Divergent Tales For Amazon, Barnes & Noble E-Books
First came faint and then growing whispers about an Amazon Android app store in development. Then later came news that Barnes & Noble CEO Leonard Riggio had managed to fend off a challenge to his chairmanship--this following the news that the bookseller had put itself up for sale back in August.
So what could the future hold for bookselling? Or the development of the e-book market?
The Worst of Times
At first glance, Barnes & Noble seems to have absorbed the lessons of the music industry's encounter with new media. It quickly embraced ebooks by releasing its own reader, the Nook. At last report, it had close to 20 percent of the market, far ahead of its other competitor, Borders. The problem is that people either buy print or electronic copies of their books - not both. It's getting harder to split the difference and make a profit without rethinking your business strategy.
It's unclear what Riggio and the board think can be improved by putting the company up for sale. Perhaps they hope to present themselves as an easy entry into the e-book markets for any available suitor with deep pockets. This would probably involve spinning off a lot of the brick and mortar stores, a process made more complicated by the fact that B&N recently acquired B&N College. The strategy towards ebooks or anything else is rather unclear.
The Best of Times
If reports are correct, Amazon is working hard on developing an app store to rival Apple's. Could the next version of the Kindle be an Android-powered tablet? It's quite possible, as recent events indicate that Amazon and everyone else in the e-book space is realizing that the future is in multi-purpose tablets, notwithstanding Amazon's snarky takedown of the iPad some weeks ago.
What could this mean for the industry? Well, it appears Amazon is ready to move beyond a facsimile of the print book to rethinking of the book itself. An app-enhanced book, so to speak, capable of doing all the things software can do. In addition, the rapid market share growth of the Android mobile platform guarantees that Amazon will be able to fend off any moves Apple makes in the e-book sector.
More immediately, Amazon could help bring some regulation to the Android app ecosystem. The largest collection of such apps, Google's Android Marketplace, is notoriously unregulated. Amazon may be poised to debut its app superstore as the Android version of iTunes Store: A moderated, supervised market for users and developers alike. SlashGear recently published a leaked App Store Agreement, complete with a digital rights management clause, that seems to confirm this.
One unresolved question in all this--will Amazon enlist E-Ink technology to cut down the sun glare on its tablets? Time will tell.
To reach contributor Joe Peters, click here.