Where’s the “Kindle Killer”?

Walt ShielBy Walt Shiel, Publisher, Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC

I’ve lost track of the number of articles, online and off, that try to decide if eReader X or eBook reading app Y will be the “Kindle Killer.”

Meanwhile, it seems to me that Amazon just keeps pushing the eBook envelope and selling more eBooks through its Kindle Store. Including to people who don’t even own a Kindle, thanks to their many Kindle apps — for the PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.

This past week, Amazon announced that, over the past three months, sales of Kindle books outsold sales of hardcover books. Everybody’s trying to dissect that information to figure out what it really means.

The Wall Street Journal posted a short online article that begins:

Now we know why Amazon.com Inc. announced a few days ago that sales of e-books now exceed sales of print volumes. The e-tailer didn’t want the news to be overshadowed by its earnings miss.

Of course, the WSJ misstated the Amazon announcement, which dealt only with hardcover not all “print volumes.” It would be interesting to know how many trade and mass market paperbacks were sold in comparison during that same period.

The Amazon Advantage

I currently have five eBook apps on my iPad — Apple’s own iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle for iPad, B&N’s reader, Kobo’s reader, and the Ibis Reader.

Which one do I prefer? Usually, the Kindle app.

Why? Because the selection is so much better in the Amazon Kindle Store, and I see little real reading difference among those five reading apps. The iBooks interface is nice but much of it is little more than bells and whistles that are cool…but only for a while. The B&N and Kobo readers are OK but not a major improvement over anything else.

Any well-formed Kindle book will look great on the Kindle for iPad app. And if you want to find a new book to preview or buy, you’re far more likely to find it via the Amazon Kindle Store than any of the other outlets.

The other eReader apps all support ePub, which does allow more latitude in design and layout than Kindle’s rather limited MOBI format. Of course, Amazon has already begun expanding the capabilities of that format (such as allowing video and audio and accepting higher resolution images), and I see no reason to assume they do not have many more possibilities lurking just around the next eCorner.

Kindle vs. iPad

The iPad is great for reading eBooks and works just as well for Kindle books as for any of the ePub possibilities.

So, does that make the iPad a Kindle killer? Depends on what exactly you mean.

Will it seriously cut into sales of the Kindle devices? Maybe…unless Amazon continues to improve that device’s capabilities and continues to release new, more capable devices (maybe even color eInk displays).

Will the iPad result in fewer eBooks being sold by Amazon? I sincerely doubt it.

Amazon has such a head start with its digital catalog, sales platform, and brand loyalty that I’d be surprised if Apple can overtake them. Oh sure, iPad sales will almost certainly continue to accelerate and saturate the tablet computer market (with some much-needed improvements, I hope), but the iPad is really only peripherally an eBook reader.

I expect Amazon to continue dominating the eBook market by selling them for any device that crops up. Maybe even in ePub format eventually (after all, you can now read PDF documents on your Kindle 2/DX and pan and zoom them).

I think it is more likely that Amazon’s own apps will do more to reduce Kindle device sales than anything any other company comes up with. But, at the same time, sales of Kindle books will continue to increase.

And then there is the upcoming (I hate to have to type this) Google Editions. I only hope that does not prove to be the future of ePublishing, as that would greatly sadden me.

What do you think?

This post was originally published at View From the Publishing Trenches and has been reprinted with Mr. Shiel’s permission.

Walt Shiel is Publisher, Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC, and Managing Partner, Five Rainbows Services for Authors & Publishers. He is also an author, and commentator on books, publishing, authors, words, marketing, reading, relevant technology, etc.

2 thoughts on “Where’s the “Kindle Killer”?

  1. Cathy Nelson

    I have a friend who has an ipad and a kindle, and on her recent tropical isle vacation, she declared the ipad better than the kindle because she couldnt see the screen of the kindle as well in the glaring sunlight, where on their vacation they spent a lot of time. She wound up using her ipad more for an ereader than the kindle.

    1. Jeffrey Hastings

      Hi Cathy:

      Is that true? Sounds counter-intuitive. Any eink-based eBook reader I’ve ever used shines (pardon the pun) brightest in full sunlight, being just like reading print outdoors.

      On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised this week when I took my iPad to the beach on a sunny day and actually could read my trashy memoir on it, glare from the shiny screen being the biggest problem.


      P.S. I’ve learned, though, that the iPad is not only a viable reader, but one that has strengths over eInk readers that many prefer.



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