It has been reported recently that Amazon has sold 500k of their ugly Kindle readers in 2008. In fact, despite the slump of sales of almost everything in the last month of 2008 the demand was so high they did run out of them in November.

This shows the power of content. Kindle isn’t the best of digital readers. And it is ugly. And there are limitations to the content you “purchase”. In fact, a book you “buy” from the Amazon’s Kindle store is not your property, you can’t do nothing with it other than read it on the device. For example you can’t give it to friends. Or print few pages. So in fact it is a long-term lease that will function as long as Amazon and your Kindle will work.

But the Kindle wins with other digital readers and other more open ebook formats because of the amount of well catalogued content – books, magazines – you can easily get on the device for moderate prices. In fact, even my father’s book on composites which is a scientific textbook on an exotic subject is available as a Kindle book.

Amazon clearly had connections and power to work with major publishers to get their books as Kindle ebooks. And they had easier time persuading them to do so, as because of the closed nature of the whole system they could offer publishers more reassurances their content will be protected. Plus, small, independent publishers can use their very simple publishing platforms to get their books to Kindle with very little cost. The effect is that user buying Kindle gets an easy access to a huge library of books, something no other reader offers. That is why the Kindle “brick” has gained momentum many doubted it will ever get (me included). Once again it was proven that content is the king and the key, not devices to deliver it.

The only hope now for open ebook formats and other readers remains the fact that Amazon Kindle is not available anywhere outside the US. That leaves a huge market open for other devices. And lets hope other players will use it, because the future where digital reading is monopolized by a closed platform is not a vision to cherish.