Amazon announces Web-based answer to Google e-books, scheduled to be ready in ‘months’
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Amazon.com Inc. didn’t let Google enjoy the e-book spotlight for very long.
One day after Google announced its new e-book store, its new rival in electronic reading announced a ‘read anywhere’ function of its own, available ‘in the coming months.’ (That’s corporate-speak for ‘it’s not ready yet and we’re not quite sure when it will be.’) But when it finally is, Amazon’s Kindle for the Web feature will allow, as the company says, ‘anyone with access to a Web browser to buy and read full Kindle books -- no download or installation required.’
It’s no surprise that the announcement takes sharp aim at the one feature that distinguished Google from the other electronic booksellers: the ability to read in a browser.
Amazon is clearly looking to take some of the shine off of Google’s new bookstore. The heart of Google’s claim Monday was that its e-book platform was not tied to any device: Its books can be read on a variety of smart phones, e-ink readers, tablets and PCs. But Amazon’s books can already be read on most of those devices, including Apple’s iPhone, iPod and iPad and Google-powered Android tablets and phones. Now that Amazon is about to have a Web interface, it’s just about caught up to Google in terms of the spectrum of devices with which it works.
The main difference now is the Kindle: Amazon’s e-books work on the company’s league-leading e-reader, but Google books don’t. According to a November report from Forrester, about 32% of the electronic reading public read on a Kindle, only slightly behind the 35% that read on a laptop. All other devices are far behind.
In a way, the still nascent e-book landscape is caught in a VHS versus Betamax war of standards, in which major sellers are vying for market share, while consumers are left with a choice between copy-protected book ‘formats’ that are tied to a particular company.
Almost makes one nostalgic for old-fashioned paper books -- almost!
-- David Sarno