Amazon has announced that the Kindle is now open to development for select partners, and a Kindle app store will soon open. Initial partners include EA Mobile and Zagat, which, according to Amazon, means restaurant review apps, Kindle recipe books, and gaming in the eReaders' near future.
For consumers, the app store payment structure and app size will vary. Free apps will be smaller than 1 MB, with Amazon capping subscription and one-time-pay apps at 100 MB. Only apps smaller than 10 MB will be available wirelessly, larger apps will have to be downloaded via USB. All apps are restricted to 100 KB of data per user per month.
Like Apple, Amazon will closely monitor the offerings, blocking any offensive applications or Kindle jailbreakers.
An App Store Surprise
Amazon's app store announcement came as a surprise to many industry insiders. Compared with other devices running on the open-source Android OS, including the Barnes & Noble nook, the Kindle's proprietary OS was shut off to outside developers. With the announcement, Amazon claimed that it is now only open to select partners and a wide release is scheduled for later in the month.
It will be interesting to see exactly what developers come up, particularly on the gaming space. Expect many word and puzzle games due to the e-ink screen and slow refresh rates.
Developers interested in participating in the program can find out more at www.amazon.com/kdk/.
With applications and increased functionality, the Kindle and other e-readers could be moving in on the netbook market.
The Kindle currently retails for $260, making it competitive with many low-cost netbooks and budget laptops. At 10.2 ounces, the Kindle is smaller than a netbook, so consumers turning to netbooks because of their size, might consider a Kindle should the applications cover basic computer tasks, like e-mail or even web browsing.
DRM Opt Out
Amazon also made it easier for publishers to opt out of Kindle's digital rights management (DRM) program. While Amazon claimed DRM opt-out was always an option for those looking to publish on the Kindle, recent changes to its Digital Text Platform discovered this week made the option more explicit.
With DRM enabled, Kindle users are not able to port their books over to other e-readerse-readers. Without DRM, users can freely move content between devices, an attractive option to small publishers looking to maximize attention.
E-book Pricing Changes
Amazon also announced a new ebook pricing plan and revenue sharing agreement with publishers. Now e-books must cost between $2.99 and $9.99, with each e-book at least 20% less than the lowest listed price of a physical copy.
Previously, publishers were free to set their own price up to $200, though most publishers kept it at around $10. Publishers also now get a 70% cut, up from the 35% Amazon initially offered.
The move is intended to blunt criticism that ebooks are too expensive for consumers considering their relatively low overhead.
A CES Reaction?
Even though Amazon was not present in Las Vegas, these moves come on the heels of CES 2010, where many potential "Kindle killers" made an appearance. Two devices in particular attracted media attention, both looking to court the business reader: Sony's Daily Edition, which now offers an exclusive content streaming service from News Corp for the Wall Street Journal and other financial publications, and Plastic Logic's QUE proReader with its business document support and large touch screen.
Also, the Amazon announcements could be timed to gain exposure prior to Apple's potential barge into the e-reader space with a tablet device.
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