Amazon Opens Kindle Up to Developers

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It seems that the recent release of several competitors in the electronic book reader arena has made Amazon a little nervous.  Amazon announced, via press release, the availability of the Kindle Development Kit (KDK), which allows software engineers to build interactive book kits for the popular reader.

Brad Stone at the New York Times has high hopes for the KDK.  So far, the kit has only been formally released to select developers, but it will enter open beta next month.  There will be three types of application: free, paid, and subscription apps.

In another article, Stone considers the ramifications of Amazon’s move versus Apple’s quiet courting of publishers with the pending release of its new tablet platform.  That tablet is expected to become a book reader of choice for many who would prefer a more all-in-one device (computer, notebook, and book reader).

Yet the two devices are extremely different and hard to compare in this way.  The Kindle, for instance, was built from the ground up as a book reader and nothing more.  It will, of course, be much cheaper than Apple’s tablet, but beyond that, it is nothing close to the standard notebook computer.

The Kindle, for instance, doesn’t have the ability to show fast-moving or even very animated graphics and, in fact, can’t even display color.  The Kindle’s E Ink screen refreshes slowly and the Kindle’s wireless connection is paid for through the purchases made by the consumer (book downloads, software updates, etc.) and will continue to be so.  There are no monthly fees with the device.  Even active content from the new developer kit would be paid for in this manner.

Interestingly, while Amazon has been planning the KDK for quite a while, their mention of it about a year ago coincided with the announcement from Barnes & Noble and others who planned to release their own reader to the market to compete with the Kindle.  That may be the driving force behind Amazon’s decision more than anything Apple is doing.