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eBooks @ iPhone

23. 03. 2009.

There’s been a great deal of excitement concerning reading eBooks on the iPhone. The Kindle2 created a big buzz and then Amazon released the Kindle application for the iPhone, enabling millions of iPhone readers to access Kindle content without having to buy the ever-more-popular device.

A little while ago, I had a brief Twitter discussion with a fellow tweep who pointed to an interesting article about Apple’s “agnostic” position re: eBooks. Apple, the argument goes, doesn’t care whether customers read books in the oh-so-hyped cloud, or download them to some device – as long as the reader for that cloud and / or that device is the iPhone.

That’s all fine and well. It’s only natural for Apple to want everyone to use the iPhone for everything, as natural as it is for Amazon to not care how people read their books, as long as they buy them from Amazon. The Kindle isn’t strategic for Amazon – they are a retailer, not a hardware company. And Apple doesn’t care where the content is – they are a hardware company, not a publisher.

From my point of view, there’s just one crumb in the shoe of this otherwise wonderful relationship. Now, one or two disclaimers are in order. Firstly, since I live in Croatia and not in the ol’ US of A, the Kindle is out of the question, not just for me but for all my fellow Europeans, Asians, Africans, South Americans, Australians and Antarcticans: it’s only available north of the Rio Grande as far as I know. Next, I love reading books on paper. You know – a tree might have fallen but it sure saves batteries and goes much better with chocolate and cognac or red wine than any electronic device. Also, I don’t use an iPhone.

Now having said all that, I may be wrong but it seems to me that the current iPhone (or any other phone) format simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to books. Even for somewhat longer articles or blog posts, I still prefer to print them out and read them on paper.

Granted – the humble mobile phone has become the big unifier, the vacuum cleaner for all sorts of devices being converged into this pocket format. Cameras, Web browsers, PC’s to a point and presumably GPS navigators should be the next to fall prey to this black hole of gadgetry. But books… I just think a larger screen is needed, that’s all.

No question about it – if Apple finally comes up with this netbook/ebook device that’s been rumored for so long, it might be a winner. But it won’t be a mobile phone so it won’t be anyone’s take-it-with-you-at-all-times device. It’ll have to compete directly against Kindles and eeePC’s and all that other stuff.

So: Apple cornering the eBook device market? Maybe, who knows. But with the iPhone? I really really doubt it.

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