As an update to this story I originally posted in early October, it seems publishers have indeed recognized an opportunity when it hits them between the eyes. Pan Macmillan and BooksOnNBoard have jumped on the Stanza bandwagon and are offering their titles for use on the IPhone application. More publishers to follow. Earlier this month Stanza reported they had surpassed 500,000 downloads of the reader.
Follows is my original post of October 6th.
Several reports over the weekend have noted the incredible 375,000 Stanza downloads for the iPhone. Stanza is a free eBook reader which currently only offers books in the public domain but that hasn't stopped comparisons with the Kindle. Kindle sales have been estimated at anywhere from one to 300,000+, so does the Kindle have competition? The arguments against cite the following; the Kindle costs a lot so buyers are always going to have real interest in buying books than someone who downloads something for free - a so-called application junkie, reading on the Kindle is designed for content (books specifically) and the iPhone is too small for reading, battery life is short on the iPhone why waste it on a book, and lastly 'good' content is readily available from the Amazon.com store and Stanza only has public domain content.
It occurs to me that any publisher arguing this line is missing an opportunity. Stanza has said they are in discussions with publishers about current content which is great news because 375,000 downloads represents a lot of book selling opportunities. Perhaps some will never read an entire book on an iPhone, perhaps some will never use the app., perhaps some will worry about their battery but 375,000 (growing) iPhones have this software and that's where the opportunity lies. We don't need these iPhone users to use this as their primary reading device - they can - but maybe this is a promotion opportunity (how about 200,000 first chapters). Perhaps this is a reader for casual reading - on the subway or waiting at the dentist office. Maybe this is an opportunity to try new forms of content. The Japanese and DailyLit have proven that readers are willing to read on supposedly substandard reading devices so why not the iPhone?
Lastly, we read different types of content in different formats - comics, novels, reference material, gift and large format books, large type, newspapers, magazines, and on and on. Is it not too much of a stretch to think that perhaps electronic reading devices may vary in a similar way? At editorial development meetings on Monday morning I hope publishers are discussing how they could make their content work for the Stanza readers rather than wish they were all Kindle users because this isn't going to be the last time opportunity rears its' inconvenient head.