A hard-to-believe example of a platform flexing its power

The Kindle is looking more and more valuable every day. The device that is.


Because Android just got an update that gives new meaning to ‘Taking Advantage of the Power of the Default’.

Platforms and the Power of the Default

A platform can set the defaults, i.e. the apps users are first pointed to, the apps that are downloaded by default, the apps that show up on the first page and on the most visited pages.

That gives a platform a huge advantage whenever it decides to release an app of its own. Apple took some advantage of the power of the default when it released iBooks – It did a few things, though not many, to make sure iBooks was the first reading app that users were exposed to.

Android Market’s Books section shows Apple was extremely generous to rival ebook apps

Apple gave iBooks a bit of an edge but Apple was rather civil to rival ebook apps – until the recent push to impose a 30% tax. Note: Apple hasn’t come out and said eBook reading apps will be taxed. However, we can all agree that Apple hasn’t promised to exclude eBook apps from the tax either. That suggests it might be waiting for the right moment.

Apple seems like an angel compared to what a rival platform, Android, is doing. The Android Market is taking the power of the default to a whole new level.

Android Market added a new section titled ‘Books’  – It goes side by side with Android Apps. The big thing is that ‘Android Books’ only has books from Google eBooks. It’s basically the equivalent of setting up a sub-platform on a platform, claiming it’s the ‘Books Market’, and then only showing books from the Platform provider. It’s hilariously unfair.

To be absolutely clear of how big of a contrast this is –

  1. Apple provides one app in its App Store that you can optionally download. Apple’s ‘Books’ section of the App Store has everyone highlighted. There are tens of thousands of books and ebook reading apps.
  2. In the Android Market, there is now a new Books market that has books only from the platform provider. Everyone looking for books will first go to the Android Books Market, and there they will find nothing except Google eBooks.

Not sure how Google thinks it can get away with this.

Android Books maximizes the power of the Default

Will users search within the Android app store and find the ‘Books and Reference Apps’ section and look at the 12 paid apps and 12 free apps that are highlighted? Or will they look at the prominently featured ‘Android Books’ section of the Android Market and just go there most of the time?

It’s almost impossible to search for book apps in the Android Market if you don’t already know what you’re looking for. Now, on top of that invisibility for reading apps, you have visibility for the ‘Android Books’ store on every single page of the Android Market – It just so happens that the ‘Android Books’ store consists solely of books from the platform provider.

Android is showing us how you can really use the power of the default to get an unfair advantage.

  1. Android Market has an apps section and a books section. Everyone equates the books section with where you go to get books.
  2. The Book Apps section of Android Market, and the eReader Apps in it, are given low visibility. The low visibility for book apps and the poor search feature in the Android Market make it hard to get to book apps – it’s as if they don’t exist.
  3. The Books section of the Android Market, which is prominently featured, only has books from the platform provider.

For users that don’t know there are options, or users who don’t want to take the time to search through the already hard-to-search Android App Market, the only thing that exists is the default.

How can a Nook App or a Kindle App compete when the default Books Store only has books from Google?

It should be painfully clear that Platforms want ebook profits for themselves

Here’s the current status quo –

  1. Apple was very decent, but now there’s a chance it will extends its 30% tax to ebook apps. Apple could come out and say ‘No tax for ebook apps’, but it hasn’t – It seems quite likely that all content sales will get taxed eventually.
  2. Android Platform has lost its mind. It’s created an Android Books section that only features its own offerings. Combine that with the low visibility for book apps on Android and it means that most reading apps and book apps might as well be invisible.

eBook apps now face huge barriers and uncertainty on two of the big mobile platforms. That only leaves Blackberry and Nokia/Windows 7. If either or both of those start becoming more successful there’s a chance they will start behaving like Apple and Android.

The free ride is over.

The ‘Kindle App for iPhone is the Best Business Decision of the Decade’ illusion is now painfully apparent as an illusion.

