Friday, February 06, 2009

Mobile Books are Here

The NYT reported that Google will make their 1.5 million public domain books, that are available for free on PCs and now also make these accessible on mobiles. The same article also reported that Amazon was working on making the titles for its popular e-book reader, the Kindle, available on a variety of mobile phones.

So this tells us that the consumer is certainly going to have a mobile ebook experience and in the case of Google a free one. But before everyone around the world rushes, as we did, to experience Book Search on a mobile, it appears to be limited to those operating under Android (Google’s own mobile operating system) and the iPhone.
It certainly wasn’t working under Symbian, the system used by Nokia. Also although 1.5 million is the figure quoted, this only applies to the US and outside of there only around 620,000 titles currently available. Still a large number by anyone’s standards!

While these books were already available on Google Book Search, these new mobile editions are not image but text files, enabling a better reading experience and download performance to a small screen. To try it out, open up your iphone or Android phone and go to

Google said it would extend the service to include out-of-print titles and current books. This then extends their land grabbing settlement benefit sales and licensing opportunities.

Amazon who are expected to unveil the Kindle 2 next week, did not say when Kindle titles would be available on mobile phones, or importantly what the implications would be. The Kindle currently offers about 230,000 titles.

Amazon’s move onto the mobile is a no brainer. If they stay marooned in Kindleland they may well end up with the content, but on a device no one wants. What many forget is that they also own Mobibook and could easily move onto the mobile using a tweek of the mobi format. Some would question whether Amazon would open itself up by using the standard mobi format or that its more likely that the files will remain Amazon only but mobi exclusively restricted. It is as unlikely that they will embrace epub for delivery as to see them loosing their grip on their digital content.

Some say that the reading experience on a small screen will never take off stating that the printed page and ereaders have been optimised for reading. Others will point to the Blackberry and emails that are being read all around us today, the Keitai novels in Japan, texts and also the great variance of quality and size that exists in print that some of which some would say is just as hard to read! The reality is that the market will decide what and when they read.

What is clear is that Google now has arrived in the market and given the treasure trove they have potentially acquired for chump change, they are certainly going to have an increasing impact on the market. Secondly those who doubted the mobile platform would work for books better start to think again! Whatever happens it's certainly interesting times on the mobile platform and with Plastic Logic and K2 coming on the 9th, a hard choice time for many today.

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