Last Updated Jan 29, 2010 2:47 AM EST
Don't be fooled. The Apple iPad iBooks seems like a Kindle checkmate, but Amazon can still maintain and even grow its reader base. Here are five immediate steps:
- Keep Kindle Apps Simple. Last week Amazon announced an upcoming Kindle app SDK for developers -- something it should have done, oh, several months ago. That said, the biggest mistake it could make is becoming some type of second-class iPad. Amazon should encourage simple, focused apps conducive to reading, such as intellectual social networking, literary recommendations and book-related multimedia. It should be confident being an e-reader, not a tablet computer.
- Help Apple Sell Kindle Books. Amazon has had a well-received (and free) Kindle iPhone/iPod Touch app for months. Why not upgrade the app to fit the fancy iPad and make it just as easy for users to purchase or transfer Kindle books as they would for iBooks? Amazon would continue to get the Kindle-via-Apple book revenue and keep brand awareness for potential Kindle adopters. During the keynote, Steve Jobs made it clear that iBooks could be priced closer to traditional books -- his demonstration was purchasing Ted Kennedy's book True Compass for $12.99, which is three dollars over Amazon's Kindle book price. Another presumed advantage: It's extremely doubtful Apple will allow iBooks to be read on non-Apple devices, making Amazon seem benevolent and a Kindle book purchase a smarter investment.
- Upgrade The Kindle Interface. The oohs and ahhs from yesterday's iBooks portion were mostly from Apple's slick "behind the bookcase" animation. Kindle doesn't require fancy animation. In fact, Amazon could position the Kindle as the preferred e-reader for hardcore bookworms. The Kindle store can definitely use a brush up though, which, from a PR standpoint, Amazon should announce before the iPads begin shipping in March.
- Capture The Publishers Apple Won't Or Can't Reach. The iPad has the five biggest American publishers on call, but these deals are currently for the U.S. only and, furthermore, there are hundreds of medium-sized (or smaller) publishers available within and outside of the United States. Also, as Apple Insider notes, textbook giant and outspoken Apple supporter McGraw Hill wasn't featured during the keynote - - later admitting that the iPad deal was "speculative". Sounds like it's ready to get involved more in e-readers, but Apple doesn't consider McGraw Hill a priority. Amazon wisely is going after the smaller guys, too, with its recent royalty (and rights!) heavy contract option appealing to self-publishers, a group Apple didn't acknowledge during the keynote.
- Talk To Google. Now. We also can't forget Google's aggressive and controversial scanning project. Google released a million-plus free books readable on the major e-readers, but for the Kindle they require a conversion to be read. Why? Eliminate the middle man and make the books available immediately on the Amazon device. Furthermore, some type of exclusive Google deal for Amazon would be a serious leg-up, establishing Kindle as a long tail library to iPad's jack-of-all-trades/only bestsellers position. Now would be the time to start negotiating hard with Apple's frienemy Google before the iPad hits stores - - or before Google pulls a Nexus One and decides to make its own device.