Amazon.com announced updates to its free Kindle for PC application, a day after announcing that the e-reader software would become available “soon” on Android-based devices. The rapid-fire pace of Kindle announcements suggests that Amazon is looking to build out its e-reader franchise at a time when it faces increased competition from a number of rivals, including Apple’s iPad.
The new features of Kindle for PC include the ability to edit notes and marks, change background color, screen brightness control, and a full-screen reading mode. Kindle for PC leverages Amazon’s Whispersync technology to synchronize notes, bookmarks and last-page-read between a user’s PC, smartphone and Kindle device.
A May 19 statement by Amazon hinted that the online retailer’s Kindle strategy could be shifting to an emphasis on software, despite its Kindle devices remaining solid sellers for the company.
“We have been working hard to enhance our Kindle application experiences and are thrilled to be adding new features to Kindle for PC,” Jay Marine, director of Amazon Kindle, wrote in that statement. “Kindle for PC lets customers enjoy more than 540,000 books in the Kindle Store even if they don’t yet have a Kindle, and it’s the perfect companion application for the millions of Kindle and Kindle DX owners.”
That follows a May 10 announcement that free Kindle software would be available at an as-yet-unveiled date for Google Android smartphones, including the Nexus One and Droid Incredible. Kindle software is available for download to iPhones, iPads, BlackBerry smartphones, Macs, and Windows PCs.
Amazon begins this latest round of announcements 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; for Amazon, the Google rollout could lead to publishers bringing additional price pressures to bear on the price of volumes sold through its e-books storefront.
In order to better face that competition-along with the threat posed by Apple’s iPad-both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which markets the Nook e-reader, have been adding additional software features to their Kindle devices, expanding their functionality beyond traditional e-readers and more into the territory of tablet PCs.
Amazon recently announced plans to release a software update for its Kindle and Kindle DX devices, termed Version 2.5, that allows users to share passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Version 2.5 will include 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.
Barnes & Noble’s recently unveiled software update for the Nook includes Android-based games such as Sudoku and chess, as well as a beta-version Web browser.
Although initially dismissed as a niche item by some analysts, e-readers managed to become one of the hot sellers of the holiday 2009 shopping season, sparking the current rush by manufacturers to create their own devices and software for displaying e-books.