eBooknewser reported today that Amazon quietly shut down Mobipocket, an ebook store that those of us with PDA roots probably remember fondly. Amazon purchased Mobipocket and still uses their format as the basis for Kindle books. After reading the post, I headed over to Mobipocket and found what appears to be the internet equivalent of a broken, abandoned storefront. There’s no announcement that Mobipocket is gone, but the files appear to have all disappeared. Bestsellers, fiction, non-fiction, everything is just gone, with the exception of a handful of classics that appear on the main page.
Meanwhile, things aren’t exactly hopping over at eReader/Fictionwise. They haven’t carried a new bestseller or mainstream title in years, and the “news” page on Fictionwise was last updated in 2008. In this case ,it’s B&N, not Amazon, who are the absentee landlords, and the stores are at least still running, though as shadows of their former selves. The discount programs are gone, smartphone apps haven’t been updated in years, and brief partnerships with ebook readers not named NOOK are defunct. If websites had a physical presence, eReader/Fictionwise would be that dark store in the bad section of town that smells vaguely of dust and neglect.
So, as I asked in the title: if Mobipocket and eReader/Fictionwise quietly slip away, will anyone notice? Today, with the focus, money, and site traffic heading to Amazon and B&N, probably not. But here’s some food for thought: 10 years ago there was no Kindle or NOOK. Fictionwise, eReader, and Mobipocket all ruled the nascent ebook world. So what will happen in the next 10 years? Will we all be buying Kindle and NOOK books then, or will some other players emerge? And in 2022, if the Kindle store falls off the Internet, will anyone see it go?