We know Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle faces competition from the likes of Sony (SNE) in the nascent digital reader market, but is Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone the bigger threat? Forbes thinks so, noting that free iPhone e-reader Stanza has already been downloaded over 395,000 times. This compares to the 378,000 Kindles that Citi estimates Amazon will be able to sell this year.
But this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Here’s why:
- The iPhone’s tiny screen is magnificent for checking your whereabouts on Google Maps or looking up trivia on IMDB, but for long-form text like a novel just thinking about it makes our eyes hurt.
- Battery power — if the iPhone’s screen is active (like when you’re reading) you might run completely out of juice in a matter of hours. Now if that happens with a Kindle, shrug your shoulders and wait until you can plug it in. But run out your iPhone battery trying to read a novel and your cell phone is dead.
- Let’s say you want to read Neal Stephenson’s latest sprawling sci-fi tale Anathem. You can do it on the Kindle, cheaper than dead-tree and without lugging around almost three pounds of paper. But Stanza is only for books in the public domain — typically older novels like Moby Dick.
We agree that Kindle might make more sense as a software application on many devices — not just one Amazon gadget. But while Stanza/the iPhone is a neat toy, neither the hardware (small screen/small battery) nor software (can’t read the books you want) makes it an attractive offering to a buyer in the digital reader market. (And there is a market, we have photographic proof.) If the Kindle dies, don’t blame the iPhone.
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