The success of any Tablet PC is pretty much going to depend on the usefulness of the associated application offerings. It would be hard to argue that this is anything but a major factor in the success of Apple’s iPad. Naturally, with the Kindle Tablet in mind for the future, Amazon was depending on its App Store to make it big and have all sorts of fun stuff ready when the hardware launches. The money to be made is not really in the hardware anymore for either of these companies, so it is no wonder that Apple is trying to corner the market on anything they can manage with regard to Apps.
So far, not much luck along those lines in the US. While Apple is trying legal channels to prevent Amazon from calling its app store an app store, the judge asked to provide a preliminary injunction against Amazon’s use didn’t see them having much chance of success and turned down the request. It seems like a lot of the argument Apple is making is based on their assumption that Amazon will be happy to host viruses, malware, and porn, which would keep potential customers from trusting anything labeled with the same name. Hard to see that going very far, in the long run, but time will tell. The trial is set to start in October of 2012.
Just because their case does not seem to be going well so far in the US, however, doesn’t mean that it is dead in the water. Germany’s response to the same lawsuit has resulted in Amazon being forced to close the door to new submissions for the time being. Amazon is, of course, going to be spending a great deal of effort trying to defend their interests wherever they can, but for the time being there is no word and little room to speculate on when that situation might change.
On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter how it comes out one way or another. If the name has to be changed to Amazon’s Android Emporium or something else ridiculous, it will only increase the potential for name recognition if they play it right and the functionality won’t be changing a bit. Even in the unlikely event that Apple can pull this off, everybody else is going to do just fine. On the other hand, anything that lets Amazon directly equate their new Kindles and Kindle Tablets to the iPad in peoples’ minds will work to their advantage as they push for maximum dispersal of the hardware. Yes, the important part will be the device integration which won’t rely much on names anyway, but why not make it as clear as possible?
What will happen in the meantime as we lead up to the rulings in various locations, pretty much the only thing that we can be sure of is that nobody with a Tablet is going to want to go without apps. It just wouldn’t really work. Hopefully that will be an option for everybody who wants to when the Kindle joins that marketplace.
Earlier this year, in April, Amazon launched a localized German Kindle Store with over 650,000 titles and around 25,000 German language offerings. Overall, at least for the time, a strong offering. In addition to this, Amazon opened up Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon.de site, and made sure that Direct Publishing submissions to the original Kindle Store would already be in the German store, assuming rights were available to make this possible. Now, three months later, competition is becoming a bit more heated and this might not be enough to stay appealing to the broader audience on its own.
The Canada based Kobo eBook store will now be available to the German audience. At launch, they have managed a reported 2.4 million eBooks and over 80,000 German language titles. That’s a lot of books. Along with the store launch, there are also German language Kobo eReader apps for the iPhone, iPad, basically anything with an ‘i’ in front of it, and Android. A Playbook app is on the way. There will even be a German version of the Kobo eReader itself released in August. Now, the Kobo business model has always been aimed at a broad international presence. They emphasize open systems, EPUB distribution, and the primacy of the reading experience. Even the Kobo eReader seemed tacked on as almost an afterthought. So far, however, they haven’t really hit the big time.
The main problem that they are running into, I think, is their lack of hardware emphasis. Not as a means of profit, of course, but as a way to provide a physical presence to their customers. We know that Amazon isn’t exactly making loads off of individual Kindle sales, but by providing something better than a PC or cell phone for their customers to read on, they gain customer loyalty. If you’re stuck using a phone for your eBooks anyway, it doesn’t matter in practice who you buy from since the apps are all free anyway.
The new Kobo eReader suffered something of a setback when its otherwise impressive upgrades from the original Kobo were completely overshadowed by the superior experience and competitive pricing of the new Nook Simple Touch eReader. By comparison, it’s just a better product. So Kobo is given that much more incentive to push their international pursuits since the Kindle presence is limited and the Nook is non-existent. In untouched or underrepresented eBook markets, the Kobo store can stand on its own merits and try to build up a hardware independent following, at least in theory.
The one obstacle I see, at least right this minute, is the lack of eReader offering at store launch. If you’re going to have a localized device, great! It sets you that much further apart from the Kindle. Don’t expect to launch the store now and have people stay excited about it for a month while they wait for the gadget. If they can keep the buzz going, great, but it’s going to be a difficult task.
