Mobile Sands

April 28, 2009

Amazon Gets eBook Store on iPhone by Acquiring Stanza

Filed under: App Store, eBooks, iPhone — Tags: , , , , — AJ @ 3:10 pm

One of the key features missing in Amazon’s Kindle iPhone app is the ability to browse and purchase eBooks.  A customer must purchase eBooks through Amazon’s website and add them to her account, before she  reads them using the Kindle iPhone reader.  As I have speculated in earlier posts, this feature is missing because Apple does not want anyone, especially Amazon, to create an alternative to its App Store on the iPhone.  However, one eBook seller that had slipped through iPhone’s app approval process was Lexcyle/Stanza – back in the days when Steve Jobs was saying that “people don’t read anymore”.  Yesterday, Amazon acquired Stanza and may have fixed that gap in its offering.

Back in January (before Kindle’s iPhone app was released), I spent some time comparing Stanza and Fictionwise’s’ eReader. While (in my opinion) eReader offered a better reading experience, Stanza offered a better way to browse and acquire books.  Stanza has tie-ups with several book sources (Fictionwise, feedbooks, Smashwords etc.) and provides book reviews from GoodReads. Unlike eReader, customers could browse through all these book catalogs without logging in, and it was easy to purchase books.  

Stanza grew quickly and was downloaded over 1.5 million times. However, things started changing after Amazon released the Kindle App in early March.  Another established bookseller, Indigo, released its Shortcovers app. And, at the same time, Stanza’s main book seller partner, Fictionwise got acquired by Barnes and Noble.  Plus, several publishers are now selling books as stand-alone apps on iPhone. With larger booksellers in the game, Stanza probably became untenable as a stand-alone business, and agreed to Amazon’s embrace. Amazon now gets the Stanza store, and we wil see how the Stanza store changes in coming months.

March 4, 2009

Apple allows Amazon to Sell eBooks on iPhone

Filed under: App Store, eBooks, games, iPhone, Smartphones — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 3:35 pm

Apple approved Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader app on the iPhone today. A few days ago, it had allowed Indigo Books’ Shortcovers eBook store.  In a previous post, I had speculated that Apple may not do so and try to sell eBooks itself. Not so.  In the last two months, Apple has also allowed several third-party browsers – something many did not expect last year.  

These deciscions indicate that Apple cares less about selling digital content (books, apps, games, music) and more about dominating the smart phone market; that it regards Nokia, Blackberry, Windows and Android as its competitors competitors – not Amazon.  And that it regards building a profitable app ecosystem as a way to strengthen its position as the leading smart phone supplier.  This seems like a very wise strategy.  

Now that Apple has opened the door to companies who want to sell different forms of digital content on iPhones, one of these days, we may even see a digital music storefront show up in the App Store! And maybe some startups will try to create niche marketplaces to sell apps on the iPhone.

I did download the Kindle app on my iPod Touch.  It looks like a rushed job – a land grab rather than a landmark. Right now, it is exactly what Amazon’s spokesperson calls it – a companion to Amazon’s Kindle device.  A user cannot browse or buy books from the app; that can only be done online or via Safari.  Not exactly, “1-click” shopping.  Further, Amazon does not provide any free, off-copyright books. I expect App Store users to rate the Kindle app at 2.5/5.  Still, not great news for startups like Lexcyle. Or for publishers who are troubled about Amazon’s power in the book industry and would prefer open formats like ePub rather than Amazon’s proprietary format.

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