Amazon and eBooks: “Company Store”?

An interesting post today on TeleRead by Michael Banks speculates on where Amazon’s new efforts in eBooks could potentially lead. Michael makes some good points. He didn’t highlight that Amazon is actually taking a two-pronged approach: DRM-protected eBooks via its proprietary Mobipocket technology, and browser-based access via the evolution of “Look Inside the Book” into “Amazon Upgrade”. Both solutions could potentially give Amazon a chokehold over user access to content, by virtue of proprietary binary format on the one hand, and a lockbox “in the cloud” (Amazon’s cloud) on the other..
Amazon has an unparalleled customer base of online-savvy book buyers and publishers. I respect Dan Rose and the team there, and hopefully they will see the light of day that trying to gain proprietary lock-in over customers and publishers is going to be a self-defeating strategy. Apple has gotten away with it so far in music, but that’s a much narrower market and Apple had the advantage of surprise over music publishers that Amazon most assuredly does not over book publishers. Open standards and interoperability are going to be necessary for digital reading to be broadly adopted, so hopefully Amazon will get past NIH and step up to helping to achieve these objectives. Their recent joining of the IDPF was a promising step. Amazon is also under financial pressure to improve earnings which hopefully could lead to focus on their core competency – selling – rather than promotion of a proprietary platform.