I’ve argued before that with regards to eBooks and the Kindle, Amazon doesn’t view itself as a hardware company. Unlike the iTunes ecosystem designed to shift more iPods and iPhones, for Amazon it’s actually about selling digital content — the eBooks themselves — as demonstrated by the release of the iPhone ‘Kindle’ eBook reader and the company’s work-around to keep Apple away from any iPhone-generated eBook revenue.
The Kindle hardware exists to kick start and accelerate the uptake of eBooks, and as well as creating Kindle reader software for other mobile platforms, similar to what the company has already done on the iPhone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon one day license its Kindle platform to competing hardware eBook readers. As I said, it’s clearly about shifting content, and to achieve this, owning the eBook ‘standard’ and therefore default store.
To do this Amazon knows it has to create the best eBook reading experience and offer the largest catalog. And it’s arguably leading on both these counts already, in the US at least. Publishers know it. Consumers know it. And Sony – and other competing eBook hardware makers – know it. Hence Sony’s decision to ditch its own proprietary eBook format going forward and support the more open and industry-backed ePub standard.
If Sony can’t stop Amazon owning the eBook standard on its own, then embracing an open format along with other players in the market seems like the best way to prevent the online retailer becoming the dominant force in the e-publishing industry, as Apple has done in the digital music industry, able to dictate prices and control distribution. Something that not only Sony and other hardware makers but publishers across the board are right to be scared of.
And then there’s Apple and that rumored iTablet, eBook reading capability and all.