image Non-Amazon apps might legally run on the Kindle someday, according to Ian Freed, the company’s VP for Kindle. He says more consumer choices would  result. Great, if it happens!

So why not open up the Kindle now? Because, Freed says, “our focus is on providing a great reading experience and we’ve developed applications that do that.” Hmm. So a Kindle-specific DRMed format—useless on desktops and other devices—lead to a great experience? And why not a native ability to read ePub, the IPDF standard that’s catching on?

On Stanza vs. Kindle

In an interview in TechFlash, Freed also had a few words to say when asked the mix of the iPhone/Touch and the Stanza e-reader software, which some see as a threat to the Kindle. Here is his reply—or semi-reply, since he really steered the conversation back to the K Machine:

We think the Kindle ecosystem, end to end, is pretty special. The idea that you can get over 180,000 books from publishers that are sold on a regular basis delivered to you under 60 seconds—that’s something that we really do uniquely. And moreover being able to get over 25 different newspapers and over 25 different magazines delivered on a regular basis is something we do uniquely. So far things have been great and we think that will continue.

But wait. What if Stanza turns into a major ecosystem to rival Amazon’s? Stanza enables you to download books directly to your iPhone or Touch? If the DRM issue can be addressed, ideally by avoiding “protection,” Stanza could be one solution for book publishers and others who fear Amazon’s growing power. What’s more, Stanza isn’t the only potential threat to the Kindle. eReader also allows direct downloads to the iPhone/Touch, although the shopping experience right now isn’t as seamless as at Amazon.

The issue of Kindle-exclusive books

Asked about the number of Kindle-exclusive titles, Freed said:

There are probably a handful of exclusive books from known publishers, whether those are book publishers or newspaper or magazine publishers. But we also have a platform which we call Digital Text Platform, which literally allows any author or publisher to take any content and publish it directly for Kindle. That platform has reached literally hundreds if not thousands of publishers and authors, so that has done very well since we launched it. In terms of content that might get a lot of media attention, we launched something with Newsweek recently which were four titles, one on each of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and that’s exclusive to Kindle. We’ve been very pleased with the results on that.

However pleased Freed may be, serious questions arise about consumer choice. Are we really so well off if we can buy certain content only from Amazon?

Still mum on sales

On the perennial issue of sales figures, Freed was just as mum as other Amazon people, except to say:

Sales is not something we break out for Kindle or really any other business at Amazon, so that’s not something we can share. But what I can say is we’re really pleased. We looked at what we thought a device like this should do in its first year, and we sold out in the first five and a half hours of introduction. We continue to be very pleased with sales and on an ongoing basis with customer feedback.

VIP fans

Eric Engleman, author of the article in TechFlash, also asked about “the most surprising people using the Kindle.” Freed’s answer:

Jennifer Anniston has one. A lot of younger people here—I’m an old man, so I don’t care about this stuff===they decided that Kindle had truly made it when Jennifer Anniston showed up in one of those, Us Weekly I think it was, with a Kindle. I know that Jimmy Buffett is a fan. He’s talked about it pretty publicly. Martha Stewart is a fan. She’s had one on the air and talked about it. Whoopi Goldberg is another one. She’s had it on The View.

Freed also said that Amazon users include “some very senior leaders who are both current and former U.S. officials. I’ll leave it at that.”

Image credit: CC-licensed photo from John Pastor.

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  1. I don’t see how feeding Apple for an iPhone/Touch would be better for those who fear Amazon’s market power. I find Apple’s business practices even more odious than Amazon (Yes, I know that the software is not theirs).

    But yes, we need to do away with DRM schemes.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, but I’d still disagree. At least iPhone/Touch lets third-party e-book apps run—such as Stanza, which can even read ePub, the IDPF standard. We’re talking about hundreds and maybe thousand of indie apps. Yep: “the software is not theirs” in such cases.

    But, hey, I totally agree with your concerns about Apple, too. Look what Apple did to a podcast app that didn’t use the blessed iTunes store. Let’s hope that third-party apps such as Stanza can continue to thrive on the iPhone.

    Meanwhile with the iPhone/Stanza combo out there, Amazon can’t control our reading quite as much as it would otherwise. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Stanza gets DRM or, much better, can develop a DRMless distribution system for commercial publishers. I wouldn’t count eReader out, either: it already has DRM. And Amazon-owned Mobi is supposed to show up on the iPhone in the near future.

    (agian, emphasizing his preference for DRMless approaches!)

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