All the companies putting a ton of effort into enriching other companies’ platforms are getting what they deserved for being so gullible. Whether it’s an ‘open’ platform like Android, or a ‘closed’ one like Apple we now know two things –

  1. Platforms always want a cut. Any company that makes a lot of profit from a platform should be aware that sooner or later the platform will want a 30% cut on revenue – which translates into most of the profit.
  2. Platforms always give their own offerings an advantage. A ‘closed’ and ‘evil’ company like Apple does this by featuring its eReader app more prominently. An ‘open’ and ‘good’ company like Android does this by creating an entire Android Books Store that has nothing except its own offerings.

Platforms control everything and whether they use a visible ‘30% tax’ or an invisible ‘power of the default’ strategy it should be clear that the Platform always wins.

13 thoughts on “A hard-to-believe example of a platform flexing its power”

  1. “Android Platform has lost its mind and simply created a Books section that only features its own offerings.”

    Let’s be very clear here: Android is Google. Books is an Android app highlighting only Google books.

    Kindle’s (and to a lesser extent Nook) success is making EVERYBODY sit up and take notice; awakened everyone’s greed. Google wants in on the action.

    Google/Android’s “free and open” platform is a chimera. Free and open till they get you sucked in and dependent on the platform, then as mentioned they exercise the Power of the Default.

  2. The Android market doesn’t need to show any other books than the ones from Google – the Kindle & Nook (& Kobo) apps let you search for the books there. Guess what – if you read you probably use Amazon. If you use Amazon you probably know about the Kindle. If you know about the Kindle (even if you don’t own one) and you’ve a PC or Android device then you probably know you can download the app and get your books from Amazon. I mever get books from the Android market. I look first in Nook (I have one of those so I use the app so I can download a permanent copy to my Nook device rather than rely on B&N to keep them all for me). After the Nook app (B&N) I look in the Kindle app. I never get further than that (sorry Kobo).

  3. Why will Kindle DX 3G (one year old) not be supported by Amazon unless you give up IE8 and go to another browser? No more updates by 3G and no downloads on IE8.

  4. What did you expect? Were you expecting the Android Market to show books from the Amazon, B&N, and Sony bookstores? Use the google search engine for that. There are other repositories for Android apps and yet I don’t see a big outcry for the Google Market to integrate them as well.

  5. I find Apple’s policy of taxing worse. Google provides convenience, Apple puts in a handicap that is long term death to all competitors.

    As Badbob001 notes, there are other repositories for google apps. When (if?) Amazon finally launches its market, it will help reduce the impact of the google books. Not reduce it… but oh well. Amazon controls the Kindle platform and doesn’t exactly let on Google books…

    By offering better search and better access, Amazon still has a chance. The ‘cloud’ isn’t always the place for a book. Google books will be strong and a tough competitor that will take market share from Kindle.

    But most of the issue will be content. Google offer 52% vs. 70%. Google can ‘run promotions’ (discounts that will hit Kindle/B&N/Apple book stores).

    The final battle will be content. Right now, Google is not exciting indie authors and I suspect they Big6 want to set their prices/commission. Th ebig6 are important now. Long term… it will be the indie authors.


  6. How many readers really plan to do the bulk of their book reading on their cell phone device, though? Seriously? Most dedicated book readers will use their dedicated e-reader (or actual book) for that. I think this mindset of thinking one (small/tiny) device has to be all, do all…is the problem. I doubt the majority of book readers expect to read the majority of their books on their cell phones. I think you are not seeing the forest for the trees….so narrowly focusing on trying to get the whole world on the tiniest device possible, that you aren’t being practical as far as how the majority of the adult world thinks/acts. Just a point/counterpoint view.

  7. What a hypocritical article! Strange how when the Kindle device only shows books from Amazon it’s the best thing since sliced bread but when the Android marketplace only has books from Google it’s the evil empire. At least I can read epubs from anywhere on Android using FBReader or several other apps from the marketplace. Try that on a Kindle.

    1. What’s hypocritical is not being upfront about stuff.

      The problem is not that Android is the Evil Empire – It’s that it’s pretending to be the Good Altruistic Self-Sacrificing Empire.

  8. Thing is, the Kindle app for iDevices gave the Kindle platform a huge boost. They’ve built their own patform using Apple’s platform as a giant’s shoulders to stand on. And they *don’t* have to agree to the tax– they can leave the app store (go onto Cydia, if they want), or what is more likely they will simply be able to remove the purchasing option from the app and keep everything on an even keel.

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