Amazon Gives Away More Kindle Source

Amazon this week added to the publicly available source code from its Kindle e-book reader. Does this mean we should expect a slew of Kindle-compatible knockoffs coming to market soon?

Not likely.

While portions of the Kindle source code has been available from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) since 2007, the company today added the large-screen Kindle DX to the downloadable code page.

So why haven’t competitors used the code to develop a keener version of e-reader? In short: Amazon’s still holding out.

The code it’s providing is comprised of the libraries — licensed under the GPL, or General Public License — used to power the Kindle software. By releasing the GPL libraries to the public, Amazon is following the precepts of the GPL, one of the basic tenants of which is that anyone who uses GPL material must make it publicly available under the same licensing agreement.

But the libraries Amazon released aren’t enough to duplicate the Kindle software — they’re just the GPL-licensed portions Amazon used in creating the Kindle. For instance, they include BusyBox 1.7.2, a collection of utilities often used in embedded environments — and which has been at the center of a handful of high-profile GPL lawsuits.

As a result, it’s unlikely any aspiring Kindle-killer designers will be building their devices based solely on the newest code release.

Still, the buzz about the release signals strong interest in all things Kindle, and comes at a time when the e-reader market is gaining traction as a hot trend, with Amazon leading the way.

For its part, Amazon released the second generation of its Kindle e-reader in February, followed by the launch of the larger Kindle DX in May, and most recently scooped up Lexcycle, maker of the most popular iPhone e-reader app, in a bid to further boost its position in the e-book market. Amazon also offers its own Kindle e-book reader for the Apple iPhone.

Those moves also come amid growing competition in the nascent field. Startups like Plastic Logic are looking for entry into the field with their own answers to the Kindle, while recent months have also seen bookseller Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) entering the fray by buying its own app maker, Fictionwise. The company is also rumored to be creating a device aimed squarely at the Kindle.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren’t the only big-name competitors poised to battle it out in e-books, however. Sony and Google partnered to bolster Sony’s digital reader division, which several years ago began offering Kindle-like e-readers and an e-book store, and Google itself is challenging Amazon in other aspects of the digitized book space.

But the Kindle isn’t the only thing driving momentum for Amazon. The e-tail giant’s core business continues to buck the recessionary trend, with the company’s first-quarter profits and revenues well above analysts’ expectations — a 24-percent increase from the same period last year.

By press time, Amazon had not returned calls seeking comment on the code release.

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