That Was Quick: Amazon Launches Kindle Books For iPhone

from the better-than-lock-in dept

While we've been wondering why publishers would agree to lock themselves into Amazon's ebook system via DRM, one possible dampener was the high price of the Kindle device itself. At $359... you need to read a lot of books to make that a worthwhile purchase. And, plenty of people have been asking whether other platforms -- most notably the iPhone -- might start to eat into the Kindle's market. It might not be quite as nice for reading books, but it's a device people already carry around. So, rather than denying that the competition existed, just weeks after introducing the second generation Kindle, Amazon will now allow Kindle books to be purchased for reading on an iPhone. The process is a little cumbersome, and the experience isn't quite as good, but you have to hand it to Amazon for recognizing that it's better to try to co-opt the competition rather than let it take you over (if only other businesses could learn that same lesson). Yet, if I'm a book publisher -- again, this is a bad sign. It gives Amazon even more power in the market and more leverage in the future. Giving Amazon lock-in via DRM may turn out to be the dumbest move some publishers ever made. If they had focused on open standards then there might be real competition and a lot more interest in ebooks.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 1:03am

    So in a couple of yeas simply publish the "Baen Books was right all along." headline when this is shown to choke ebook market down.

    At first though it'll bee seen as big progress since Amazon and Kindle is one of the few 'big' names out there looking for readers in non-paper format.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    inc, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 4:50am

    Isn't the choice to use DRM left up to the author? I'm not sure if Amazon cares about DRM but probably has it as a concision to authors.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Joseph Durnal, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 5:10am

    kindle

    Yeah, the kindle is expensive, and I'd argue that it never pays for itself outright, since you have to buy most new books and you can't buy one used from a yard sale or borrow one from a friend. I bought one for my wife as a gift, and she loves it, and I must say, I think it is a nice way to take in a book. The screen is easy on the eyes, it is light but not too small.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Mike Klepzig, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    DRM

    If the author or publisher agrees to let Amazon sell the book as a Kindle book, it agrees to DRM, because all Kindle books have it.

    Once ebook readers become more popular, then people will pirate books a lot more commonly than at present. The Kindle format may get hacked, freeing Kindle owners of their Kindle, or every ebook reader will be able to read the Kindle format, provided their identity matches with the owner.

    I don't believe publishers will lock themselves into anything long-term with Amazon. They can always publish again in another format, an open source one, but wouldn't make as much money off it, since it would be easily pirated, and Kindles would probably still be able to read it, even if Amazon didn't want them to, since somebody would create a converter. Better for publishers and authors to sell their books through Amazon where they'll get the most sales, because of the Amazon name, and because of the current limited piracy liability.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Eric, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 5:44am

    ebooks expense..

    How come ebooks are still the same price as a regular book?

    When will authors realize they can just publish the books themselves online? I know there are a few authors doing it, but no popular author has decided to do it on his/her own.

    It would be nice to see the authors get out from under the thumb of the publishers, like the musicians are getting away from their middleman.

    I'm ready to go to digital books, takes up less space, less to dust and easier to carry with me. But I barely buy new books now, I buy all my books used because of the cost factor. I'm surely not about to pay $8 for some 1's and zero's that can disappear in a blink of an eye and that might limit me in the way I can read or sell it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 5:47am

    I have absolutely no interest in buying a Kindle or a similar device, ever. However, I am a fan of Stephen King and would be interested in buying the story he's written as a Kindle "exclusive".

    There was clearly no way I'd ever be willing to pay $359 for a story costing $2.99, so that left me with the options of pirating the book (and, yes, it's available in PDF format right now) or being "honest" and not reading the story. This introduces a nice loophole meaning that I might be willing to part with money after all, as I do own an iPod Touch.

    So, the DRM would have either forced me to pirate or simply not buy the product in any case. Once again, DRM does nothing except drive people to piracy, and helps nobody except the makers of certain devices (Amazon, in this case). It doesn't stop piracy and it doesn't encourage authors. This is a nice concession, but I'd be left with the same "piracy vs. nothing" dilemma if I hadn't recently bought an iPod Touch...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    dkp, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    here we go again

    here we go again it is apple and the music industry all over again I predict in about ten years amazon will be allowed to drop the drm but by that time it will be to late.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 6:57am

    How long before Apple bans it?

