Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon’s New E-Books: No Kindle Required?

Kindle fans like to describe Amazon’s e-book reader as the “iPod of the Book World.” The counter-argument is that such a thing already exists, and that Apple already makes it: the iPhone, which offers plenty of apps that let you download and read books on the go.

Now the line between the two devices is about to get blurrier: Amazon (AMZN), which is set to introduce a new version of the Kindle on Monday, is also preparing to sell books that will work on other, unnamed mobile phones.

“We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones. We are working on that now,” an Amazon spokesman told the New York Times, while offering zero other details.

I’ve asked for more clarification, but I’m not hopeful–it’s difficult to get Amazon to acknowledge that the sun sets in the West. [UPDATE: Via email, an Amazon spokesman allows that “we are excited” but nothing else.] The big question is whether Amazon intends to sell titles that can be read on Apple’s (AAPL) handsets.

On the one hand, it would be a natural fit: There’s a much larger base of iPhone users than Kindle owners, and Amazon already makes a helpful iPhone App. On the other, Amazon and Apple are increasingly going head-to-head in the digital content business: The two companies now have rival online music and TV/movie stores, so it would be surprising to see them collaborating over books.

And just to get this part out of the way: I know that reading a book on a cellphone–even one with a very nice screen–is a different experience than reading on a Kindle, which boasts an e-Ink screen that’s designed to be read in different light levels while using very little battery power. But there’s no reason Amazon customers shouldn’t have a choice about the way they read their books on the go.

In less important e-book news, Google (GOOG) has beefed up the catalog of free public domain books available for mobile readers. If you’ve got an iPhone or one of Google’s Android handsets, you can now browse, but not download, one of 1.5 million titles like “The Wind In the Willows” at

[Image Credit: austinevan]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik