Amazon has posted a preview of the future of e-books, its Kindle e-reader app for Apple's forthcoming iPad. Amazon, the top e-book reseller, is teaming its e-book format with the most anticipated tablet device we've seen so far. Altogether, that will almost certainly make the iPad the world's top e-reader when deliveries begin April 3.
If this all works out--and where Apple and mobile apps are concerned, you can never be too sure--this could make the iPad attractive to everyone who owns and Kindle but wishes they could do more with it. It also makes Apple interesting to people, like me, who want an e-reader but never seriously considered an iPad.
Sadly, I am already wondering whether this marriage of convenience can be saved.
First, it's not clear Apple whether has even approved Amazon's Kindle app for iPad and its associated e-bookstore. It is not beyond possibility that Amazon has not received approval and is, essentially, playing chicken with Apple. Or maybe all is peaceful, the deal has been done, and Apple has suddenly learned how to play well with others.
Apple's strong preference to have tight control over applications and content on its mobile devices is what makes the idea of a Kindle app and competing iPad bookstores seem so strange. Barnes & Noble has said it plans a Nook iPad app and store, too.
At some point, Amazon and B&N are almost certain to chafe under Apple's reins. It's not clear whether either bookseller really wants to be in the hardware business, but it would not be wise either to get out of it anytime soon.
Today, it makes sense, especially for Apple, to make the iPad compatible with the Kindle and Nook, but should Amazon and/or B&N get out of the hardware business, I can imagine compatibility could disappear fairly quickly, leaving Apple's own iBooks store as the only option for the iPad.
I don't think Apple sees a reason why Amazon or B&N should be allowed to live as e-book reseller, when Apple does so well with other content all by itself.
But there is a good reason for Apple to allow competition, and it presents itself in the form of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, which might step-in on the side of Amazon and B&N should Apple behave too aggressively.
E-book users should hope that Apple will understand the differences between its music and apps stores and selling e-Books online, as well as accept that a separate category of e-reader hardware will exist, mostly at lower price points than the iPad.
We can hope all that, but Apple getting along with sometime competitors is an uncommon thing.
Today, this cooperation looks like a shotgun wedding. Apple and the booksellers each have something the other needs. Apple needs content and e-book customers, while Amazon and B&N benefit from Apple's hot new platform.
We'll have to wait and see how long this lasts.