Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The iPod of eBooks? Amazon's Kindle Reader Being Readied for Online Store

Thank you, public data. Engadget highlights some photos and stats gleaned from the Federal Communications Commission's Web site where it posts information on new electronic products seeking their blessing. The sneak peak in this instance is a product called "Kindle" from Amazon that appears to be an eBook reader with 6-inch eInk display and 800x600 pixel resolution. While the unit is rather unattractive and with a keyboard that looks about as awkward as Sony's ill-fated LIBRIe reader apparently it has broadband wireless communications capabilities that will enable it to download content easily on the go - presumably from the Kindle Store mentioned in the product's user manual. This could be a nifty scoop by Engadget but given that the product looks more like a prop from an early Star Trek episode than a finished consumer product we might be looking at an early product prototype being readied for field tests.

Nevertheless it's clear that Amazon has decided to go the iPod route and to provide a simple device that can be used for enjoying books on the go from its own retail outlet. Hey, if it worked for Apple why shouldn't it work for the world's largest online retailer? If the device is right and the online consumer experience rewarding there's reason to think that the right gizmo could spark eBook consumption in the same way that the iTunes store helped to power the iPod - tuned to the "n"th degree and filled with Amazon's extensive inventory of electronic titles.

We'll see if this particular gizmo ever sees the light of day but in the meantime book publishers that have lagged in their efforts to define cross-platform eBooks packaging and rights management capabilities are going to find themselves at the mercy of one or another proprietary readers that will haunt them as much as they may provide thrills in the early days of their acceptance. As Amazon and other online book services make it easier for emerging authors to be discovered and provide the major distribution technology for books one wonders just what will be left for major book publishers to do in a few years' time.
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