Amazon.com may emphasize-in every venue it can-the popularity of its Kindle e-reader device. But with the May 18 announcement that free Kindle e-reader software will be available "soon" for Google Android smartphones, it seems the online retailer is paying just as much attention to porting Kindle functionality onto as many other devices as possible.
Given the competition presented by a combination of other e-readers-such as Barnes & Noble's Nook device-and the Apple iPad, this urgency to spread its Kindle software far and wide should come as no surprise. Already, free Kindle software is available for download to Windows PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads and the BlackBerry franchise.
Kindle for Android will run on any device loaded with Android OS 1.6 or higher and equipped with an SD card. Amazon's Kindle for Android Website suggests that the software will be supported by many of the newest phones in the Android line, including the Droid Incredible, Google Nexus One, HTC MyTouch and Motorola Droid. However, any specific release date for the software is being kept under wraps.
Features of Kindle for Android include the ability to read in portrait or landscape mode, tap either side of the screen or flick to turn pages, access to all books in the user's Kindle library, adjustable text size and view annotations.
Amazon's announcement comes a few weeks after news that Google will begin selling electronic books online as early as June, through Google Editions.
Google Editions will apparently let users read books from a variety of devices, as well as allow publishers to set prices for the works. That could help Google create a competitive differentiator for its service at a time when publishers and e-reader manufacturers find themselves in intense negotiations over the price points for e-texts.
With competition in the e-reader space increasing on a week-by-week basis, companies have begun to offer features beyond e-books. Barnes & Noble recently unveiled a software update for the Nook that includes Android-based games such as Sudoku and chess, as well as a beta Web browser and Read In Store, which allows users to browse the retailer's library of e-books for free at any Barnes & Noble location.
For its part, Amazon recently announced plans to release a software update for its Kindle and Kindle DX devices, termed Version 2.5, which allows users to share passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter. Due to be released in late May, the update also includes Collections, which organizes books or documents into specific categories, and Popular Highlights, which displays passages in a reader's current book that the Kindle community finds most interesting.
Although the e-readers such as the Kindle were initially dismissed as a niche item by some analysts, the devices eventually became one of the hot sellers of the holiday 2009 shopping season. Even as Amazon and Barnes & Noble struck deals with major retailers such as Best Buy and Target to provide an additional sales channel, smaller manufacturers made clear their intentions to take at least a small portion of the burgeoning market with their own offerings; during January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a number of those companies debuted e-readers with features such as touch screens or Web browsers.
All of those e-readers, however, face substantial competition in the form of Apple's iPad, which includes an e-reader application and sold more than 1 million units in the month following its April 3 release. A March survey by Alphawise, Morgan Stanley's specialized internal research team, suggested that e-readers were a device at risk for cannibalization by the iPad.