    I wonder how long it will be before Apple bans the app from their store to offer their own ebook reader. My guess is, not too long. After all, antitrust is evil, unless you're Apple. Then, it's just striving for a "better user experience."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re:

    I don't think Stephen King would mind if you pirated it. This is the guy who invented the Dollar Baby licensing scheme, and he has always seemed to have a firm grasp on the value of a reader base. Besides, if he doesn't make enough money on the story alone, he can always sell the movie rights for a few million or so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Bill G, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: DRM

    Sorry Mike,

    The books are easily pirated now, so putting them in an open format would not change a thing. Oh wait it will change things, it will just make it easier for the consumer to consume the product.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Lisa Creech Bledsoe, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Library user

    I keep wondering if I'm missing something. I am a voracious reader, but I quit buying books -- which have gotten progressively more expensive -- years before the economic crunch. My family and I are all at the library at least once a week, and we each have dozens of library books at home at any given time. No cost, no storage issues, and portable, fresh content all the time. I still don't "get" the Kindle excitement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:54am

    Kindle on Iphone and Sony Reader

    I have just loaded the Kindle app on my Iphone. So far it looks good, though it is not yet integrated directly into the Kindle Store, so you have to run two different apps to get your books in the first place. I also own a Sony Reader but the biggest downside of that unit for me has been that many Amazon books that are available for the Kindle were not available on the Sony Reader. Now I have an option that will let me buy books on Amazon that I was not able to get before. Well done Amazon!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Gluefreak, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Amazon lock-in via DRM...

    While in general I agree with TechDirt's position on DRM, it's worth noting that when you sell an ebook on Amazon, it doesn't lock the publisher or author into any exclusive contract (at least not yet). You can make a Kindle version of a book, sell a physical copy, and give it away on your own site simultaneously. I have a book that, in spite of or because of it being freely offered online, people still purchase in both Kindle and print format. This makes the "lock in to DRM" thing not much of an issue.

    However, if it gets to the point where, in order to publish a Kindle title, you have to agree NOT to disseminate a book in a free format, that would be a different story...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    LostSailor, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 11:37am

    Publishers aren't "locked" in

    To echo what Gluefreak said, there is nothing that "locks" publishers into selling ebooks only on Kindle. As I've noted several other times, books are a bit different than music or films, and ebooks are already available in a number of different formats. Publishers who produce ebooks will continue to produce them in multiple formats.

    Why would a publisher spurn Amazon, a potentially lucrative sales channel? Just because you don't like DRM?

    Selling ebooks for the Kindle will definitely not be a "stupid" thing at all for publishers to do. Yet another thing Mike has proclaimed "stupid" or "silly" that simply isn't so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Publishers aren't "locked" in

    To echo what Gluefreak said, there is nothing that "locks" publishers into selling ebooks only on Kindle

    And there was nothing that locked the record labels into selling music only on Amazon. But the "lock-in" I am talking about is consumer lock-in. Once they buy into the DRM, they are stuck working with only that vendor for the most part. That's why Apple dominates the market, and Amazon may soon do the same.

    Why would a publisher spurn Amazon, a potentially lucrative sales channel? Just because you don't like DRM?

    And a fear that it gives Amazon too much control. That's exactly the reasoning that O'Reilly appears to be using.

    Yet another thing Mike has proclaimed "stupid" or "silly" that simply isn't so.

    An opinion cannot be wrong. Facts can be. You should learn the difference.

    But I find it hard to believe that you actually think the record labels are thrilled with the deal they have with Apple, despite the fact that they're free to go elsewhere, and have a potentially lucrative sales channel. Same situation here...

    Oh, hey, it looks like my opinion makes sense!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Adam J, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    It's NOT consumer lock-in, it's the large publishers decision

    Apple doesn't have consumer lock-in because of DRM. They have lock in because they have a seamlessly integrated customer experience that people just use out of habit, and a great device that got them into the software in the first place. DRM may play a minor role in moving people away from iPods, but not from iTunes store and selling music.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Gluefreak, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Again

    Again, I generally agree with TechDirt about DRM. I don't really understand the point about "consumer lock-in" though.

