Published: 29 April, 2009
Online retailer Amazon is determined to dominate the mobile reading experience and has acquired the makers of the Stanza ebook reading application for cellphones. This adds a lower end experience to Kindle, its own dedicated wireless ebook reader.
Amazon has been extending the Kindle software beyond its own device to certain smartphones, including the iPhone, on which Stanza runs, targeting more casual readers than Kindle users. Now it has gained a virtual monopoly on book reading on the iPhone and iPod Touch with the acquisition of Lexcycle, which makes the free Stanza app, one of the top five free downloads on the Apple platform according to FierceDeveloper.
"We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition," said Lexcycle co-founder Marc Prud'hommeaux. Stanza offers complete novels that are in the public domain or available via Creative Commons licenses, and so competes with Google's similar free books app. Stanza also delivers content from magazines like Wired.
Amazon now covers three classes of readers - those sufficiently voracious to want a device optimized for a good book experience; those content with a smartphone but wanting access to the full range offered by the Amazon web site, including direct purchasing of paid-for titles; and those most interested in free content, often in 'snack-sized' portions. "We think the iPhone can be a great companion device for customers who are caught without their Kindle," Ian Freed, Amazon's VP for the ebook reader, told The New York Times, arguing the dedicated gadget still offers significant advantages such as text-friendly screen and long battery life.
The blogs are already alive with speculation that Amazon is looking even further, and could replace the Kindle software with a version of Stanza for paid-for content and ebook readers, creating an open standard for ebooks.