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Will Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle go from a thick 90% slice of the e-book market to a more pedestrian 35% cut?
Credit Suisse analyst Spencer Wang seems to think so. He suggests that the arrival of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad next month, coupled with Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) controversial push into digital reads, will splinter the market into three popular clearinghouses for e-books. Publishers' push toward an agency pricing model will also level the playing field.
I get the logic, but has a situation like this ever played out that way?
Apple owns digital music. It doesn't matter that Amazon.com, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , and RealNetworks' (Nasdaq: RNWK ) Rhapsody are pushing digital downloads or subscriptions. Apple has this space locked down.
The picture gets a little cloudier when it comes to digital video. Apple and Amazon are trying to sell piecemeal downloads and rentals. However, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) -- which offers digital streaming at no additional cost to its subscribers -- seems to be leading the way in that niche.
I'm not suggesting that Amazon won't be challenged. Despite its glare and battery-life concerns, the iPad will eat into Amazon's e-book business as a jack-of-all-trades device. The iPad may even be more successful with newspapers and magazines, which can take advantage of the iPad's rich colors and pander to an audience suited for short-form journalism. Google may seem like a dark horse, but one should never underestimate Big G's breadth and conviction if it deems this an important market.
It's still hard to fathom e-book readers as a fractured market where three powerful players walk away with thirds -- at best.
Ad where is Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) in all of this? Even before the recent Nook debut, the company was making inroads in digital delivery. Should we assume that the leading superstore chain will ignore -- or be completely irrelevant during -- the digital migration?
This is still Amazon's war to lose, and I don't think it will be easy to topple from its digital-book dominance. There are at least 2 million Kindles out there. Even dot-com darlings need to earn the right to a slice of phantom market share.
Who will champion the inevitable digital book revolution? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.