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Apple vs. Amazon vs. Google

April 23, 2010

The three behemoths of technology are getting ready to battle over who will rule the new publishing industry.  It’s interesting because not one of them really cares too much about dominating the space.  Their core business all respectively lie in another sector.  However, egos will get involved and fireworks will inevitable follow.

The publishing industry is merely a pawn in Steve Job’s game of hardware dominance.  He needs the Big 6 publishers to sign up with iTunes so all of those iPad owners have something to buy in the bookstore.  He could really care less if this helps the publishing industry as a whole.  Can you blame him?

Bezos is in a similar position but he knows his Kindle is an inferior product.  He’s hoping that he can outsell iTunes by using books as a loss-leader.  Amazon can afford to do this because the rest of their business is so strong.  However the publishers are really pissed off (read Ken Auletta’s great article here) with this plan.  They don’t want to be told what to price their products.  Rightfully so there, but is a digital book really worth as much as a paper copy?  After all, screen glare is annoying and you can’t show off a digital book on a bookshelf.

Google has a different strategy of sheer brute force.  Scan millions of books a year and have the largest catalog on the planet.  Let anyone on any device access the material.  Make all of that text searchable through Google.  If you find something of interest on Google Books, you can preview part of it and then buy the whole text through their soon to be launched digital book store.

Who will win?  I don’t really know.  Definitely has a lot to do with the success of the iPad.  If history repeats itself and Job’s duplicates the success of the iPod, he will be hard to beat.  Regardless of who wins, is this good for the publishers?  Probably not.  I don’t see Kindles or iPads boosting readership rates.  People that read books already might start substituting those purchases with ebooks.  That will most likely hurt the publishers’ bottom line.  People that don’t read books won’t do so on the iPad and definitely won’t buy a Kindle.  This will be interesting to watch though.

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