Amazon Kindle, Amazon ePub, The eBook Bubble

July 6, 2009

I made this a Comment over at Teleread. Might as well drop it in here too so I can easily get at it to wave in everyone’s face later on.

I have no doubt that Amazon will have the K reading ePub before the end of this year.

But no one is going to like it.

1) It’ll be Amazon’s own ePub rendering engine

2) It’ll be Amazon’s own DRM

3) They’ll add proprietary extensions to ePub

4) It won’t help any current ePub publishers because the entire appeal of the K is Have It Now OTA downloads. No way will 99% of K owners wait to get home and buy/cable over eBooks.

I’m no longer very enthusiastic about eInk-based eBook devices. I declared them dead once and I’m getting to the point where I regret changing my mind on that. Or perhaps I was just ahead of my time — again.

The iPhone OS platform (iPhone and iPod Touch) have a 40-to-1 advantage over the eInk device population. And that will only grow. Plus, if analyst figures are to believed, Palm is on the cusp of selling more of the Palm Pre in about a month than Sony has of its Reader over several years — over 300,000. That population will also grow as Palm puts the finishing touches on webOS as well as rolls out new cellphone form factors.

So I have to ask, why would anyone want to carry Yet Another Device? The battery life argument is no longer tenable. The Mophie Juice Pack for the iPhone makes it an all-day device now. And the Pre has a removable battery. Also, improvements in chip design will continue to add improvements in run time. Finally, there is Google and its Android OS, which HTC is making compelling via its Sense UI facelift.

People always have their cellphones with them. It takes an effort of will to remember to lug around an eInk device. There will come a tipping point and the advantage will go to devices based on the iPhone OS, webOS, and Android OS platforms.

I predicted months ago we would create an eBook Bubble.

That is now happening.

Just about weekly we read rumors of another device in the works, a cellphone carrier testing and/or developing a device, and a new eBook publisher ramping up.

I’m not yet certain what the end result of this will be. Overall, it can only help to advance the cause of eBooks. But the competition will be brutal and some members of the general public are going to feel like suckers for betting on something new that clearly has no future. Throw DRM and what David Rothman coined the “Tower of eBabel” (incompatible and proprietary eBook file formats) into that mess and I really don’t see how governmental bodies — at the State and Federal levels — cannot help but to be involved. There will be blood.