Kindle format ahead for cellphones—plus speculation on the Kindle as an ANTI-e-book device

image One world, united under Mobipocket? Jeff’s Kindle-DRMed e-books to be readable on PCs, other machines? That’s what the TeleBlog reported last June, and now something similar might in fact be on the way for Mobi/Kindle.

Amazon says it’s “working on making the titles for its popular e-book reader, the Kindle, available on a variety of mobile phones,” reports the New York Times. “The company, which is expected to unveil a new version of the Kindle next week, did not say when Kindle titles would be available on mobile phones.” Maybe Kindle format for the iPhone, even? The same device for which Amazon may well have stopped Mobi‘s introduction of a compatible e-reader?

imageThe Kindle format, as we know, is really just Mobipocket contaminated with a different flavor of DRM, and one wonders if Amazon in time will just phase out the original Mobi or play it down to make way for Kindlish eBabel—and try to position it as the universal format for e-books. Unless future Kindle 2s can read ePub natively, such speculation is perfectly natural.

Yet another fun question—well, maybe not so fun—-is whether, as as certain analysts on Wall Street think, the Kindle could actually be an anti-e-book device in some respects. Could Amazon drum up all this excitement, then keep the actual number of machines down to discourage e-book adoption and help preserve its success with paper books? A little like releasing sterile insects and hoping that the others will try to fertilize them in vain? My belief is that, no, the Kindle shortages are honest snafus rather than part of a Ludlum-like plot. If the company increases production with the Kindle 2 and dramatically lowers the expected $400 price of the new device, that would kill such speculation in a hurry.

Source of the current speculation on the Kindle as an anti-e-book device—my phrase—is Jeffrey Lindsay at Bernstein Research. As reported by Reuters:

Lindsay said backlogs were likely due to Amazon’s desire to control Kindle’s deployment, adding that Flextronics International Ltd, which many believe manufactures the Kindle for Amazon, could produce them faster and cheaper.

Keeping the Kindle scarce keeps the level of excitement high, and keeps people talking about Amazon, Lindsay added.

Amazon’s desire to preserve its success with physical book sales is why it will not sharply lower Kindle’s price, he said.

“We think Kindle will be an interesting product which the high-end consumers love, particularly investment bankers traveling in from Connecticut,” he said. “We don’t think it will be a large penetration object any time soon.”

(Via MobileReadhere and here.)

4 Comments on Kindle format ahead for cellphones—plus speculation on the Kindle as an ANTI-e-book device

  1. Can I just say how much I enjoy seeing the phrase “large penetration object” in print? It makes me giggle madly.

  2. Wow. X-rated stock analysis, lol. D

  3. Can it be that Amazon makes more money selling, packaging, shipping paperbound books, than it does digitally downloaded ebooks? Doubtful.

    One thing our analyst Mr Lindsay does not mention here, is the cost to Amazon of the cell phone connection bandwidth the Kindle uses. This might be an alternate reason to keep numbers limited. But I don’t believe Amazon does want to limit the Kindle’s success.

    Multiple formats to read kindle-editions would indeed make it (even more) the dominant ebook platform. They might well add a ‘Library’ feature, so that you could access any of your purchased books, and pick up where you left off. An iPhone Kindle-reading app would also save Amazon those bandwidth charges, and immediately make Kindle-platform the one to beat. Epub would be left in the dust, far behind pdf and html and txt.

    Another thing Amazon could do to crush all alternatives is a library initiative. Say you could read a kindle edition book on your smartphone, desktop computer, or laptop. Amazon could then offer a subscription service to libraries. Again, Amazon dominates yet another branch of the ebook world.

    Honestly, publishers ought to be wary. Amazon is in a position to take over ebooks the way MicroSoft took over PCs. I rather imagine Mr Bezos would like to do so. There are so many ways that Amazon can win all the marbles here, they are going to have to mess up royally NOT to totally dominate.

  4. One thing I should note, by the way, is that you can already put other peoples’ encrypted e-books on the Kindle now, though it takes a little futzing around with a converter program to flip a bit in the mobi file to make it compatible.

    It might well be that a “Kindle reader” for the iPhone will end up being just the same: you can now read mobis without breaking the encryption, but you have to flip a bit first. 😛

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