Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kindle SDK Released

It looks like the upcoming Apple Tablet release (rumored to be happening next Wednesday), with (also rumored) reader features including e-books, may be giving Amazon a little bit of a push. Today, the company will announce the opening up of the Kindle to outside software developers. Here's a New York Times piece quote from Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon:

We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon. We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.

Here's more details on the Amazon announcement from Silicon Alley Insider:
  • Several partners, including Electronic Arts and Handmark/Zagat Guide, are already playing with the app development kits.
  • Apps will be able to be free, carry a one-time cost, or a monthly subscription fee.
  • Apps will be available "later this year."
  • Access to the wireless Web is expensive. Developers will have to pay a steep $0.15 per megabyte of data transferred over the Internet, to compensate for the fact that consumers don't pay for wireless Internet access on their Kindles.
  • "On the forbidden list: Internet voice-calling software, advertising, offensive materials, the collecting of customer information without consent, and the use of the Amazon and Kindle brands."
I'm a huge Kindle fan having purchased one of the first generation devices and am excited about this announcement. The Kindle runs on the Linux operating system and uses a number of open source software components. It's a great development platform. On the hardware side, the device uses an e-ink screen which is slow to refresh so we won't see a lot of fast action type games.

What will we likely see for apps? In the same New York Times piece Freed predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio.

When will an e-textbook become "better" than a traditional textbook? If the publishers really embrace and leverage this technology (still a big if) - I'm thinking very soon.

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