Monday, April 5, 2010

Walled Gardens: Apple vs. Amazon

I'm going to ask for your forgiveness in advance. I know that the iPad was released this weekend and people must be getting sick of the hype and all the articles about it. Even I'm starting to get a little saturated. In a way it reminds me of the Tiger Woods coverage - enough already!

Anyway, those of you who follow my blog and have read some of my previous articles about the Kindle and other eReaders, know that one of the complaints I've always had about the Kindle was the fact that their eBook format was proprietary. You had to read it on the Kindle (or using Kindle software) or you were SOL. In fact, my latest blog post was about the Kobo eReader and how Wired magazine referred to it as the "Kindle Killer". The article was referring to the Kobo eReaders price vs. the iPad, as they both support the open ePub format (which is the format Champagne books sells on their website).

So it was an ironic albeit unpleasant surprise when I came across this article on CNET - Why Apple's iBooks falls short of Kindle--for now. The article basically states that despite Apple's much hyped iBooks, Apple falls short of Amazon in terms of being able to allow people to consume their content on the device (iPad, Kindle, etc) of their choice. So far Amazon is winning that battle, as you can read Kindle books on the iPad and iPhone via the Kindle app, as well as on your PC or MAC, not to mention the Kindle itself. At the moment the iBooks app only exists on the iPad so if you purchase a book using iBooks and don't have access to your iPad then you are SOL.

Of course to be fair this is exactly the position that Amazon was in when it first launched the Kindle and it is only now, just over 2 years later, that the Kindle enjoys such widespread access.

So coming out of the gate, Amazon has the advantage. It will be interesting to see how Apple responds and adapts to this, particularly regarding eBooks in the ePub format purchased outside of iBooks.

At the end of the day, as eBooks become popular, approaches like the one advocated by Kobobooks - a "device-neutral" approach - will make the most sense. The Kindle is part way there but unless they allow other vendors access to their file format, they've reached their limits. Whereas the iPad is just getting started.

David

Posted by David Boultbee

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