Technology



April 27, 2009, 4:03 pm

Amazon Acquires Stanza, an E-Book Application for the iPhone

Update | 4:06 p.m. Added quotation from Lexcycle blog post about the deal.

Update | 4:04 p.m. Added comment from Amazon.com.

Seeking to strengthen its presence on the iPhone and iPod Touch, Amazon has acquired Lexcycle, the company behind Stanza, a popular free e-book application for the iPhone, according to Lexcycle’s blog.

StanzaLars Klove for The New York Times The Apple iPhone showing a book on Stanza, an electronic reader application.

Stanza allows users to browse a library of around 100,000 books and periodicals for the iPhone, many of them in the ePub format — a widely accepted standard for e-books that Amazon has yet to support with its proprietary Kindle platform.

In its blog post, Lexcycle said, “We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition. Customers will still be able to browse, buy, and read e-books from our many content partners.”

It is not clear how much Amazon is paying for the year-old company, which has offices in Austin,
Tex., and Portland, Ore. But the move indicates Amazon wants to consolidate its position on mobile devices, particularly within Apple’s ecosystem, which may include a tablet computer later this year. The Lexcycle team should also help Amazon stake out ground on Google’s Android phones, the Palm Pre and Windows Mobile devices — and perhaps eventually turn to more open e-reading formats.

“It’s very early days for e-books, and we believe there is a lot of innovation ahead of us,” said Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com. “Lexcycle is a smart, innovative company, and we look forward to working with them to innovate on behalf of readers.”


23 Comments

  1. 1. April 27, 2009 4:27 pm Link

    Brad- good reporting. I was talking about this with some other iPhone owners - see comments here:
    http://joshkaner.com/2009/03/19/favoriteiphoneapps/comment-page-1/#comment-17

    Also - as I argued there - even though Amazon’s book reader app was lacking in terms of features and customization, in won a spot on my home screen due to the content. It always has and always will be about the content.

    The UI and app is important, but means nothing without the content. Good strategic acquisition on Amazon’s part, and hopefully they will integrate Kindle books into Stanza’s front end.

    The one thing that is missing (and I don’t believe they are allowed to do this under OS 2.0 Ts and Cs but WILL be allowed to under OS 3.0) is the ability to purchase books in the actual app.

    Look for it this summer in iPhone OS 3.0

    — Josh Kaner
  2. 2. April 27, 2009 4:48 pm Link

    Interesting move towards monopoly in this young market. How big does a market have to get before we start to care?

    — JD
  3. 3. April 27, 2009 5:32 pm Link

    So what does this meanfir those of us who have downloaded books from Stanza? Do we have to start paying?

    — S. A. in Alaska
  4. 4. April 27, 2009 6:44 pm Link

    And of course, Amazon would not NEED to “strengthen its presence on the iPhone and iPod Touch” if it had let Mobipocket release an iPhone reader last year…

    http://www.teleread.org/2009/03/04/drmd-mobipocket-is-the-e-text-on-the-wall/

    I’m not optimistic about this.

    — Chris Meadows
  5. 5. April 27, 2009 7:41 pm Link

    I predict innovation/progress at Lexcycle / Stanza stops tomorrow morning. Look what Amazon did to Mobipocket.

    Steve Weber

    — Steve Weber
  6. 6. April 27, 2009 7:50 pm Link

    Maybe they can put Live Ink on the Kindle too.

    — CWR
  7. 7. April 27, 2009 8:43 pm Link

    First thing I thought was that they were eliminating competitors

    — brainScan
  8. 8. April 27, 2009 8:44 pm Link

    Stanza is a lovely app, with options to change typeface and color, change background color, choose ragged right or flush right margins, etc. It makes for a much more pleasant reading experience than Kindle’s iPhone app.

    As more color book reading gadgets come out, please, Amazon, keep what’s nice about Stanza.

    — HS
  9. 9. April 27, 2009 8:46 pm Link

    Who cares. I don’t need a hunk of electronics to display my
    newspaper. I want an electronic broadsheet that passes
    the broadsheet turing test, i.e. it looks and feels like a broadsheet, but you download the paper to it. If we get that,
    newspaperdom will be saved and we can all shout
    hallo-louie-duh! Otherwise, the presses are a gonner.

    — Alan
  10. 10. April 27, 2009 9:33 pm Link

    Exactly what we need, consolidation in ebook readers before we even have a choice. The genius of capitalism!

    — Peter Boulez
  11. 11. April 27, 2009 9:35 pm Link

    It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. Even though there seems to be synergy between the iphone and Amazon on the surface, there is in fact a deep divide.

    Amazon pays 30% royalties to publishers of content on the Kindle, while Apple pays 70%. Why will publishers publish with Amazon through the kindle store or now the Stanza store if then can get another 40% by doing the same with the app store which provides seamless solution for publishing?

    This move might be a preemptive strike that temporarily closes the door on this problem. The keyword being temporarily. Others will emerge to take a slice of that 40% difference!

    — Martin Ithaca
  12. 12. April 27, 2009 10:07 pm Link

    I wonder what this will mean for non-US readers. In Australia, I can’t buy a Kindle - either in hard form or for the iPhone, supposedly for copyright reasons, and therefore love Stanza.

    Hope this doesn’t mean I’m shut of the e-book market.

