Study reveals Kindle's weak points as Google enters the ring

John Angelillo/UPI Photo/Newscom
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the Kindle DX in May.

Amazon announced today that the super-sized Kindle DX ebook reader will ship on June 10. Unveiled in May, the DX attempts to correct a few perceived weaknesses of the original. In particular, many thought the first Kindle was a grand replacement for bulky novels, but its paperback-sized screen didn't suit textbooks and magazine pages.

The DX's bigger screen fills in that hole, but Forrester Research warns that competitors will soon "attack Amazon's market position by launching new features, expanding content beyond books, dominating markets outside the U.S., reducing costs, and improving relationships with publishers."

Forrester's study, released today, predicts that ebooks will grow beyond early adopters in 2009, reaching further into the avid-reader audience. The "wider market of students and business consumers" won't really catch on until 2011, the report says. By that time, competition will push ereader technology toward animation, color, and $199 pricetags. The current Kindles are more than $350.

Sony's Reader, the No. 2 ebook device on the market, has never put up much of a fight. But the New York Times reported yesterday that Google is Amazon's newest challenger – and its entry could bolster Sony.

Google has no interest in manufacturing a device, according to the Times. Instead, the company will create a new online marketplace for ebooks.

Google’s move is likely to be welcomed by publishers who have expressed concerns about Amazon’s aggressive pricing strategy for e-books. Amazon offers Kindle editions of most new best sellers for $9.99, far less than the typical $26 at which publishers sell new hardcovers. In early discussions, Google has said it will allow publishers to set consumer prices.

This online bookstore will be separate from the 1.5 million public-domain books that Google posted online. However, if the Times report is true (Google's plans are still up in the air), the for-sale ebooks will likely use the same file format as the public-domain titles. This means Google could convince publishers to open up hundreds or thousands of new releases to mobile phones and the Sony Reader.

Unlike Google's ebooks, Amazon's selection will only work their devices or the Kindle iPhone app.

A new format war?

PC World wondered if Google "will push many companies to create eBook readers to take advantage of Google's new store, and will flood the market with tough choices. Do you choose Amazon and risk its Kindle eBooks becoming obsolete? Or do you pick another reader that may not function as well as the Kindle and hope Google's store comes out on top of this rising storm? This is shaping up to become another Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD battle...."

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