Following Google, Amazon Opens Kindle Books to the Web – Digits – WSJ

The e-book wars are heading to the Web.

On Tuesday, unveiled a new service that will let customers of its Kindle e-bookstore read their books from ordinary Web browsers. The move comes just one day after Google unveiled its long-promised e-bookstore , touting a cross-platform Web reading experience as a main feature.

Google is a newcomer to the e-bookstore landscape dominated by Amazon, but it poses a significant threat to Amazon. The search engine is the first stop for many people looking for information — including information contained in e-books.

Kindle for the Web is part of a wider effort by Amazon to offer free apps that let customers read its e-books on devices beyond its own Kindle e-reader — including the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android devices, Windows Phone 7 devices, PCs and Macs. (Recently, Amazon has even advertised these apps on TV commercials that sound like they’re narrated by a British butler.) These apps are necessary because Amazon uses a proprietary format and digital rights management system for its e-books that keeps users from transferring their e-book purchases to rival devices, such as a Barnes & Noble Nook. Now Kindle books will be readable on anything with a browser.

Amazon declined to make an executive available for an interview. In a statement, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti said, “Anyone with access to a Web browser can discover the seamless and consistent experience that comes with Kindle books.”

Amazon’s announcement came, ironically, at a Google event about its Chrome operating system.

Asked how the new Amazon feature might change the competitive landscape, Google spokeswoman Jeannie Hornung said, “Google eBooks is a competitive offering.” A key difference for Google books, she said, is that “you can buy Google eBooks from your choice of reseller, not just from us.”

But Amazon has an answer to that, too. The new Kindle for Web service was designed, in part, to help sites that want to make money by selling books as affiliates of the giant online retailer. (Amazon affiliates, who the company calls associates, can make up to 15% of the cost of an item, depeneding on the item.) With Kindle for the Web, sites can let potential buyers sample chapters and begin reading a full book from their own site.

Let the games begin.