Everyone knows Kindle is a closed development platform (IE, there’s not an app environment that lets developers make the Kindle platform better). Today I saw the news that Google has doubled the number of publishing partners who are now leveraging the company’s “Fast Flip” e-reader software, and it got me to thinking.
First, Fast Flip is software that runs anywhere the web runs, including mobile apps. It has an Android and iPhone version, and I’m sure there will be a RIM version soon. And when Apple’s tablet comes out, and any other ebook/netbook competitor to Kindle, I’m sure Fast Flip will be there. Fast Flip is a web native app, and it plays nice with the web, from what I can see. And Google is clearly interested, as a company, in fostering developers to build out on its various platforms, from Android to Chrome to Google’s App Engine.
To my mind, this means Google is now in competition with Amazon not just for books, but for all professional publishing products. While it’s true that publishers can and have developed versions for Kindle, the fact that it’s not an open platform means Amazon has a chokehold on what gets to be on the device. I doubt FastFlip will ever live on the Kindle – though it’d be a win for all if it did, I imagine. And I also doubt that the Kindle, anytime soon, will work in an easy way with the web ecosystem, the way FastFlip seems to (I need to use it more, but it makes sharing and social actions easy, for example).
Another way to think about it is that both Kindle and FastFlip are operating systems for reading packaged goods content. Hence, they compete for the marketplace of people who need those services. Of course, the web is the underlying OS, but FastFlip works like a newsstand of sorts, letting you easily browse products and dive in when you want.
As I noted in my earlier Kindle rant, I find a e-reader like the Kindle ideal for reading periodicals. I wonder, might Fast Flip might steal that market away from Amazon? Might FastFlip become an OS standard on next generation e-readers, netbooks, and mobile phones? A lot depends on whether publishers feel like they can trust Google as an newsstand agent. That’s an open question, to be sure.
I’m not as up to speed on this stuff as I’d like to be, so if I’m missing something, let me know.
Some background reading on all of this: (Credit, Oil, IT, and) Paper Ain’t Free, So Don’t Waste It.