O’Reilly: The Kindle Must Open Up Or Die

Feb 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: General


Tim O’Reilly has published an opinion piece today saying that the Kindle must open up or die:

Unless Amazon embraces open e-book standards like epub, which allow readers to read books on a variety of devices, the Kindle will be gone within two or three years.

In developing the business plan for the Kindle, Amazon was no doubt influenced by the great success of Apple (nasdaq: AAPL – news – people ) with the iPod: Proprietary hardware and proprietary file formats made Apple into the kingpin of the digital music industry. But what Amazon seems to have missed is the important role that “free” played in the success of the iPod. People didn’t populate their iPods solely with music purchased from Apple. It was easy for them to “rip” their own CDs into the standard mp3 file format and load their entire music collection onto the device.

O’Reilly echoes thoughts we had when the Kindle was announced:

There’s a basic problem with the device: it doesn’t embrace the world of Internet media.

Internet media, in all its random, open, messy glory, is where people’s attention is moving to. It’s where it’s at, in both technology and media.

The Kindle doesn’t make it easy for you to get Internet content; it isn’t a new platform that you can easily publish content for; and it doesn’t play well with the Web.

O’Reilly’s focus, as a publisher, is on books and ebooks – but making the focus of ereaders be books is probably horseless-carriage thinking. 

A successful ebook platfom will be one that does books, in an open way. But that won’t be enough to make it an iPod-like hit.

The successful ebook platform will be a web platform optimized for reading text, fully embracing the Web.

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No Responses to “O’Reilly: The Kindle Must Open Up Or Die”

  1. coffee says:

    the Kindle 2 screen was designed especially well, it’s as easy on the eyes as regular paper

  2. I agree with the sentiments expressed. I’d add that the Kindle is much too expensive for what it is.

  3. BobB says:

    I disagree. These are the same comments that occurred in the early ipod days. The success of the ipod came not from the closed loop of the itunes store. But, it was from the open loop of alternative sources (CDs and MP3) that built acceptance and development.

    Kindle has no satisfactory open loop. Though doc, html and pdf conversions are “supported” there are no satisfactory means to port them in a usable way to the Kindle. The Kindle will only display flow formatted documents. Nearly all pdf and html, and most word docs, are location formatted. Rendering on the Kindle is disgusting because of this.

    Publisher pressure has forced Amazon to drop text-to-speech. It just may be that publisher fears are constraining the formatting as well. If this continues the Kindle will die. At least Jobs and Apple stood up to the music industry. Maybe Bezos needs to do the same with publishing.

    There are a variety of e-book readers available elsewhere in the world supporting open formats. They clearly don’t have the publisher support Amazon does. Success requires a marriage here somewhere.

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