Amazon wants some of the media fun that e-books on Apple's devices are having. On Sunday, the giant online retailer announced an update for Kindle on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that allows embedded video and audio clips in its e-books on those devices.
Amazon is currently offering 13 titles with audio or video. These include five travel books in the Rick Steves series, as well as other e-books with subject matter that benefits from media, such as Lullaby Book and a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A free Kindle reader application is available for Apple devices.
Kindle Store 'More Important'
Bill Newlin, the publisher of Rick Steve's London, said the new Kindle edition with audio and video enables an "embedded walking tour" so customers can "listen to Rick as they explore the sites of London." He added that this media "adds depth to the reader's experience, while listeners can follow the routes more easily with the text."
Other titles with audio/video clips include Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which includes video tips on creating the perfect cake, and audio clips of bird songs and calls.
Those media components are intended for playing on non-Kindle hardware, highlighting a point made by Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, about the emphasis in Amazon's strategy. This announcement, he said, points to the fact that, for Amazon, "the Kindle Store is more important than the Kindle device itself."
Rubin noted that, "at some point, some e-readers will gain the capability to play back video and have other features," adding that it's likely that the Kindle device will be one of those. But, at present, Amazon's focus is on selling content.
Barnes & Noble Leveraging Its Stores
Amazon is stepping up its responses to competition from Apple and the potential competition from Barnes & Noble, which recently updated and fixed bugs on its nook e-reader, dropped the price to $199 from $259, and debuted a new Wi-Fi version for $149. Amazon quickly responded by dropping the Kindle's price to $189 from $259.
Apple's iPad in particular has jump-started the energy around e-books, including the integration of audio, video and extensive interactivity, while Barnes & Noble is moving quickly to leverage an advantage that Amazon can't match -- its 723 brick-and-mortar stores.
For instance, when the nook is used in a Barnes & Noble store, it automatically connects to the free Wi-Fi. Users can click on the Shop button and use the Read in Store feature to browse through many of the e-books or periodicals in the company's eBookstore, which has more than a million titles. Any available e-book can be read in the store for up to an hour per day, and newspapers and magazines are available for up to 20 minutes daily.