoing debate about e-books, e-readers and the ugly concept of DRM, which assumes that paying customers are thieves.
This is in direct competition to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s a very similar bit of technology, the major difference being that the B&N Nook will allow users to “share” e-books with other Nook users. It works this way. You purchase an ebook from B&N on your Nook. You like it. You think your buddy, who also has a Nook, would like it. So you can “loan” that book to said buddy. It will be available to be read on his Nook for two weeks. My bet is that this will generate a lot a ebook sales.
Now, some may argue that Amazon already owns the mind share for e-book readers, having crushed the Sony E-Reader in the market. The Kindle took off because Amazon was already seen as a major e-retailer of books and they had the ability to buy books immediately on the Kindle using mobile Internet technology. Sony wasn’t known as a book seller and they had no such “instant buy” option. The Nook has a similar broadband connection to the Kindle and B&N is seen as a major retailer of books by the public. The fact that B&N has a much larger ebook library than Amazon doesn’t hurt either.
There are two major flaws I can see with the Nook. First, the whole DRM thing. Second is that it only supports three formats, EPUB, eReader and PDF. A few more, including unencrypted Mobipocket, would be nice.
Amazon has responded, quietly, with the announcement that they will release free “Kindle software” for the PC platform, so people can read Amazon’s DRM crippled ebooks on their desktop or notebook computers. MAC and LINUX users are not supported in this release. Amazon is also selling refurbish (i.e. used) first gen Kindles for $150.
Another point of evidence to support that theory has just come out. According to this New York Times story, Amazon can delete e-books off your Kindle, that you have “purchased” from them, without your knowledge or consent.
One of the books removed, George Orwell’s “1984”
Keep in mind that Amazon was the first company to grab a noticable portion of Apple’s iTunes digital formated music business by offering MP3 files without copy protection. Amazon is using it’s dominate position in the online bookselling business to force an ugly “DRM” scheme on its customers that assumes that they are thieves.
Amazon, and publishing companies, need to recognize that they make most of their money off avid readers who are willing to spend money to support their favorite authors. Their fear driven reaction to the fear mongering of the RIAA is pushing them toward a business model that is hostile toward their best customers. They would better serve their customers, and their stockholders, by working with the customer instead of treating them like criminals.
Before you get too excited, it won’t be released until next month, it’s only available in Japan, and it has a $1,000 price tag.
The FLEPia will however have a color screen with touch capabilities. Old School Palm OS stylus touch control though.
The display uses a variant of LCD tech that doesn’t use a backlight. The backlight is the power hog that has kept it from being used in a ebook reader yet.
This one, put out by Plastic Logic, it is based on the e-Ink technology that has been out for years. The drawo of this reader is that is larger (8.5″ x 11″) and more “rugged” than a Kindle or Sony Reader. No buttons either, it uses a touch screen technology to flip pages.
No word yet on what formats it will support, how etext will be loaded on it or what kind of DRM it will have.
Here is my geek punditry for the day. The Amazon Kindle etext reader is going to sell well. It will succeed for the same reason the iPod did. The iPod did not dominate the mp3 player market by creating a better mp3 player, they did it by greatly expanding the market through its iTunes service. People who had no idea of what an mp3 was or how to create/find them now had a way to purchase digital music easily and for less money than they paid for to get the music on CD.
The Kindle has Amazon shopping built in and thus a way to purchase etext at a reasonable cost. Amazon is attempting to follow the highly successful model Apple used, and it will probably work.
I’ve been doing the etext thing for years on my Palm based PDAs. There is an amazing amount of material available, including Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Beam Piper, and a good chunk of the Baen Books catalog. I am, however, a lot more geeky than the general public. I was not part of the Apple model because I knew about mp3s and the problems with overly restrictive copy protection.
Apple’s “Kindle format” is an encrypted version of the Mobipocket format common on PDAs such a Palm OS based devices. It does support non-encrypted Mobipocket, as well as text files and a few other open formats.
The Kindle’s biggest competitor will be the iPhone, once decent reader format is available (and either iTunes supports loading it or there is some third party software you could use without having Apple brick your phone), but I think the Kindle will hold its own, for the reasons stated.