The news that Amazon is opening the Kindle up to developers — and, therefore, apps –is causing a predictable amount of buzz. Most responses tend to fall into two camps: This Will Change Everything and This Won’t Make Much Of A Difference. I’m more in the latter camp as the idea of apps on an eReader was first floated by iRex months and months ago to very little excitement even then. eReaders are awesome for eBook reading, but the kind of apps that would enhance an eReader aren’t going to keep people from falling all over themselves about the Apple tablet. Or indeed any other shiny, new device people say they’re going to use for eBook reading instead of an e-Ink device.
Then there are eReaders like the eDGe, the Alex, and even the Nook (though the last one requires some fiddling) that have the ability to add apps which will, in theory, enhance more than just the eBook reading experience. I’m willing to be proven wrong on this, but I don’t see much to get excited about when it comes to Kindle apps.
The other bit of Kindle news that is actually exciting is the discovery that Amazon is now allowing people to publish titles on the Digital Text Platform without DRM. There was no major announcement of this. It’s just something authors started noticing a little while ago. There’s no word yet if this is also an option for professional presses (Digital Text Platform is mainly for small, indie publishers and individual authors) and how often they’re taking advantage of it if so.
The DRM on Kindle books has been a source of contention for many readers. Not just because they won’t be able to move their books to another eReader should they choose to toss the Kindle, but also because of the download restrictions on eBooks sold through Amazon. Restrictions that are not disclosed up front and appear to be applied differently depending on the publisher’s agreement with Amazon. Without DRM, this issue goes away — good news for people who read Kindle books on multiple devices.
Add to that the improved revenue share Amazon announced lately and it does seem like the company is doing its best to make both readers and publishers happy. Did these changes come about because Amazon is worried about the Apple tablet? Maybe. Will they make a bit of difference if such a device is announced next week? I’m betting it won’t. At least not in the way some people think.
Yes, it’s true that a startling number of people are excited about getting an Apple tablet so they can read eBooks with it. But those voracious consumers will soon figure out what many of us knew long ago: reading books on LCD screens gets tiring and painful after a while. This is why electronic paper displays were invented.
Now, if Apple busts out with a tablet that has, say, a Qualcomm mirasol display or something along the lines of what we saw going on with the Notion Ink tablet then, yes, Amazon has a reason to worry. All eReader vendors do. I just don’t see that happening, though. Do you?