Kindle beats Apple's closed book on choice

Sync sells (some things)


Open...and Shut Despite the fact that our gadgets increasingly multi-task as cameras, phones, email devices, and more, we continue to accumulate different devices to serve different functions.

Perhaps because of this multi-device reality, those digital goods vendors who persist in seeing the world as one big Apple iOS party are likely to lose in their chosen markets.

Like Apple in ebooks, for example.

There's no question that Apple has been phenomenally successful in selling phones, tablets, and increasingly desktops/laptops. But in ebooks? Not so much.

At least, not compared to Kindle books. Apple continues to have far fewer titles and far fewer sales. This, despite a relatively strong start from iBook sales and some evidence that iBook sales are growing the overall ebook market. And despite a hugely successful iPad 2 launch (and long-term success with iPad 1).

The problem? IBooks are only available on Apple devices, whereas Kindle ebooks are available everywhere - or nearly so. Kindle ebook sales dominate iBooks even on Apple devices.

So much so that author J.A. Konrath reports a 60:1 Kindle:iBook sales ratio.

This makes sense in the multi-device world in which we live. As much as we may want to be all-Apple, all of the time, the reality is that at some point we're going to use a non-Apple device, and that moment is the when Amazon's Kindle model makes so much more sense. Kindle ebooks follow the reader everywhere she happens to go. On their Android device. On their iOS device. Even on their PC (gasp!).

Apple's strategy of "buy with Apple, use with Apple" doesn't make sense in a world of choice. An ebook belongs to Apple if it only works on Apple devices. That same ebook, if a Kindle ebook, effectively belongs to the user - no matter what the actual legal rights - if the user can access their content on whatever device they happens to buy.

It's sometimes said that people won't pay for sync, and that they don't value choice. Kindle's ebook sales compared to Apple's iBook sales suggests otherwise. Syncing across different devices matters. Choice matters. The proof is in the sales figures. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Strobe, a startup that offers an open source framework for building mobile apps. He was formerly chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open-source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears twice a week on The Register.


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