If this was the Eighties, .azw was Betamax and ePub was VHS then the writing would be on the wall - given that the Amazon format is more restrictive than ePub - but there's one critical difference this time around; by some accounts Amazon have cornered 70% of the eBook market. Of course, it depends what's being measured; statistics are rarely straightforward, however they certainly do have an extensive reach. Christmas 2010 was a defining period for both Amazon and the eReader industry, the point in time that the tipping point of acceptance was approached - at the time many thought it had been reached but a year on it's clear that the acceptance is still wavering in the air. But Amazon did a great job of promoting both the concept and their product last year and have maintained the pressure since. And in the face of increasing competition they've kept the pressure up with an intensive media campaign coupled with an attempt to secure exclusive rights to published work, a scheme if successful that will deprive other eBook sellers of access to certain books - I've declined the offer, but somehow I don't think I was the main target.
If Amazon were to get its way it would effectively create a monopoly, marginalising the competition. I personally don't think they will succeed, and the market forces I discussed above will help prevent them from achieving their goal - and anyway the mini-tablets being sold now more or less pull that rug from under them. Consequently, with or without direct action from consumers, I believe Amazon will have to accept the inevitable and incorporate the ePub format. It will only be a hop, skip and a mini jump for the main eBook sellers to be able to sell us books that will work on any eReader. As consumers we can shop around for the best deal for the books we want to read - it gets my vote, even if it does drive the cost of my own books down. Importantly, as consumers we would choose eReaders, mini-tablets and anything else that may be around the corner on the basis of what they do, how well they do it and what we can afford, not based on which book format we feel locked into.
The sooner Amazon accept this, the sooner they can achieve the real value-adding activity they can provide - true competition for Apple in the iPad style tablet market. Instead of creating a new monopoly, they can help break what is the exception to the rule in marketing - the Apple iPad monopoly.
email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my books on Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores.
For quick access to the various Kindle, Kobo, WH Smith and Smashword links please use the table below to view my books
To View My books In....