Report: iPhone E-Book Popularity Will Challenge Amazon, B&N

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Is Apple the one holding all the aces in the exploding market for e-books and e-readers? Apple doesn't have a dedicated e-reading device of its own to compete with the likes of Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook. But it may not need one when it already has iPhone -- and e-reading and e-book applications are seeing levels of popularity on the iPhone like never before.

That's the word, anyway, from Flurry, a mobile applications analytics company, which said in a Monday research report that book-related apps represented one out of five new iPhone or iPod Touch apps launched through Apple's App Store in October 2009.

It's the second month in a row that books have been the number one iPhone app category. That's a dramatic shift in the top spot, seeing as it was game apps that dominated the number one spot among all app categories from August 2008 to August 2009. It also means, according to the researcher, that Apple could take e-reading market share from e-readers like Kindle "as it did from the Nintendo DS" in mobile games.

"Publishers of all kinds, from small ones like Your Mobile Apps to mega-publishers like Softbank, are porting existing IP into the App Store at record rates," wrote Flurry in a Monday blog post. "Flurry first evaluated the iPhone as an eBook reader in its July Pulse where it looked at consumer demand for eBooks. In that report, we observed that during the month of August 1 percent of the entire U.S. population was already reading a book on the iPhone. Now, with books shipping in droves, we are seeing the supply-side explode."

Amazon has long acknowledged the strength of iPhone as an e-reading platform. One of its first moves following the release of the Kindle 2 earlier this year was to launch a Kindle application for Apple's devices. With e-reading a prime focus of the much-rumored and still-to-be-confirmed Apple tablet, Flurry suggests Apple might be moving in for the e-reading kill.

"Despite the smaller form factor of the display, we predict that the iPhone will be a significant player in the book category of the Media & Entertainment space. Further, with Apple working on a larger tablet form factor, running on the iPhone OS, we believe Jeff Bezos and team will face significant competition," said Flurry.

To date, Amazon's fiercest Kindle competition has come from rival e-readers, from previously detailed devices by Sony and Plastic Logic to Barnes & Noble's new Kindle killer, the Nook.

But with tech titans like Apple and Google both making e-reading plays that move e-books beyond the realm of dedicated device competition -- Apple with e-book apps and the rumored tablet, Google with its Google Editions digital book ecosystem -- does having the best single e-reading device even matter?

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