    — Kathy Savige
  13. 13. April 27, 2009 10:28 pm Link

    Stanza is okay, but I find the iPhone screen a bit small for reading books except in an emergency.

    In any case, I keep hoping for an iPhone app (Mac compatible) that will let me read the ebooks I download from the NYPL. But of course we’ll probably never see that with any Kindle app because that would mean less money for Amazon. And I don’t see anybody else rushing to write a different iPhone app that can handle this kind of DRM, even though I know a lot of people who would pay money for it.

    And, if I were Amazon, I would buy up all the free book software, too.

    — Karen
  14. 14. April 27, 2009 10:49 pm Link

    Maybe somebody can explain why this isn’t a violation of the antitrust rules. The dominant content provider in an emerging market buys the most popular content display tool, and it’s hard to imagine that the reason is anything other than limiting consumer’s choices about how and when they view content.

    Good luck to Amazon. If Steve Jobs is wrong and this market eventually amounts to something, this kind of tactic will work in the end about as well as the RIAA/MPAA’s efforts to limit access to content. Which is to say not at all, unless you make up some kind of mockery index.

    — John
  15. 15. April 28, 2009 5:59 am Link

    Public libraries have agreements with Microsoft. The DRM on their ebooks will not allow readers to use OS X or Linux.

    I have at least three ebook readers and some ebooks bought directly from the App Store. It all coexists peacefully on my iPhone.

    — Podesta
  16. 16. April 28, 2009 8:27 am Link

    Finally! Now I can buy a toaster and a belt sander while I read books on my iPhone.

    — Todd
  17. 17. April 28, 2009 9:21 am Link

    Ridiculous. Why would Amazon, a company that has already developed its own e-reading device, two iPhone apps, and its own DRM, lack the development capabilities to support something as simple and straightforward as ePub without buying a whole ‘nother company? It’s absurd. It’s a move to stifle competition, plain and simple.

    — Sandy
  18. 18. April 28, 2009 10:51 am Link

    Just switch to the Sony ebook reader and avoid all of those issues. I have both the newest Sony and a Kindle, and I have completely stopped using my Kindle. The Sony is so much nicer that it isn’t even a contest.

    — David
  19. 19. April 28, 2009 1:17 pm Link

    As the author of the Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot novel ,my eBook is now a featured work at Wattpad.com, which is a free competitor to Stanza, and I have to say that the reader response has been overwhelming. People like choice and the convenience of their Smartphones and they really don’t want to carry another device around so Amazon is basically hedging their bets with this acquisition.

    Cheers,
    Erik John Bertel
    floresgirl.com

    — Erik John Bertel
  20. 20. April 28, 2009 3:51 pm Link

    I have to add my voice to the concerns raised about Amazon buying up competitors (and, yes, they ARE competitors). Amazon is firmly committed to DRM on the books it sells — Stanza is open and accepts books in many formats. If Amazon keeps Stanza open as it is now, great. I fear otherwise.

    — Stan Scott
  21. 21. April 28, 2009 3:58 pm Link

    Lexcycle’s real assets are its people. How many of them will now leave Amazon and establish another eBook/eReader company?

    — Cordell
  22. 22. April 28, 2009 6:04 pm Link

    Hmmmm… I’m begining to feel like Amazon has the midas’ touch of ebooks — if midas’ touch was the swine flu instead of gold.

    Yes, I may be biased—but only because I enjoy my eBooks and every time I turn around amazon is doing something to undercut my reading experience.

    Their product is shoddy at best, and instead of improving it they have a pattern of monopolizing the business and killing technology that does work. I only hope they don’t do this with Stanza….

    The thing I like about Stanza as is is the availability to purchase from a large amount of retailers–if one iphone store doesn’t have my book, another does. Comparitive shopping–it’s that simple.

    In addition, some retailers have really stepped up the reading experience. Take for example BooksOnBoard ( it’s listed on the top spot in Stanza catalog).

    BooksOnBoard has developed a QikClik technology that takes 3 clicks from selection to download, so I don’t have to go through the huge hassle of most retailers (including Amazon) which made me hesitant on ereading in early on.

    With Amazon taking over Lexcycle what will happen to technological advances like this? Will we be left with the same old Kindle problems ? will all the good advances be swept under the rug in order for Amazon to stay on top?

    Personally, I just want my reading experience to keep improving. There are still alot of bugs that need to be worked out to make it simpler, but I’m afraid that if Amazon keeps aquiring rather than making advances –the readers will be the ones left with the short end of the stick

    — Rory
  23. 23. April 28, 2009 7:23 pm Link

    Amazon is getting both technology, book selection, as well as eliminating future competition at the same time. It’s probably a smart move for the company. The impact on consumers is less apparent. There are still plenty of options and exciting projects on ebooks out there.

    While I am very interested in Kindle, I am still waiting for these books to be DRM free. It’s just so much easier and “thought-free” when I don’t have to worry about DRM and how I use something. I am more than willing to pay for it, just don’t want to be restricted when it comes to using digital media. Sony’s reader seems hopeful in this regard.

    Speaking of DRM-free, Amazon does have an awesome MP3 store that is DRM-free with a large selection and often good prices. It would be nice if they had the same thing with books.

    On the note about Amazon, I recently came across an interesting table that details the discounts on Amazon (Thanks to PC World Magazine).

    It is at http://www.uberi.com

    Maybe someone will find it useful too.

    — John

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