Chalk this one up as another smart move...
Today Amazon surprised us all by announcing a Kindle app for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch which is not only compatible with over 240,000 books (including 104 of 122 New York Times bestsellers) but it is being given away for free.
"We are excited to bring the new Kindle application to Apple's App Store and think customers are going to love how easy and fun it is to read their Kindle books on the iPhone and iPod touch," said Amazon Kindle VP Ian Freed. "Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch is a great way for customers to catch up on their current book wherever they are, like in line at the grocery store or between meetings."
Now some may be thinking: why would Amazon risk cannibalising sales of its rather expensive Kindle 2 to do this? The answer is to look long term.
Ultimately eBook readers will become commodity hardware and - as with all things - the value will come from the software. In this case, the Kindle eBook format and major rivals are already pressing. Consequently, by launching on the iPhone and iPod touch Amazon could very well cement the Kindle codec as the defacto industry standard and therefore its own revenue for years to come.
Caveats? The big one is that books still need to be bought from the Kindle Store but they can be wirelessly transferred from here to the devices. The other is - like the Kindle itself - the app is currently limited to the US market. Frustratingly since the app looks well made with handy features such as text size adjustment, bookmarking and cross device syncing (it automatically remembers your latest reading place across multiple devices) all in there.
Expect the Kindle app to now turn up on Android and BlackBerry OS (especially with their tight Amazon MP3 integration), Windows Mobile and more.
Nice one Amazon.