The Wikipedia long version: Videotape format war
The shorter to the point version: The Betamax vs VHS Format War
The victory was not due to any technical superiority (Betamax is arguably a better format) …
And so it has been with ePub versus Kindle.
ePub is superior to Kindle format.
Even ePub hardware is superior to Kindle hardware.
But none of that mattered. Or matters after today.
Amazon cornered print books, earned a good reputation for its service (unlike Sony, which created a plague of buyer complaints), and when it introduced the Kindle, it had a market established and waiting for it.
Apparently no one much minded Kindles mark 1 and 2 were fugly beasts. Amazon’s service and no-brainer syncing made it a winner.
But what about Apple, some people have asked me.
What about Apple? They’re irrelevant for books.
So many people have bought Kindle format books and have such large investments, they’re not about to dump them for eBooks that are trapped on iOS devices. There’s no iBooks software for OS X or Windows or Android. Apple has a lock-in ecosystem just as Amazon did before Amazon woke up and introduced “Kindle Everywhere” software.
Should Apple act foolishly and remove eBook programs from the App Store due to the impossibility of complying with the 30% vig, such a move would hurt Barnes & Noble, hurt Borders, and hurt Kobo.
But it wouldn’t hurt Amazon.
Apple probably thinks it can get away with Amazon having to outright pull its software from the App Store or otherwise cripple it so purchasing is impossible. All that will do is create bad will towards Apple. It would be serious error. This isn’t like Apple going after Adobe and Flash. These are books we’re talking about.
Amazon would just sell more Kindles or upgrade customers to a new Amazon tablet.
And if you think an Amazon tablet is not coming, then you’ve forgotten all about those “Kindle AV” books. If Apple kills the Kindle program for iOS, what do you think will be able to read them? An Amazon tablet. Amazon is not about to let its customers lose those books.
Apple can’t win with books. They’ve repeatedly shown they don’t care about them.
So don’t look to Apple as a savior for ePub. That’s not going to happen. Even if Apple followed Amazon’s example with “iBooks Everywhere” software, it wouldn’t help. In everyone’s minds, Amazon equals books, period.
What of the investment people have made in ePub books? Stripping DRM from most ePub is trivial. It’s easier than stripping Kindle DRM. Once stripped, the books can be converted into Kindle format using Calibre. Some won’t look perfect, but that’s better than having to re-buy them. Buying a Kindle is cheaper than re-buying a library in Kindle format.
So Amazon has won, with its eBook version of VHS.
Just as Sony lost with Betamax, it has lost again with ePub.