A Threat to Kindle for iPhone?

One of the announcements from the Apple conference today (June 8th, 2009) is that ScrollMotion’s Iceberg iPhone App will add an in-app bookstore and support in-app purchases.  

The updates in iPhone OS 3.0 for the Iceberg App are quite impressive –

  1. In-App Purchasing.
  2. In-App Email, including emailing notes and book snippets (which could be huge).
  3. Ability to go to a particular page. Iceberg supports pages.
  4. Copy/Paste.
  5. Book Shelf. Its basically a visual list of your titles and, as you might guess, its book covers on a bookshelf.

For this post, let’s focus on the BookStore.

Iceberg In-App Purchases and BookStore
Iceberg In-App Purchases and BookStore

Iceberg iPhone BookStore – InApp Purchases

Firstly, the Kindle for iPhone is unlikely to add in-app purchasing as that would mean 30% of revenue to Apple. Given that Amazon is already losing money on books it sells, handing over 30% of revenue to Apple would be suicidal.

That means the Iceberg’s support for In-App purchases will be a competitive advantage for a long time.

Kindle for iPhone Vs Iceberg – Content.

This is key. Currently, Iceberg only offers 500 or so bestsellers. The big news, and the reason its getting so much attention, is their claim that they’ll soon bring –

  1. More than a million books. Content partners include Random House, Pearson, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Perseus, Candlewick Press, and Wiley. 
  2. 50 Major magazines, including ones from The Slate Group, Time Inc, Conde Nast, Hearst Publications, Harvard Business Review. 
  3. 170 daily newspapers (and presumably additional content) via a distribution deal with Libre Digital.
  4. Film, television and education related content.

That’s a lot of content and makes it unlikely that by million books they mean 990,000 public domain titles. To spice things up further they specifically say they will include textbooks by Houton Mifflin, Harcourt and McGraw Hill (the last of which has so far shyed away from supporting the Kindle DX). 

What’s the Threat Level?

Overall, its not much of a threat to Kindles. However, the Kindle for iPhone App is definitely under threat.

  1. The Kindle for iPhone App has had a huge advantage in amount of available content. 
  2. It also has the advantage of Amazon branding.
  3. If Iceberg isn’t just pulling a publicity stunt and have a sizable number of new books and current textbooks available, they suddenly have enough content to take on the Kindle app.
  4. Add in features like in-app email, support for pages, and the fact that in-app purchases are more convenient than jumping to Safari to buy Kindle Books, and you have a viable competitor.

Which brings us to branding and marketing – 

  1. Given that Apple get 30% of the purchases, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine that Iceberg gets featured on the App Store home page and added to the Editor’s App Picks.
  2. The fact that they were shown off at the Conference is just a taste of things to come. Apple is definitely going to put its weight behind the Iceberg app.

The first battle in the Apple Vs Amazon Wars is actually this Kindle Vs Iceberg confrontation. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

4 thoughts on “A Threat to Kindle for iPhone?”

  1. Competition (you call it “threat”) is good. There are LOTS of things the Kindle could do that it will never do unless competition forces them to update the firmware or change the hardware.

    I love the Kindle, but it is absurd to become a ‘fanboy’ and hope nobody else can do a better job.

    Give me the best, most rich, reading experience possible and I’ll be happy with anything.

  2. I love my Kindle but the Iceburg Reader could steal me if all they say is true. I’m looking forward to the competition and hope that Amazon takes the challenge and makes better inroads for content and keeps pushing publishers for reasonable prices…maybe even letting up some on the DRM. We can hope

  3. There is a book by Scott Hahn offered by Amazon and Iceburg. The former offer it for $25, the latter for $54. Just one book agreed, but the price difference is huge. Secondly, Iceburg has a much better navigation method which shows you the relative amount through the book you have reached. Excellent – much better than 134 of 2339 of the Kindle for iPhone. Also Iceburg offers notes and copying into emails. Not so the iphone version of Kindle – unlike its big brother. But for how long ? iphone Kindle is bound to be updated, maybe because of the competition.

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