Amazon.com may rule ebooks

This Monday Lexcycle, a year-old company which offers a free eBook viewing software named Stanza, has been acquired by Amazon.com, the world’s leading online bookstore as well as the latest leader in supplying ebooks through their gadget called Kindle. Stanza, according to Lexcycle’s official web site, is a free application for Apple’s iPhone (cellular phone) and iPod Touch (music/video player) that features more than 100,000 free and paid books. I, for one, have been enjoying reading The Invisible Man by Herbert George Wells through Stanza on my iPod Touch lately. While Stanza has a wide array of books for sale, it also hosts a large catalogue of books for free, most of which are classics. Amazon.com’s purchase of Lexcycle, and consequently, of Stanza, makes sense as it is a leading software for providing and selling electronic volumes on Apple’s emerging mobile platforms. Not only would this acquisition reinforce Amazon.com’s foothold in the ebook market for iPhone users, but also enable it to advance to other mobile platforms such as Nokia Symbian, RIM Blackberry or Microsoft Windows Mobile. 

Although the purchase of Lexcycle by Amazon.com is likely to receive a much smaller spotlight compared to the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle at $7.4 billion (arguably the biggest M&A in years) last week, the significance of the former may turn out to rival that of the latter some day. With Stanza added to its arsenal, Amazon.com procures a capability to deliver electronic versions of books on various mobile platforms, most notably cellular phones, which are drastically different from its own proprietary Kindle device. As David Rothman of TeleRead notes, Amazon.com now has potential to become a monopoly on ebooks, once it secures dominant market shares on various operating systems. Every book, in its electronic form, would have to be published through Amazon.com-owned Kindle or Stanza to be read as they become unavoidable gateways for ebooks. Even if Amazon.com fails to gain the majority in ebook market share any time soon, its acquisition of Lexcycle still makes it a lot harder for other companies to compete against it in the ebook business now.

Therefore in the coming years we may witness in the book industry, Amazon.com replicating Apple’s success with its iTunes platform in the music industry throughout the 2000s. Even though Jeff Bezos is no Steve Jobs and Amazon.com lacks a group of devout enthusiasts which Apple enjoys, it is more than eager to take the upcoming ebook market by storm. I would just hope that Stanza does not disappear and Amazon.com does not get to enforce DRM on every ebook on the globe. It’d be a tragedy if there is only one, Amazon.com-owned, consolidated standard in the ebook market after all.

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