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.

3 Responses to Amazon and eBooks: “Company Store”?

  1. Joe Clark says:

    What is Apple’s “proprietary lock-in”? I can add music to iTunes and iPod from numerous sources that Apple does not control in any way, including CDs and DRM-free music sites. You seem to think that anyone who buys an iPod is sent to a concentration camp where the only source of music is Apple. Tell me (and this is not a rhetorical question), do you use Windows?

  2. Bill McCoy says:

    Joe,
    I am an iTunes/iPod user. Sure, I use them with unprotected music I have in CD form or otherwise have rightfully acquired. But for acquiring new content, iTunes/iPods integrates and supports only Apple’s own iTunes Store, which strictly dictates the pricing model to music publishers, and uses the FairPlay DRM that is entirely proprietary to Apple.
    If a music publisher wants to sell music through a non-Apple controlled channel they have to sell it without DRM protection, and ask users to manually integrate with iTunes/iPod.
    Calling this “second class status” would be understatement… I stand by my “lock in” label, which is further evidenced by Apple’s 70%market share of online sales of music.

  3. Bill,
    Thanks for bringing up “Look Inside the Book” and “Amazon Upgrade.” Interestingly, I just did a writeup about the new incarnation of the Amazon Reader for Online Magazine’s next issue.
    The new Amazon Reader (which is used with Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature) is ideally configured for a book upgrade owner–and allows just enough access to books by non-owners to make them intersting.
    The old system was rather loose–so loose that it made a great research tool, since you could more easily get at anything in a given book. In two articles last year about online research resources, I described Amazon’s “Search Inside” as better than having the book in hand. I’ll be changing that in the future, and recommend upgrading books that you find yourself searching through frequently.
    –Michael A. Banks