It looks like Amazon Kindle will see more competition in 2009.
Google announced that it will start selling digital books by the end of 2009. Publishers and authors welcomed this development because it would bring much needed competition to the market currently dominated by Amazon. The fact that Google announced that publishers will be able to set the book price added to that sympathy.
This is not the first punch from Google camp aimed at Amazon this year. On March 18th Google made 500,000+ public domain books available in ePub format to owners of Sony Readers. While this has done little to strengthen Sony’s position against Amazon it clearly showed that Google is not going to ally with Amazon on the matter of digital books.
It’s unclear how much market will Google capture with it’s digital book store. It would very much depend on the specifics of what exactly it would be. Currently all we know is that it will be device-agnostic. However what it will do in the short term even before it is open to public is it will slow down Amazon Kindle adoption because some people would decide to wait for the Google product in hopes that it will be cheaper, provide better reading experience, have more books (although this is extremely unlikely), lack Kindle’s shortcomings etc.
It looks like Amazon has angered a lot of people by releasing Kindle DX just shortly after release of Kindle 2. These people believe that their Kindle 2 device almost immediately became outdated (I personally don’t share this point of view and regard Kindle DX as a different class of devices rather than “Kindle 3”). And speaking of Kindle 3 – some people would still expect it to make appearance by holiday season 2009. These too will wait for Google Book Store to be released so that they can compare. Personally I consider Kindle 3 this year unlikely – there’s very little that can be improved in the hardware at current technology levels other than price. It’s all about book selection now.
How much actual harm will it do to Amazon will be unclear until 2009 Q2 and Q3 financial results will be announced and it will depend on how much official and unofficial publicity will Google Books Store get in the coming months.
Should this upcoming Google Book Store turn out to be really “device-agnostic”, providing good reading experience for Amazon Kindle users, Amazon would find itself it very peculiar position given that it pays Sprint 12cents for every megabyte downloaded by Kindle users. In this case Amazon would be paying for deliver of books purchased by it’s not so loyal users from Google. This may be the end of Basic Web or start of Amazon charging for Internet traffic.