Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is the Kindle the Betamax of eReaders?

There is an interesting article over at ING Direct that indicates Amazon's eReader, the Kindle, may be at risk for becoming as irrelevant as Sony's failed video recording device was back in the early eighties (I bought one, btw). At the time no one expected Sony to lose the contest against Panasonic's VHS format, but that is exactly what happened. Could it happen to Amazon?

Today, Sony is but one of the competitors Amazon is facing in the ever-growing market for eBooks and eBook readers. It seems almost every week a new player enters the market and many, if not most, are adopting the more open format of "ePub" which allows content sharing across platforms. Kindle's content is proprietary and not transferable to a new device if you decide to change. You have to buy your Kindle content from Amazon and you can't take it with you when you leave. The ePub format will be supported by most new devices from other companies. It's also backed by the publishers, who don't like Amazon's dominance of the e-book business, and Adobe, whose Digital Editions e-book format uses ePub.

Barnes and Noble is back in the eBook business in a big way and Allen Weiner, an expert in the e-book business at technology consultancy Gartner, Inc., says he knows that other manufacturers are poised to launch new reading devices with Kindle-style 3G wireless connections. Some may be announced as early as the next few weeks, he says. The plot thickens....

To complicate things, rumors grow stronger every day that Apple is about to enter the market through the backdoor by introducing a new tablet device that is expected to do pretty much anything your current laptop will do - plus display eReader content. Couple that with Apple's already phenomenally successful media delivery system, iTunes, and you have a formidable player in the eContent world.

Kudos to Amazon for everything they have done to bring eBooks to the masses, but if a decent, affordable device appears and it is compatible with content from dozens of sources, Amazon will have a hard time competing.

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