Amazon made a huge leap to the front of the iPhone line.
Putting a Kindle reader on the iPhone for free through the App Store enables shopping at Amazon’s Kindle store and then a direct download into the iPhone (or into the Kindle, or both!) This means reasonably good book merchandising and one-click.
The reader is not as good as Stanza’s. You’re stuck with ragged right; you have five discrete type size choices (six on the Kindle itself) rather than a slide bar; you have no choice of page-turning mechanism or type face or the color of things (all of which you do in Stanza.)
But I think we’ve learned from the original Kindle launch how powerful is the combination of a) the community of heavy book readers Amazon has, b) the vast title selection, and c) a quick and seamless shopping experience.
Now we can add to that the ability to read the same book on the Kindle and the iPhone, with bookmarks and your place in the book ported from one to the other.
It is still true, as I wrote last week, that Amazon’s hegemony will be much harder to maintain in a large ebook world than it has been in the world of selling printed books online. But they just took a big step toward solidifying their hold on the book-reading market. The creators of readers like Stanza and Scrollmotion may soon understand the frustration that Betamax and Apple must have felt in the 1980s when they were getting their clocks cleaned by inferior technology from VHS and Microsoft. The best technology doesn’t necessarily win. And, measured purely on the basis of the “reading experience”, Kindle isn’t as good as Stanza. (Scrollmotion can “do illustrated” very well; that gives them a potential market position for the books that benefit from an integrated text-and-graphics presentation.)
But if selection and shopping experience trump, and they have so far, Amazon is going to make it tough for these newcomers to survive. There are going to be lots of complaints about Amazon’s not using epub and therefore preventing interoperability across devices. But that gets to be a harder argument to make because they have used their format to enable interoperability between the iPhone and the Kindle.
And this is one Kindle-and-iPhone user that believes this will stimulate sales of Kindle devices, not hurt them. It is a lot easier to read for a long time on a Kindle than on an iPhone, where the advantage is portability. People building up a library of Kindle books through their iPhone become better candidates to buy the device on which the reading experience is better.