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image Ficbot and Chris Meadows aren’t the only ones seeing promise in the iPhone/Touch for e-reading.

Both the MediaBistro Galley Cat blog and TheBookSeller have just run items—here and here. Our buddies at The Cat are looking for people who read on the iPhone, and I very much hope you can help ‘em out.

My own answer to the related "How many?" question would be, "Very few within the book biz itself, but lots of potential here."

Looking beyond the people in the book biz

For the bigger picture, The Cat might check out iPhone siphoning off Kindle buyers, says Fictionwise and eReader iPhone/Touch app after a month: On 130,000 devices, with 35,000 owners buying e-books for that platform. As of August, moreover, Stanza had claimed 85,000 users.

These iPhone apps are hardly going to destroy the Kindle. But the numbers, at such an early stage, show the risks of the book business becoming too Kindle-centric.

Updates, please, Steve and Marc

And now? I’d love to hear from Steve Pendergrast at Fictionwise and Marc Prud’hommeaux, the Stanza developer—what are the very latest stats. My guess, nothing more, is that the number of people who’ve downloaded books for the iPhone/Touch might even be north of 500,000 or at least getting there.

Stanza, as I write this, is #33 among the top free apps showing up on within my iTunes store here in the States, and it might be doing even better elsewhere. Hello, Hadrien? What’s the latest from France?

Given all the millions of iPhones out there, the number could represent a nice niche, even if few people in the book business itself are reading off phones right now.

Turning readers into customers

For publishers and retailers, the challenge will be to turn readers into customers. I continue to believe that nonDRMed ePub, which works great with Stanza, offers the most promise for the iPhone and other mobile platforms.

Tech keeps changing, especially in the mobile phone area. Standards are the best way for the book business to keep up. Any tech barrier for customers is a sales barrier.

Remember, Android is just around the bend—-but, frustratingly, we don’t even have Mobipocket for the iPhone yet. It’s not due until the end of the year. Think of all the lost sales for authors and publishers. Do we want this to happen whenever a new platform hits?

Even before Mobi comes out…

The good news is that if iPhone/Touch e-book sales are comin’ along with Stanza and eReader, just wait until Mobi finally catches up.

The what’s-most-popular issue: The hits keep changing. The Cat discovered that Moby Dick and The Prince were top downloads as displayed on Stanza.

When I checked just now, however, within the Feedbooks collection, the hits were 1984 (a legal download in many countries but not in the Bono-hobbled States, at least technically) and The Art of War (public domain). Please note these are Feedbooks stats rather than for Stanza users alone.

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