It’s going on for two years now since Amazon first launched the Kindle and really cranked up the interest in eBooks. It was understandable that Amazon should launch the device first in the USA only, to gauge interest and see whether there really was a market.
It was a little strange that Kindle didn’t also launch in the UK at the same time. As a Brit, I’m well aware that British English and US English are not quite the same – but they’re near enough as makes no difference once you’ve made it past color/colour, neighbor/neighbour and so on. I mean, there are really no barriers to Brits reading books formatted in US English – so why not take advantage of a second ready-made market?
Amazon UK won’t sell you a Kindle, though. And it doesn’t sell Kindle books either. My FB friend Iain Rae Lennox, who lives in Glasgow, has been desperate to get his hands on one ever since they shipped.
Iain’s an Apple iPhone user. Apple sells its wildly-popular phone in Europe, of course. So he was overjoyed when the new Kindle app was announced. He’d be able to use his iPhone as an eBook reader – or so he thought.
Trouble is, Apple’s iPhone app store in the UK doesn’t sell the Kindle reader. And he still can’t buy Kindle books in Britain.
So what’s going on? I’m sure Amazon wouldn’t tell me if I asked. But perhaps one of the better-known tech journalists will pick this up.
But here’s my theory. Copyright enforcement is much more rigidly enforced in Europe than in the USA. Google has hit this problem with its book digitization, and it’s clear that Europe will not roll over and accept what Google’s done here in the USA – even if the US courts eventually do.
I think Amazon sees the whole eBook copyright issue in Europe as a can of worms it really doesn’t want to open right now.
As Steve Jobs pointed out earlier this week, Amazon’s not sharing its Kindle sales figures – although I do recall seeing figures on the increasing proportion of Amazon’s overall book sales going to the Kindle.
Could it be that Amazon doesn’t really care about the success or failure of the Kindle device itself, and that’s its only a stalking-horse to ramp up the number of digital book titles out there? I’m sure that’s where Amazon makes its money – not on the Kindle hardware. If I’m any yardstick, I’ve already spent twice as much money on books as I spent on the device (at least as I would have spent if I hadn’t drowned one and lost one :-()
If there were lots of eBook readers out there, and they all read Amazon’s Kindle format, would Amazon care? I don’t think so.
Anyway, I’ll be watching Europe closely to see when the Kindle and the iPhone app actually make it into the hands of customers…