Take the recent announcement of the Kindle 2 by Amazon, last holiday’s shortages of the first generation device following Oprah’s endorsement; mix in Google’s immense effort to digitize the world’s library of copyright-expired books; throw in a ton of OEM interest in eInk and other e-reader screen technologies; blend in a bad economy and the simple math that e-books are half the price of their tree-killing, backpack straining ancestors; add a little something called the iPhone and an Amazon app that makes Kindle format books readable on that hip little device; bless with a patent infringement lawsuit by Discovery Channel over some copy projection system in the Kindle; now see Sony do a deal with Google to make half a million free books available to owners of Sony’s stylish reader ….
I’m not going to write the paper book’s obituary, but it feels like, as one writer put it yesterday, e-readers/e-books/whatever-you-call-em are poised to become the iPod of the literary world very soon.
It feels like a classic format/standards war is about to break out. Sony is the master of dumb moves when it comes to copy protection and file formats. Anyone who bought one of their post-Walkman music players knows they had an approach to DRM that was right out from behind the Iron Curtain – what one would expect from a content company that also makes devices. Amazon, who gets credit in music for pushing DRM-free tunes before Apple did the same, is not a veteran of the format wars. You want someone who has gone to the mat at Microsoft, Adobe, etc. when you arrive at a file-format fight. Google knows formats and open systems better than anybody, so my perfect world would be this:
- The Kindle file format extends to all new devices with no royalties back to Amazon.
- Sony ends the division and signs onto the Kindle format as well.
- Google makes its content device-agnostic (which it should given its waltz with the publishers)
- Amazon discounts the heck out of the Kindle on a spring promo and gets it down to $100 – I know lots of non-techie people who are NOT early adopters who want a Kindle bad but have no way to justify $350 in this market. Indeed, coupon zealots like me and let us throw the discounts to the people we want to share books with.