May 19, 2010, 7:38 AM — This week saw some good news for Android users who're also book lovers: Amazon announced Kindle for Android (due out this summer). For those keeping track at home, this means you'll be able to read a Kindle book on a Kindle (of course), Windows, OS X, an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, or a Blackberry. Kindle Android has one bonus feature over other mobile readers: you can buy books from within the app, which is a nice perk for Android users, but not really a game-changer.
The real significance of Kindle for Android goes well beyond today's smartphones, though. When Android tablets start rolling out, Kindle will be there ready to serve up customers' book collections. That's good news for both Amazon and the various Android tablet manufacturers. It also means that, starting now, forward-thinking iPad owners will buy their e-books in Kindle, rather than iBook, format. The reading experience is virtually the same, so smart money says buy the more versatile format. And following on from this, tablet loving e-book enthusiasts won't be shackled to the iPad in years to come. If an Android tablet offers better features, they can jump platforms without leaving their library behind.
If HP starts producing WebOS tablets, expect Kindle for WebOS to follow along shortly after launch. Amazon clearly wants Kindle to be a ubiquitous e-reading platform.
In a perfect world, we'd all be buying DRM-free ePub versions of books; but that often isn't possible. The Kindle platform is currently the least-bad way to purchase e-books from a major retailer. Over the long run, Amazon's competition in the e-book space will be Barnes & Noble, not Apple. B&N needs to get their dedicated iPad app on the market (it's coming soon) and then get right to work on an Android version. That'll give them parity with Amazon insofar as device coverage goes (they're already on Nook, Windows, OS X, iPhone/iPod Touch and Blackberry).
The one advantage iBooks has over Kindle (and Barnes & Noble) is color. When you install iBooks you get an e-book copy of Winnie the Pooh, complete with color illustrations. That's something only iBooks can provide now but Apple isn't really exploiting this advantage. There are a lot of colorful, interactive children's books in the iPad's app store, but most of them are stand-alone apps, not iBooks.
Signs point to Amazon being in the midst of designing a new version of the Kindle hardware. If this new iteration does color (and honestly it may be too early for that) then count on Amazon following the new hardware with color illustrations in Kindle e-books, wiping out the one advantage iBooks have over Kindle. In the long run, Apple may come to regret the day they let e-book competitors onto their hardware.