News for androids reading ebooks

Like everyone else in the book trade we pay close attention to developments in the field of e-readers and e-reading. And here’s something that appears to have gone unnoticed at this point. Which might be quite important. And which couldn’t be worse timed for one of the companies involved – or better, for the other.

Many of you reading this will have a smartphone running Google’s Android operating system (OS). Some of you – a small number at this point – will also have a tablet computer or e-reader running it. If you have, and you read books on your device, there’s a strong possibility that you use Amazon’s Kindle app to do so. It’s definitely the market leader, in the UK at least.

Here’s the thing: it’s all going wrong. The latest update to the app seems to have, not to put too fine a point on it, dropped a dirty great big digital spanner into the Kindle gears, and stopped it from working on a wide variety of devices – so the app’s reviews on Google Play (where you download the app) currently look like this:

Complaints are coming in thick and fast, and seem to cover three main themes:

- the app’s not starting on the Nexus 7 tablet. As this is Google’s own tablet offering, and set to be a huge seller, this is a fairly big deal

- the app’s not starting, or is very slow, on a selection of phones. (Including, for the record, my own HTC Wildfire, so this is a annoying for me)

- the font size has defaulted to “huge” which appears to be driving readers mad (though I’ve not seen how big it is myself, I can imagine that this would be an irritating bug)

So, something for Amazon to worry about, especially given the millions of Android tablets that Google and many others plan to sell in the next month. If all the owners of shiny new Nexus 7s are forced to buy their ebooks elsewhere, well… that’s going to really hurt, in the long run.

In that context, they might also worry about this, which is reported on today.

“Barnes and Noble has released Nook apps for android, iPad and iPhone users in the UK.

The apps are free to download and will link to the website allowing customers can download Nook books onto their android and Apple devices.”

Nook, of course, is probably the leading competition for Kindle at this point, and their move into the UK will be welcomed by many who would like to see the Amazon device’s near-monopoly seriously addressed (the same applies to Kobo, originally a Canadian company, now Japanese-owned, who have a strong presence in the UK via their partnership with WH Smith).

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out – but at the moment, one imagines, they are feeling fairly sweaty over at Kindle HQ, and reasonably smug at Nook.

Woof! Game on!

UPDATE: in the interests of journalistic rigour we’ve just put the Kindle app on the office Nexus 7 through its paces. Weirdly, it works perfectly for our office’s user ID (which is new, and has only “read” one book) and not at all for my own user ID (which is a year old, and has “read” about 20). So there is something up.

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Roly Allen

Roly Allen is Executive Publisher at Ilex. "Executive Publisher" is a slightly less depressing way of expressing the concept of "travelling salesman" but he admits that it is a pleasure to pitch the ideas which the Ilex creative teams come up with.

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