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Kindle For Mac Drops As Amazon Preps For Battle With Apple

Amazon works to expand Kindle's footprint as it prepares for challenges from Apple and its iPad as well as e-book pricing models.

By ensuring that Mac users have easy access to Kindle content and dropping hints about Kindle software specific for iPad, Amazon is once again circling its wagons. As observers of the quickly evolving market for e-books and e-readers know, this is hardly the first time in the past year that Amazon has moved to head off an e-reader competitor, or, at least, find ways to arm itself for battle when faced with new challenges.

Amazon released Kindle for Mac in a beta version Thursday. It's a free application, available for download at www.amazon.com/kindleformac, and supports Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

Versions of Amazon's Kindle application now appear on a range of systems and mobile devices. Amazon's Kindle for iPhone app has been available almost as long as Amazon's year-old Kindle 2 e-reader. In February, it added a Kindle app for Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

According to Forrester Research, Amazon exited 2009 with a 60 percent market share for e-readers in North America, with Sony a distant second place and new challengers like Barnes & Noble barely registering.

Those numbers are expected to change this year thanks to more sophisticated e-reading functionality appearing on smartphones and other mobiles, and all-in-one style devices -- like the iPad -- looking to render obsolete those dedicated e-readers, such as Kindle, that don't do much else.

Amazon has another new challenge on its hands as well: e-book pricing models. Long criticized for keeping too much for itself and not offering healthy-enough returns to publishers, Amazon may be forced to change its pricing policies now that Apple has revealed some details about how book sales will work in the iBookstore.

According to Apple, publishers will set retail prices of their e-books, and Apple will net a 30 percent commission. Under Amazon's model, it's been Amazon that sets the prices. Amazon has already relented and said it will allow publishers to set Kindle pricing for their e-books as long as they sign three-year contracts guaranteeing no one else can offer their books for a lower price.

Apple's iPad will officially launch April 3. The iBookStore will be available only in the U.S., but Apple plans to expand it to other countries by the end of the year. At its unveiling on Jan. 27, Apple already had deals in place with a range of publishers, including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Penguin Books.

Amazon in early February bowed to demands from Macmillan to raise prices on some of its e-books, following a late January dust-up between the two companies that saw Amazon pulling Macmillan content from the Kindle store and its physical book retail operation.

"We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books," said Amazon in a statement at the time.

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