Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Amazon should thank Apple for saving the Kindle; Amazon's Kindle app, that is, not the e-reader

I didn't buy a Kindle when it first came out, and probably wouldn't have purchased an iPad were it not for the promise of all those magazines and newspaper apps -- apps that have yet to appear, I might add. But I am a big time Amazon customer: CDs, DVDs. books, even hard to find food items -- Amazon should be giving me a rebate check for all the business I give them.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
But until the iPad I've never purchased an e-book. Today, however, thanks to the New York Times, and Amazon, I have bought my first e-book: The Publisher, by Alan Brinkley.

The Times gets some credit: Janet Maslin reviewed the book yesterday, and the review can still be found on the home page of the Times web site. Being a former magazine publisher myself, not to mention the owner of this web site, I couldn't help but want a book like this one -- teh subject being Henry Luce, the founder and publisher of Time magazine. I didn't even get far enough to know whether Ms. Maslin liked the book -- I just knew this was a book I wanted to read.

OK, so do I go to Amazon's web site, or do I check out iBooks on my iPad? Actually, I was able to do both. Amazon had the book in hardbound and Kindle editions, but iBooks -- Apple's own app and bookstore -- did not have it at all.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

←  Maslin's review on my Mac, and the Kindle edition of The Publisher on my iPad.

Amazon's "Buy now with 1 click" button said it would deliver my book to my iPad -- the other option being to register a new Kindle, sorry no Kindle. Within seconds my new e-books was available for reading on my iPad (and my credit card was dinged).

Brad Stone from the Times wrote a column back in January about why he felt the iPad would not kill the Kindle. At the time I felt it a rather premature judgement since the iPad wouldn't even be available for another two months. It used to be that reviewers were required to actually see the thing they were reviewing -- how old school of me to think that. (To be fair, Nick Bilton wrote a companion column that said the opposite. Get the idea: a new version of Crossfire.)

Stone wrote that the iPad isn't for readers (wrong), Amazon will continue to improve the Kindle (maybe, but do you want to bet that Amazon is a better device maker than Apple?), and that the Kindle store will thrive because of Kindle apps for the iPhone, PC, Mac and BlackBerry (90% wrong). Stone was right about one thing, though: the Kindle store will thrive, but because of the Kindle app for the iPad.

Amazon will probably out complete Apple on book sales through its e-reader stores. But Apple will win because people will use their iPad, not because Apple wants to sell cheap books. Apple doesn't do cheap.

So while I bought the book on Amazon (and love using their web site) I will be reading The Publisher on my iPad. It seems like the best of both worlds to me.

One area were Apple may have an edge is on stand-alone book apps. Vook Inc., the company started by Bradley Inman has a couple dozen 99 cent apps available for the iPad, and even more for the iPhone. (Inman used to write a real estate column that appeared in the real estate tab I helped launch at the L.A. Herald Examiner -- I hesitate to tell you how long ago that was.)

Pearson owned Penguin Books is also going the app route, but the company is taking its time, launching its first book soon.

“The interesting thing about pricing on iPad is, I’m trying to get everybody over the idea that we’ll be right first time," Genevieve Shore, Pearson’s digital strategy director told paidContent.co.uk. "With static content, we spend a lot of time thinking about the right price, and then have to stick with that price. The beauty of these platforms is, we can change it."