Books on the Web

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Continuing our previous article, Amazon, with much fanfare, released their html5 offline Kindle app, It has been heavily reviewed, obviating the need for another extensive review. Suffice it to say that the book addict in me loved the platform (yes, I tested it offline), while the engineer in me loved the design and engineering. It actually took my wife a few moments to realize we were in a Web browser, and not in the Kindle app. It even syncs up your last read page, as with other Kindle platforms.

A big reason Amazon launched it - and the engineering manager in me knows it was not a cheap effort - was to bypass Apple's land grab of 30% of revenues of anything sold through or even linked to through a native iOS app. Give credit to Jeff Bezos and the Kindle team, they did a great job. The Web reader success now largely depends upon how well they let the native app wither on the vine. As long as it remains strong, customers are likely to continue using it, ignoring the Web reader... and thus losing book sales revenue.

What does this have to do with the WSJ Tablet Edition? Two things:

  • Will the WSJ (and other newspapers) eventually do something similar, and have html5 offline Web apps? If I were in charge of digital strategy for WSJ, I certainly would at least be modeling the financial implications from a cost and a revenue perspective, as well as market share. I would even think about Web as the primary platform and the native app just a link.
  • Amazon is consistently focused on the easiest way to convert a potential customer into a paying customer, and expended huge engineering effort to continue to do so without increasing their variable costs by the Apple 30% tax. The WSJ has yet to do even the basic work to help them convert. Amazon *gets* retail; it is time the Journal did as well.