Amazon plans to issue Kindle applications for Android and Windows LCD tablets in a bid to spread its e-reader software onto as many devices as possible. A free Kindle application already exists for the Apple iPad, currently the best-selling tablet on the market.
Amazon's Kindle application, which it touts under the banner of "Buy Once, Read Anywhere," allows readers to download and sync their e-books across a variety of devices, back up those digital volumes to the cloud, and purchase new reading material with one click. However, the ability to read Kindle e-books on any device also presents the online retailer with a particular problem-i.e., how to persuade potential customers that they should still pay for an actual Kindle e-reader device to supplement their PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Amazon's answer has been to encourage those customers to purchase an e-reader in addition to their other devices. "Many people are buying both a Kindle and an LCD tablet computer," Dorothy Nicholls, director of Amazon Kindle, wrote in a Jan. 4 statement posted on the company's corporate Website. "We're very excited to support the upcoming Android and Windows LCD tablet computers with free Kindle apps that we'll tailor for the particular devices."
Nicholls also suggested that users leverage the company's Whispersync technology to create their own e-reader ecosystem: "Read on your Kindle, read on your tablet, read on your phone. We'll keep track of your last page read, and make it easy."
Nicholls' comments echoed earlier ones by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who likewise emphasized the supposed co-existence of e-reader devices and tablets. "We're seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet," he wrote in a Dec. 27 statement also posted on Amazon's corporate Website. "Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies and Web browsing and their Kindles for reading sessions."
Neither Bezos nor Nicholls backed those assertions with hard data. Amazon also declines to provide concrete sales numbers for the Kindle, despite periodic press releases insisting the device is among its best-selling. In December, a Bloomberg report suggested the company will sell 8 million Kindles in 2010, outpacing some analysts' earlier estimates of 5 million.
However, there are signs that tablet PCs could be having a negative effect on the market for devices like the Kindle. For example, a survey from ChangeWave Research suggested that the iPad's share of the e-reader market expanded from 16 percent to 32 percent between August and November. That may have come at the expense of the Kindle, whose market share in that survey dropped during the same time period from 62 percent to 47 percent. In recent months, Amazon has launched an ad campaign highlighting the Kindle's e-reading advantages over tablet PCs, perhaps an acknowledgment of the latter device's potential effect on the e-reading market.
That effect could only intensify: In the coming months, Android-based tablets from a variety of manufacturers are expected to take a larger share of the market, along with devices from Research In Motion and Hewlett-Packard that use proprietary operating systems. In theory, that means an even bigger market for tablet-based e-reading, and the potential for further erosion of the Kindle's market share-unless, of course, all those tablet purchasers add a Kindle to their shopping cart.