Sony’s announcement this week that it’ll drop proprietary eBook formats is rightly being seen as a challenge to Amazon and their Kindle device, all eyes are now on the US online retailer to see how they’ll respond.
It’s long been clear that to succeed any new entertainment technological development needs a single format that hardware manufacturers, content providers and consumer can rally round.
This week’s decision by Sony cements ePub as the de facto standard for eBooks, making it easier in future for readers to know their chosen title will work on their machine. Let’s be clear, this is great news for consumers which opens the marketplace to real competition and ensures each retailer will have equal chance of securing market share in this nascent sector.
The announcement also adds to the possible difficulties facing Amazon when it finally brings the Kindle to the UK. Either it has to throw away the current model of being the near-sole provider of content for the device or it has to contend with rivals underpricing more widely readable titles in an effort to gain advantage and device makers extolling the open standards nature of their readers.
This may seem no big deal but, as I’ve previously written, UK consumers are becoming wary of being tied into hardware/provider deals as the growing vocal unhappiness with O2’s upgrade and tethering policies for the iPhone clearly demonstrate.
And of course there’s always the possibility that EU regulators might want to have a look into a business plan which locks consumers into a single retailer’s pricing for content and other vendors out.
Given the likely hardware changes needed to make the Kindle compatible with Europe’s GSM networks Amazon might do well to enter the European market with open standards and competitive pricing foremost in their thoughts. It’s likely to end up cheaper all round.