Amazon Thursday announced the release of software development tools for its Kindle e-reader that will let developers create and eventually sell their own applications for the device.
Amazon's launch of Kindle apps comes only days before the expected debut of Apple's tablet computer, likely to be the Kindle's most formidable competitor to date. It also comes a day after Amazon said it was hiking the royalty rate for authors for each e-book sold via the Kindle to 70% -- the same rate Apple pays developers on app sales through iTunes.
Kindle apps in the works include a Zagat guide for restaurants worldwide, games from Electronic Arts and word games and puzzles from smaller game publisher Sonic Boom. The third-party apps won't be available in the Kindle Store until later this year. Starting next month, Amazon will allow developers to download the software development kit in a limited beta.
"We've heard from lots of developers over the past two years who are excited to build on top of Kindle," said Ian Freed, vice president, Amazon Kindle, in a statement. "The Kindle Development Kit opens many possibilities -- we look forward to being surprised by what developers invent."
Yankee Group projects in a new forecast that the U.S. e-book reader market will nearly double to $2.3 billion by 2013, from $1.3 billion this year.
Apple, for its part, has been coy about its designs on the e-reader market. But recent reports that the company is in talks with a wide range of publishers including HarperCollins and The New York Times to supply content for its forthcoming tablet device suggest it's taking dead aim at the Kindle.
A Wall Street Journal story today reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs wants to use the new tablet to reshape publishing and other traditional media businesses much the way the iPod transformed the music industry. To that end, the tablet would repackage everything from textbooks to newspapers to TV and magazines.