The Kindle Cloud Reader is likely to make things easier for Amazon, too. “Amazon has worked hard to create apps specific to pretty much every platform available, which is one of the biggest reasons I read Kindle books almost exclusively,” says Brian Sawyer, a senior editor at O’Reilly Media who manages the company’s Missing Manuals division. “But it becomes a huge burden—and a losing game—to put this much development effort into every new operating system, especially ones whose user base and outlook [are] questionable.”
The first version of Amazon’s reader is designed primarily for the Safari and Chrome OS browsers, but the company plans to add support for other browsers, including Firefox and Internet Explorer, in the coming months. Sawyer says that once Amazon does this, the availability of Kindle books will leave Apple and other formats “far behind.” He adds, “Amazon’s Kindle platform is indeed becoming the de facto standard for consumer books.”
Despite the likely impact of Cloud Reader, Amazon’s format has its flaws. Michael J. Deluca, cofounder of independent e-bookstore Weightless Books, says that Cloud Reader makes him worry about privacy and control of his own digital assets. Deluca says that the Kindle format limits a publisher’s design options. PDFs, which are by far Weightless’s best-selling format, allow for artistic page designs. However, he notes, “The bottom line is that no matter how we or any small press feels about it, Kindle is already too big to ignore.”
“[As both a publisher and a consumer], I’m disappointed that Amazon decided to try to carve out [its] own format,” says Joe Wikert, who is general manager and publisher at O’Reilly. He says that Epub, a free, open standard supported by many in the publishing industry, offers a richer experience than the Kindle allows.
But Krozser wonders if Amazon will take this opportunity to embrace more-advanced technology. The latest version of Epub, Epub 3, is based on HTML5, she says, and it might make sense for Amazon to abandon its format to make better use of the browser.