    If a Kindle user buys a DRM version of my book, that doesn't lock him into anything (except a Google search?) if I also offer a free, non-DRM version of the book online. He can read the Kindle version on Kindle, iPhone, or iTouch. He can read the free version however the heck he wants. He's not locked into anything.

    I can see the argument that use of the Kindle format will work to the disadvantage of open ebook formats... But then again, isn't HTML an open "ebook" format that has already established market dominance? And isn't Safari on iPhone already an ebook reader?

    Seems to me that this "consumer lock-in" really only pertains to companies who want the DRM. The publishers will mostly act like record companies and only allow their house authors to publish to Kindle. Meanwhile a million independents -- just like the many young bands you discuss here on TechDirt -- will be running circles around those big companies by offering a choice of formats. And a million DIYers will be cracking Amazon's DRM and scanning the physical copies of DRM'd books and posting them to scribd. (It's already happening... Go see the number of med-school textbooks scanned and posted to scribd.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    LostSailor, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Publishers aren't "locked" in

    But the "lock-in" I am talking about is consumer lock-in. Once they buy into the DRM, they are stuck working with only that vendor for the most part. That's why Apple dominates the market, and Amazon may soon do the same.

    There are a couple of rather large and potentially dubious assumptions you're making, based it seems on the Slate article. One is that the Kindle will achieve the same level of dominance of the market that the iPod did. The Manjoo piece cites Tim O'Reilly as avoiding Amazon Kindle out of concern for Amazon's control of the market, but in the actual Forbes piece Manjoo links to, O'Reilly is making a different point, that without an open standard, the Kindle will ultimately fail.

    The comparison between Amazon and Apple is not apt for other reasons as well. It's not publishers who are demanding DRM, it's Amazon. Both the Slate and the Forbes piece also miss some important points, and I was a bit surprised at O'Reilly's piece because it misstated some facts: publishers are not required to sell ebooks only through Amazon or only in the Kindle format. O'Reilly also says that Amazon should embrace the ePub or mobi formats (both flavors of OPS), but the Kindle format, from what I understand, is based on mobi and underneath the hood is compatible with OPS.

    Nor, as far as I know, are consumers locked in to only purchasing ebooks from Amazon (though the convenience is likely to greatly encourage consumers to do so): consumers can load unprotected ebooks to the Kindle (though not using the Kindle wireless feature, but through their computer) in a variety of formats including mobi and ePub, and even plain text.

    Amazon doesn't control the pricing and the fear that they'll become so dominant that they can impose their will on pricing is, I think, overblown, since they have a vested interest in keeping their relationships with publishers in good repair.

    So, why would publishers spurn what could be a lucrative sales channel that consumers will probably like?

    And a fear that it gives Amazon too much control. That's exactly the reasoning that O'Reilly appears to be using.

    You might have wanted to read the O'Reilly piece, since this is not what he was saying (though it was how Manjoo incorrectly characterized it).

    An opinion cannot be wrong. Facts can be. You should learn the difference.

    Actually, opinions can be wrong ("it's my opinion that the sun is blue") but more often, as in this case, they're simply ill-informed. My recognition of the difference is just fine, but thanks for the suggestion.

    But I find it hard to believe that you actually think the record labels are thrilled with the deal they have with Apple, despite the fact that they're free to go elsewhere, and have a potentially lucrative sales channel. Same situation here...

    It is not the same situation. Publishers are well aware of the record label's experience with Apple and have learned from it. Plus the fact that the book publishing business has some very fundamental difference from the recording industry.

    Oh, hey, it looks like my opinion makes sense!

    Eh, not so much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Re: ebooks expense..

    "...I'm surely not about to pay $8 for some 1's and zero's that can disappear in a blink of an eye..."

    You've probably paid more than that for cassettes and VHS tapes that machines can eat in the blink of an eye, CDs and DVDs that can easily be scratched or broken, or used books printed on crap paper that's going to yellow and turn brittle much sooner than you think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This