As for the future of the Kobo? They are currently planning similar store launches in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland, to name a few. While I might personally prefer other offerings available in America, possibly because I speak English primarily and don’t have to pay fees to import things that don’t always even work in my country, there is little wrong with the Kobo and anything that builds up the worldwide eBook marketplace will just help things along for everybody.
Kobo, the e-reader that Borders has partnered with, doesn’t have the successful reputation that the Kindle and Nook have, but it does have an advantage on the international scene. The e-reader has had a global focus from the beginning. This would be a great niche to excel in.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has a library of about 25, 000 German titles, but Kobo has launched an e-book store that boasts a whopping 80,000 German titles. I was surprised to find that Germany has the 2nd largest e-book market in the world. The United States is the first.
This is a competition to watch because, in order to succeed on a global scale, an e-reader needs to have a robust collection of digital material available. Amazon is certainly able to do this. They just need to establish good relationships with foreign authors and publishers. Here is some healthy competition giving Amazon a wake up call at another angle.
In the past, I’ve noticed a lot of reviewers from other countries have been frustrated with the restrictions on various Kindle products because they’re not accessible. Downloading books outside of the US is pretty costly.
I’ve always associated Kobo with the Borders book chain. Borders is currently being threatened by liquidators and will most likely flop here soon. When I saw this, I wondered, well what about Kobo?
Turns out, Kobo is a completely separate entity than Borders and is a financially secure, Canadian based company. So, nothing will be lost if Borders does go down. Kobo’s newest e-reader, the Kobo Touch, along with the Nook Touch both have an edge that the Kindle doesn’t have…yet. But, that is about to change. Good to see these e-readers try to outrank each other and get better and better. The price drops certainly don’t hurt either!
What I’d really like to see is a global collaboration of sorts. Access to books shouldn’t be restricted by travel. That cuts down the portability of an e-reader. Technology has connected society on a global scale. It’d be cool if everyone could have access to a diverse collection of books from different languages.
Were you aware that even people who don’t live in the United States are interested in the Kindle? I was shocked. Ok, well, not that shocked. Lame attempts at humor aside, Amazon has just opened up a localized Kindle store for German readers. While this is a mixed blessing, which I’ll get into in a moment, the fact that more countries are getting their own Kindle stores is always going to be good news for the residents thereof.
The roll-out for the German store seems to have gone fairly smoothly. Where before the only way to get a Kindle in Germany was to order through the US Amazon store, it is now available directly through Amazon.de and ties into the associated Amazon.de user account. Customers can already choose from over 650,000 titles (including 71 of 100 Spiegel bestsellers according to the press release), thousands of self published German authors using the Kindle Direct Publishing service, and a good selection of popular international and German magazines and newspapers. All of this is available to users of both the Kindle eReader itself and the Kindle app family, including the PC, Mac, iOS, and Android programs.
All in all, great news for fans of the Kindle outside the US. Who hasn’t heard of the complications facing people who try to import their eReader into an unsupported area, right? The only people who are going to end up with real problems are those who wanted one badly enough to go out of their way and grab a US release. These “early adopters” are likely to find themselves in the unpleasant position of having to choose between the books they have already acquired through Amazon and the benefits provided by the new store. As many UK customers can attest, digital rights management in an international environment can create problems from differing availability and pricing to seemingly arbitrary exclusivity issues. It is to be hoped that the worst of this will be avoided in this case since the Amazon.de Kindle Store is catering more specifically to German-language eBook options than the US store has so far and as such will experience minimal overlap, so maybe this won’t be quite as noticeable as the US/UK divide seems to be?
The question this inevitably seems to lead to is whether or not this sort of thing will lead to a true localization of hardware to go along with the international store presence. At the moment German customers will still receive Kindles with English keyboards and interfaces, and the same sort of issue seems to be present in the menus for the app selection as well. Whether the Kindle line makes the move to Android, as many have thought likely, or they simply keep going on the existing modified Linux build, it would seem to be both fairly simple and a good idea to make the software as accessible to everybody as possible. That just leaves modifying the keyboard which would, admittedly, likely cause problems with the whole form factor production. A great deal seems like it depends on the success of this and other new stores.