eBook readers have always been a curiosity to me. I got into the eBook scene way back when I had a Pocket PC. I bought many, many books for Microsoft Reader in its proprietary .LIT format — only to have the app go away, taking the ability to read my digital library along with it.
Eventually dedicated eBook readers surfaced, most of them sported some kind of e-ink or e-paper displays. The screens were sharp, legible even in direct sunlight, and looked like they would be the future of “books”. Unfortunately they were monochrome, and page “turning” took a very long time. Then the new version of eBook readers hit the market… but they were just handicapped tablets.
We’re all familiar with iPads and Android-powered tablets. They’re very convenient, can do pretty much everything that our smartphones can, and can even do a lot of the things that we needed a laptop for not long ago. Ironically, these tablets offer eBook readers from the major “book stores”: Amazon, B&N, and Google Play Books.
For some reason, these “book store” companies have continued to push out their own, proprietary eBook readers, but they’re looking more like full-fledged tablets every day.
We recently showed you the new Amazon Kindle lineup which feature some pretty impressive specs: Snapdragon 800 SoCs, 7- and 8.9-inch screens, resolutions up to 1920 x 1200, available in configurations up to 64GB, and connectivity via WiFi-only or 4G. That sounds like a pretty high-end tablet to me!
Unfortunately, they’re not running one of the major OSes. Well, some of them are, but not really.
But not really
Both Kindle and Nook eBook readers have been based on the Android OS. Yay! Android! But they’re not Androids, they’re eBook readers. Confused yet? They are tablets that don’t include Google Apps and you can’t even get to the Play Store to install apps. Why? They’re eBook readers, not tablets.
Oh, okay, that makes sense. They both feature a customized user experience that focuses on reading eBooks, and nothing else. I get it. That’s fine. I can live with that.
“Wait, what? They can run apps? Even high-end games? And you can watch movies on them? But I thought they were eBook readers, and not tablets! I’m so confused!”
That’s where Amazon is heading: a full-fledged tablet that can (and does) run full-fledged apps, and plays full-fledged media. Since that’s the case, what’s the point behind the Kindle? Why doesn’t Amazon just make their tablets run Android?
Show me the money!
Google isn’t a hardware company. It doesn’t make money by selling you tangible products. Sure, when you buy a phone or tablet, Google doesn’t want to just give it away, it has to at least break even. Where Google makes their real money is in advertising. You are not the customer, you are the product Google is selling!
Amazon is a little different. Amazon sells stuff — actual, tangible stuff. You are the customer. To make money, Amazon needs to get paid, and since Amazon isn’t really in the “make money by selling tablets” business, the way Amazon get’s paid is by selling you stuff to put on your tablet.
However, if Amazon were to sell their wares through Google’s marketplace, Amazon would have to give up around 30% of their revenue to Google. To make up for this, Amazon would have to raise their prices by 30% (which would make them less competitive), find ways to become 30% more efficient across the board (which would be a very expensive undertaking), or take matters into its own hands.
Amazon tried this with their Appstore for Android, but it’s not all that popular. So, what’s a mega-company like Amazon to do? Exactly what they did: take control of the entire user experience, including the mechanism through which you can buy stuff. After all, that’s where the real money is!
Even still, don’t you think those new Kindle tablets would be awesome if they ran stock Android.