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Amazon Can Exterminate Everyone Else In eBooks

October 4th, 2010 by · 9 Comments · opinion

People have wanted Amazon to embrace the ePub eBook format.

I think that would be a disaster for the world of eBooks.

Amazon would quickly become an outright monopoly.

Amazon doesn’t care if someone has a credit card, debit card, or even bank account. Anyone can set up a Kindle Store account for free. Ayone can download free eBooks. Anyone can download as many Samples as you wish (I have over 600 in Kindle for PC!).

I’ve had email exchanges with Amazon customer service regarding payment. They’ll even accept Gift Cards as payment for ordering a Kindle!

This is not the case with Barnes & Noble, Borders, Kobo, or — as far as I know at this moment — Sony.

Kobo and Sony will let anyone set up an account and get free eBooks without having credit card information. Borders, right now, will not. Barnes & Noble’s mutant variant of Adobe DRM requires a credit card — because that number becomes embedded within the eBook being bought, as an additional measure against piracy.

As far as eBookstore experiences go, Sony’s Reader Store buying experience is just about the worst thing I’ve ever encountered, just one step above borrowing public library eBooks through OverDrive. Mimicking iTunes was a huge mistake that Sony needs to correct (and I hope the regime responsible for that move has been jettisoned from the Reader division).

The Kobo/Borders experience is better, although basic, but it’s tied into the Kobo hardware ecosystem (distinct format using an SQLite database) and purchasing ePub files is an additional step.

Barnes & Noble can really be dismissed altogether because the device is US-only and has been designed solely to preserve Barnes & Noble’s customer base. It has no legs.

So this leaves Amazon. Which has declared war on everyone.

Look at how much effort Amazon constantly puts into insinuating itself into the entire community of books. Anyone can set up an Affiliate Account (at least they could before states started their Internet purchasing tax wars). They’ve just introduced Kindle for the Web, which basically allows Samples to be embedded in most websites (except for WordPress.com, but that will happen too, I’m sure).

Most of all, Amazon has aggressively pursued writers. Amazon Encore, Kindle Exclusives, contests, and the self-publishing program. I yelled at Sony about going after writers for years and they didn’t listen. Amazon didn’t have to listen — it simply made sense to them.

Given Amazon’s wide-armed strategy to embrace, embrace, embrace, there must have been discussions in the Kindle Store division (which Bezos maintains is separate from the goals of the Kindle hardware division) about embracing ePub with Adobe DRM as a way of increasing both market share and revenue. They must realize that step would crush everyone else. There’s no incentive for people to stay with Sony or Kobo/Borders to buy eBooks or for anyone to then make a decision to buy a Nook.

Sony would survive because they have excellent hardware, but their Reader Store would be exterminated. Kobo would probably survive as a distant second place because it has an international presence. Barnes & Noble would immediately crash into a wall and see its share of the market freeze and then plummet.

If Amazon were to wake up tomorrow with the idea to embrace the ePub eBook format along with classic Adobe DRM, they’d wipe out all other eBookstores. The others simply cannot compete against Amazon’s embrace-everyone strategy.

So, for everyone who has wanted Amazon to embrace ePub As We Know It, is it still what you really want? Only one store left standing to buy eBooks from?

reposted with permission from Mike Cane’s Xblog

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Alexander Inglis

    So … what I am reading here is that Amazon is a customer friendly company — and its customers include end-users, content producers, content packagers and content distributors (readers, writers, agents, publishers). They seem to be intent on producing the best customer experience and drive value for the eco-system. They have followed a broadly announced strategy which includes “always on”, pursuing hardware, software and infrastructure deals (like AT&T global 3G roaming) to fulfill that vision. They have consistently under-promised and over-delivered. They have stood behind their products. They have learned from their mistakes — even the very public ones.

    So … what’s the problem with Amazon?

    And what prevents another player, willing to properly invest to create a global business to compete with Amazon globally or pick off large niche areas and duplicate Amazon’s success before Amazon gets round to that niche? (India, anyone?) There are scads of opportunities to build a business within the e-book market even as it stands today and leveraging existing players and partners.

    Nothing prevents these scenarios except competitor’s lack of vision, investment and execution. There’s a glimmer of hope for ePub in Kobo.

    And, sure, Amazon could enable DRM ePub on the Kindle 3 if it chose to do so without selling a single ePub book and therefore not have to support the format in any way. Be careful what you ask for!

  • Moriah Jovan

    So … what’s the problem with Amazon?

    See: Wal-Mart and small towns.

    • Zigwalski

      They will not embrace epub the same way that itunes does not embrace mp3s. They want people to only purchase books from them. Get it! Only from them! If the Kindle supported ebub then you could buy books from anywhere and put it on your Kindle (which is probably being sold at less than profit rates right now). Amazon has been selling ebooks for less than profit too so that they can try and gain marketshare. Once they have marketshare and a sizeable user base all hooked on Kindles, then they can pretty much do whatever they want. If you own a Kindle with several hundred books on it, your probably going to stick with Kindle. Then Amazon can slowly raise prices and get whatever they want.

      Apple has been very good to it’s customers in releasing Ipods that it’s customers want. You Amazon Kindle people better hope that’s what Amazon will do.

      • Stephen R

        You have this backwards, though. The iTunes Store doesn’t sell MP3s, but iTunes, and every iPod since the very first one, has been capable of playing MP3s.

        Amazon sells Kindle files, and the Kindle doesn’t read ePub. They would only become comparable to Apple if they DID make the Kindle able to read ePub.

        Why the difference? Amazon makes money selling books. Apple makes money selling the hardware (the iPod).

  • Perry

    I have to echo the question. Yes, Amazon as a monopoly wouldn’t be great, but as a publisher, they are very easy to work with and as a reader, they are very easy to work with.

  • Chris

    I agree with Zigwalski: Amazon aren’t going to support epub, neither selling epub books nor letting Kindles read them, because it would unlock their market.

    If they thought that supporting epub would let them monopolize the market, they would already have done it.

    I disagree with the 2nd part of Zigwalski’s argument though: as long as the ebook market is expanding at a huge rate, they’re going to be forced to be price-competitive to keep their market share huge. Also a significant fraction of their market are using Kindle apps instead of hardware and can easily change to another source and format if they’ll save a few dollars.

  • Krystian Galaj

    If Amazon is the one store left standing, anti-monopoly officials might get interested though.

  • Paul Durrant

    Amazon might well start using ePub as one variant of Kindle format ebooks (possibly alongside the current Mobipocket and Topaz formats).

    I can’t see Amazon ever adopting Adobe’s DRM. Why would Amazon ever sign up to pay Adobe $0.22 per ebook sold when they have their own DRM system already in place?

    I don’t think Amazon care about selling ebooks to people without a Kindle or Kindle software.

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