image Neelan Choksi’s exit from Amazon is bad news for the millions of Stanza fans, given his importance in the evolution of this stellar program for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The Stanza issues raised here go far beyond the AWOL iPad-related additions and full use of the forthcoming iPhone OS.

I remain baffled why Amazon must have just one reading app—a novice-targeted one—for use on nonKindles.

Swallowed by Amazon just last year for more than a few dollars, Stanza would be a logical gap-filler and if nothing else deserves to be displayed sharply at full size on the iPad. "We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition," Stanza’s developers told us at the time of the deal. Oh, the ironies! Please—users want changes, just so they’re the right ones.

Besides offering an iPad upgrade, why not let Stanza read Amazon-format books from the Kindle store and blend in with the K store through Safari integration in a way that Apple will allow? And also extend Stanza to new platforms such as Android?

My own strong preference would be ePub and no DRM. But for now, can’t Amazon get something going with Stanza beyond the present version? At the very time when Google Books is about to rev up its efforts, why has Amazon been crippling itself, at least as of now? Surprises welcome!

Significantly, the philosophy of Stanza differs starkly from that of the Bezos-blessed app for novices (Kindle for iPad, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for Blackberry and Kindle for PC). Stanza provides the amenities so dear to heavy readers, such as extensive control over typography—for example, an extensive font selection and the ability to change the space between lines. Seen Arial MT Bold in the current Amazon reading app lately—the font that I often find the easiest to read? Nope, Jeff gives us just one font. Certain of us finicky e-book-lovers are the very people most likely to buy books. Don’t diss us, Jeff.

Given Stanza’s awesome capabilities and feature set, I’d be happy to pay a small amount to buy an iPad version of Stanza as long as Amazon didn’t cripple it, other than in ways Apple might demand for the iPhone, Touch and iPad. If even a fraction of us Stanza fans pay up, Amazon will be in the black. The main development work already has been done.

Another source of revenue could be from rival e-stores whose books were discoverable and readable through Stanza. A radical idea? Hardly, if you consider that Amazon itself does links to competing merchants of physical goods. That is the better side of Amazon; Jeff Bezos is actually willing to surrender complete control. A similar approach with Stanza still offered as an e-book portal, not just a reader, would serve him and Amazon very well. Remember, most of his biggest rivals are using or will use Adobe DRM, so it isn’t as if Stanza would have to cope with a thousand and one forms of “protection” (again—the best DRM is none).

Meanwhile the best of luck to Neelan as well as to any Stanza people still at Amazon. Will Marc Prud’hommeaux, Stanza’s principal developer, be the next to go? If I were an Amazon stockholder, I’d be asking some tough questions. Instead of buying Stanza/Lexcyle just to take down a competitive threat, can’t Amazon actually make use of the app and the people behind it? What a shame if Stanza gets the dead-end treatment that Mobi apparently has suffered.


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