A cloudy future

A cloudy future

The e-book wars have entered the next phase. First Google eBooks (the artist formerly known as Google Editions—the new name far, far clearer for the consumer, surely) launches in the US, to be followed by a UK and Continental Europe launch presumably early next year. Now Amazon has launched Kindle for Web, a similar cloud-based "anywhere, anytime" e-book store and reading webapp that lives within a browser—again for the US, but a European launch will presumably be forthcoming in 2011. 

Early indications are that the Kindle for Web kicks Google eBooks into touch (admittedly, this is going by what the respective companies say about the features as territorial restrictions mean I've not been able to road test them myself). KfW has many of the features of its Kindle device such as bookmarks, the ability to make notes and highlights, saving the last page read, all of which are synched across all your Kindle-enabled devices. There is also the ability for third-party booksellers to sell Kindle e-books through their own websites.

Google's reader is far less sophisticated and they, as yet, don't have any third party deals in place. But, thanks to its massive digitisation project, the search engine does have about three million e-books available, about two million of which are out of copyright. 

Kindle has already been a bit "cloudy", with the reader available as an app on the Apple and Android stores for over a year. This is definitely where the market is going, the dedicated e-reader already a clunky relic of a bygone age, as quaint as quill pens and chaise and fours. If, as I have done recently, you have switched from an iPhone to an Android mobile you might appreciate not being tied to a single device. 

The obvious question is: what of Apple? Its corporate and technological culture remains as closed as North Korea's borders. I cannot see an iBooks cloud app being devised anytime soon to be disseminated out to competitors. If so, Apple's position as a leading retailer of e-books seems in doubt, with customers more likely to use their iPads and iPhones to read e-books off Google eBook and Kindle for Web.