Amazon has been working hard on its Kindle platform, releasing improvements on what seems like a daily basis. But despite updating its Kindle DX with a higher-contrast E-Ink display -- and a price cut ($349, from $489) -- lately it seems Amazon is more focused on its software.
Now available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, BlackBerry, and, most recently, Android, the proliferation of the Kindle app indicates Amazon's focus on spreading its e-books across multiple platforms and devices. It seems Amazon is less concerned with selling physical Kindles, especially now that both models have seen price reductions and are probably selling at a loss. Mobile software -- e-books everywhere you go, on every device you own -- is the future, and Amazon knows this.
Adding audio and video to the Kindle iPhone and iPad app also says that Amazon wants to compete with the multipurpose iPad by appending more multimedia capabilities. E-books are becoming more interactive, and Amazon is trying to incorporate these innovations into the Kindle platform.
Speaking of e-books, Amazon is pushing e-book sales more aggressively. And why not? According to analysts at JP Morgan, Amazon stands to make $1 billion from e-book sales. Also, back in January the company announced a new e-book royalty plan that would allow publishers and authors to make more money off of e-books sold for the Kindle platform. That plan is now here. The new option lets publishers or authors who use the Kindle Digital Text Platform choose a 70 percent royalty option of the list price, net of delivery costs. In order to qualify, one must fulfill a list of requirements.
The most noteworthy conditions are that the e-book's price must be between $2.99 and $9.99 -- a cry back to Amazon's former $9.99 pricing model that publishers dismantled. The other condition is that the title must support new features, such as text-to-speech. Amazon adds: "This list of features will grow over time as Amazon continues to add more functionality to Kindle and the Kindle Store." More e-books means more customers drawn away from Apple's iBooks -- and more money in Amazon's pocket.
Mobile apps and e-books are advancing, but the Kindle hardware is not. The Kindle DX's E-Ink display has a 50 percent greater contrast, but it still doesn't sport built-in Wi-Fi. Amazon is also lagging behind when it comes to color E-Ink screens. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that he's seen the color screen technology in the labs but none are yet good enough for the Kindle. If Amazon wants to duke it out with the iPad, it will have to significantly improve the Kindle hardware ... unless, perhaps, Amazon is no longer as concerned about selling devices.
Amazon has also embraced the next generation of Web programming with the upcoming Kindle Previewer for HTML 5. The Kindle Previewer lets you sample e-books from your browser and download them onto your Kindle with one click. "Because the new previewer is designed specifically for HTML 5 and CSS3, the latest generation of industry web standards, Kindle Previewer for HTML 5 will offer a great experience, with complex layouts and graphic design, embedded audio and video where useful, and enhanced user interactivity," Amazon says in a statement.
The operative words here are "enhanced user interactivity." Amazon is evolving its Kindle platform to support more multimedia features that may allow it to compete with the iPad.
Shifting focus away from hardware and towards e-book sales and mobile technology may be the key to Amazon's success in the e-reader market and its best chance at beating the iPad. But don't expect Amazon to give up on its roots quite yet -- the Kindle DX update likely means the 6-inch model will get similar treatment.