March 23, 2010, 7:47 AM — You probably read the news that Amazon is introducing a "Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers" application, joining Kindle for PC, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for Mac and of course, Kindle for Kindle. Exactly which tablet computers will be supported isn't clear, but Amazon isn't being coy about iPad support, adding "Including the iPad" after every mention of "Tablet Computers."
So why is this a big deal? Well to some extent offering Kindle books on so many devices alleviates some of the (practical) issues of Amazon's e-book DRM. I can't be the only one who isn't thrilled with the idea of building a library of e-books that can only be read on a single hardware device. Adding Kindle to the iPhone or Windows helps with that, but you lose that nice form factor on those devices (I acknowledge that some people are perfectly content reading e-books on their iPhones, but I feel the screen is too small for real comfort). If I'm able to read my Kindle titles either on a Kindle or on an iPad or HP Slate or one of the Android tablets; well now I feel like I have real choice. I can choose the hardware that's right for me, and bring my digital library along for the ride.
I'd still prefer no DRM but this at least feels like a step in the right direction. Maybe instead of an iPad I want to wait for the larger WePad, or the smaller, cheaper zenPad; both of these run Android and all indications are that Kindle for Android (or perhaps Kindle for Android Tablet Computers) is coming.
Of course you can turn this argument on it's side. The iPad will have books from Apple's App Store, it'll have Kindle, and it sounds like Barnes & Noble will have an iPad app for its bookstore as well. Can Borders be far behind? Will the iPad be the ultimate e-reader?
The difference between Kindle Everywhere and the iPad Universal E-reader (as far as I know I made up both those terms; at least I don't think either of the involved companies use them) is that with Kindle Everywhere you can still invest in an actual e-ink device to read all your content on (or choose a single device with a Pixel Qi screen). Summer is coming and you're not going to be sitting out in the sun reading e-books on an iPad or any other back-lit device (at least not comfortably).
I'd love to see Barnes & Noble and Borders follow Amazon's lead in offering reader software for their e-books on a wide variety of devices. Barnes & Noble is a good deal of the way there, with versions of its B&N Reader for the Windows, Mac and a variety of handheld devices, as well as their Nook e-reader, of course. B&N says there is a version of the B&N Reader for Android in the works and we can hope for a touch-optimized version for Windows-based tablet computers. Borders seems like it has a ways to go yet, currently offering support for the Sony Reader and Windows, though Spring Design's Alex should also support Borders' e-book store.
The point is, our content shouldn't be locked to any single device. For e-books to take off, we need content and hardware to become totally uncoupled. Amazon's Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers is, at least, a step in the right direction.
But that's my preference, what about yours? Do you prefer to have hardware that supports multiple formats, or formats that are available on many types of hardware?