Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos indicated during an annual shareholders’ meeting that the online retailer’s Kindle e-reader would compete against the Apple iPad by focusing on the e-reader experience. Although the Kindle remains a strong seller, it faces increased competition from Apple’s tablet device as well as from rival e-readers such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
“The Kindle will compete with these LCD devices like the iPad by being a very focused product,” Bezos told the audience on May 25, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Serious readers are going to want a purpose-built device, because it’s an important activity for them.”
Even though Bezos emphasized the Kindle device at the meeting, recent steps by Amazon.com suggest an increased focus on e-reader software. On May 19, the company announced updates to its free Kindle for PC application, a day after revealing that the e-reader software would be available “soon” on Android-based devices. Building out the software franchise could also be a sign that Amazon.com recognizes the multiple-front competition it faces in the e-reader space.
New features of Kindle for PC include a full-screen reading mode and the ability to edit notes and marks, change background color and adjust screen brightness. Kindle for PC uses Amazon’s Whispersync technology to synchronize notes, bookmarks and last page read between a user’s PC, smartphone and Kindle device.
In addition to dealing with competition from other e-readers and the iPad, Amazon.com will also have to compete against Google, which could begin selling ebooks online as early as June through its Google Editions service.
Google Editions will apparently let users read books on a variety of devices and will allow publishers to set prices for the works. That could help Google differentiate itself within the space, where publishers and e-reader manufacturers have been locked in periodic and tough negotiations over ebook prices. Should Google make good on that promise to publishers, it could potentially ignite another round of multiparty haggling over those prices.
Bezos’ statement also seems in keeping with the Kindle device’s latest software update, Version 2.5, which adds social networking functionality, kept strictly within the context of ebooks. The update, which has reportedly begun rolling out to some users, will allow readers to share passages via Facebook and Twitter and display parts of a reader’s current book that the Kindle community finds most interesting.
By contrast, other e-reader manufacturers seem to be edging their devices slowly into the realm of tablet PCs. Barnes & Noble’s recent unveiled software update for the Nook includes Android-based games such as “Sudoku” and chess, as well as a beta Web browser.
In another sign that the Kindle won’t soon bulk up to compete with the iPad, Bezos reportedly said a color screen for the device “is still some ways out.”