Why Amazon Is Winnng the Ebook War

In one word, Software.  More specifically, Whispernet and Whispersync.  Amazon’s own ways of keeping all your ebooks organized and accessible.

Accessibility

Amazon has created a quality and consistent user experience across multiple devices. Once you buy a book it travels with you, not you having to travel with the book.  What do I mean by that?  When you buy an ebook from Amazon, you are free to read that ebook on just about any device thanks to Whispersync technology.  All of your bookmarks and notes will carry across multiple devices.  Start reading on your Kindle, switch to you iPad, then to your desktop, and the entire time never lose your place.  You are not limited by the device.

Compare that to Apple’s iBook Store.  Anything purchased is confined to Apple’s closed network.  You can read on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.  That’s it.

It’s about more than just the device.  When you get an ebook it should be accessible by any device you happen to be on.  Formats should never be restricted by the device.  Look at the entire music and movie industry with the DRM controversy.  You’re buying a book to read, not a license to that book.

Management

Book management gets very important as you look at ebooks replacing traditional library collection in education.  Students have to  keep track of textbooks and research materials.  Schools and Universities manage thousands of books for entire student populations.

Everything is manageable on the Amazon website.  You can purchase books, push books to certain devices, push to multiple devices, and see every book in your digital library.  This is ideal for the classroom, and the method the RETC used during the ‘Kindles in the Classroom’ experiment.

The RETC was able to purchase books from one master account and send a book to each Kindle device (18 devices in total).  When the kids turned on their Kindle the next morning the book was ready to read.  No handing out materials or keeping track of what students got what.  Everything is done online in an easy to manage system.

Simplicity is what makes this management great.  Amazon only wants to manage your books.  It’s not trying to sync in with any other media or features.  You can’t shop amazon.com, you aren’t streaming movies, and you aren’t syncing your music collection.  It’s dealing with books and reading, that’s all.

Price

First, I’m going to speak from my personal experience.  I have accounts with Amazon, iBook, and Barnes&Noble ebook stores.  I’ve downloaded free books from all of them, but when it comes to paid books I always download from Amazon.  Why? It’s always cheaper.  The past five ebooks I’ve read have been purchased from Amazon.  I searched the books on all three stores, and Amazon came up cheaper or equal every time.  In one case, Amazon was the only store to even carry the book.  This is by no means scientific data, but it’s a good observation.

Criteria for selecting the book prices in the chart below: Prices were taken from the websites of each respective store.  The lowest price found was used.  Prices were taking from September 15, 2010 – October 15, 2010.  The list of books was compiled as a general representation of what a high school student would read.  This chart and comparison should act as a rough guide, not hard facts to build your budget.  For books to be included they had to be downloadable from the site, able to sync with all supported devices, and be formatted for each device, being able to use all the softwares features (i.e. searching, font-size, highlighting, notes, etc…).

*A note on Google Books:  They are scanned copies of the original text.  These books are free and are simply images of the original book on your device.  They are not usually formatted e-books.  Meaning you cannot change fonts, text-size, or manipulate the text in the normal way you would.  Because of these limitations I can only recommend using Google Books for your personal reading, but not in a classroom or library setting.

Small Features, Big Impact

All the little things that Amazon adds to the software amounts to big functionality.

Book Recommendations – The system that helped make Amazon.com a success.  Amazon has taken the same principles and applied it to the Kindle Store.  Users are given recommendation for further reading on the same topic or genre.  This is a plus for students who may have trouble finding books they enjoy reading.  Once they find one, they will be able to find more through kindle recommendations.

Reading Lists – Being able to download samples of a book is a great way to keep a reading list right on your kindle software.  You download the free sample of a book you want but aren’t ready to buy/read yet. Download as many samples as you want to create your list.  When you finish your book you open the next sample you want to read.  Read it, if you like it, you can download the entire book from within the software and continue reading.  A tiny feature that can save you time, and save you from trying to remember all the books you wanted to read.

*I use this functionality constantly.  If someone suggests a book to me, I’ll just download the sample right from the Kindle App on my iPhone.  It’ll be on all my other devices next time I’m ready to read.

Lending books –  Amazon recently announced that they will be adding the ability to lend ebooks to other kindle users.  Once you buy a book, you can send a full copy of the book to another kindle user to read.  Details are still scarce on how long the lending period will be or how many times you can lend a book, but this will certainly be a good addition to the Kindle functionality.