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In the entry I wrote the other day about the missing Mobipocket reader for Windows, I gave Amazon the benefit of the doubt. However, I have lately come into some information that suggests I might not have been justified to do so.

What We Know

What we know for certain is that, in May of 2008, a Mobipocket and Mobileread forum poster attended the International Digital Publishers’ Forum, saw Mobipocket President and CEO Martin Gorner’s talk, and later posted to the forums that “[Gorner said that by] the end of the year, Mobipocket will release updated readers for the various platforms, as well as release a new reader for the Apple iPhone.”

Also, in October, when I talked to Gorner on the phone, he said that they were “working on something” but had no statement to give at that time.

The benefit of an official Mobipocket reader for the iPhone would be that iPhone and iPod Touch owners would be able to read DRM-crippled books on their devices without cracking the encryption and thereby breaking the law. (Or, in many cases, could read the books on them at all, since not everyone is technologically savvy enough to perform the decryption.) This would also encourage iPhone owners to buy new Mobipocket-format books—and might also encourage people who had bought many Mobipocket-format books in the past to buy an iPhone for their next device.

We also know that Amazon owns Mobipocket, and uses the Mobipocket file format in their Kindle e-book reader. The fact that Amazon has a vested interest in pushing its Kindle ahead of competitors, and that the iPhone platform is one of very few e-book reading platforms set to give the Kindle a run for its money, has led some to speculate that Amazon might have quashed such a reader before it could be released. All the better to encourage people to buy Kindles.

But this has remained unfounded speculation—until now.

An Anonymous Source

Today I heard from a highly-placed source who spoke to me on strict condition of anonymity. This source told me that he or she knew for a fact that Mobipocket had its iPhone reader complete and ready to ship as of August—but Amazon.com did not permit them to release it.

I contacted Amazon.com’s press hotline and left a recording to ask for a comment. Amazon had not responded to me by press time. I telephoned Martin Gorner in France to ask him about it. He said that he still had no announcements to make concerning the client, and had no comment on my source’s statement.

Of course, when you come right down to it, this is information based solely on a single anonymous source. And while I personally find the anonymous source credible, I cannot go into why I do so. Therefore, let me be clear in what I am claiming.

I cannot state for a fact that Amazon forced Mobipocket not to release the client. It’s not an allegation I can prove. But I can state that someone I find credible claims they did—and that certainly adds a lot of weight to the speculation.

Speculation

If we assume the speculation is correct, the question remains: did Amazon just want the client out of the way for the holiday season (which would seem rather asinine given that they’ve sold out of the Kindle already), or are they planning to bury it permanently? Do they see an iPhone Mobipocket client as a threat to the Kindle’s dominance? Might there be grounds for an anti-trust investigation?

To a certain extent, a Mobi reader for the iPhone is becoming less important day by day, as Fictionwise moves toward making more of its Mobipocket-only selection available in secure eReader format. The sooner Mobipocket is able to release their own client, the less they cede the field to eReader, ePub, and other formats that are on their way to making Mobipocket irrelevant.

 
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