RIP: Mobipocket 2000-2011

Amazon finally pulled the trigger; today they announced the imminent demise of Mobipocket.

They sent out an email to publishers today. If you’ve ever signed up to sell as ebook via Mobipocket.com then you probably got one.

To better serve authors, publishers and customers, Amazon is consolidating eBook sales & publishing to the Kindle Platform. Mobipocket will not accept new eBook submissions for sale on Mobipocket.com or its affiliated retailers after Dec 2, 2011 and will stop all sales and remove your existing eBooks after Jan 2, 2012.

This really comes as no surprise; Mobipocket haven’t released any updated apps since 2008, and their payment service had been on the fritz since August.  Their support forums had long since been taken over by spammers, which shows that Amazon had pared the staff done to zip. And of course only a few weeks ago Amazon killed off the remaining Mobipocket library ebooks when they brought the Kindle library ebooks online.

Amazon bought Mobipocket in 2005 and soon started dismantling it in order to use it to build the Kindle platform.  The file format, DRM, on-device ebookstore, reader apps, and even MobiGen (command line ebook creation tool)  were all sucked into the Kindle.

In fact, you used to be able to see bits and pieces of the old Mobipocket code sticking out. Earlier this year I discovered that the Kindle for PC app inherited an easter egg from the old Mobipocket Desktop PC app. You can embed certain types of music files into a Kindle ebook and the app will play them. (Unfortunately it looks like this easter egg was disabled in an update. Damn.)

And when I say that the apps were pulled into the Kindle platform, I’m probably not wrong. I know that Mobipocket was supposed to get an iPhone app by December 2008; Martin Gorner (Mobipocket’s CEO) said that at the IDPF conference in May of that year. The Mobi app never happened, but I suspect that the app did show up 6 months later under the Kindle brand.

I know it’s not unusual for a company to buy a platform just to dismantle it for parts, and at least Amazon built the Kindle into a bigger and better thing. But I still miss some of the features that Amazon left out. For example, the old Mobipocket format had extensive support for Javascript. The varying generations of apps had different levels of support, but they could all do some fun things. You could build a form into a Mobi ebook, or a test. You could even build the test to compute the score when it was done.

Leaving the Javascript out of the Kindle format was perhaps not Amazon’s best move. Look at how everyone is now talking about interactivity in Epub3 and KF8. Just think, Amazon could have had an interactive format when they launched the Kindle. nearly 4 years ago.

In any case, it’s time to move on.

Can you believe how little is left from 10 years ago? MS Reader was marked for death earlier this year and Mobipocket is about to die; all that’s left of the early major platforms is eReader (Palm), and I’m not sure why B&N haven’t killed that format yet.

Or you could look at it another way and wonder how the heck did this old tech hold on so long? Seriously, 10 years is a good run. Just think about how much has changed.  The Mobipocket format and apps were designed to work on 20MHz mobile CPUs, and we’re now accustomed to hardware a hundred times more powerful.


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18 thoughts on “RIP: Mobipocket 2000-2011

  1. One more thing – MobiPocket also had client for Symbian devices (like S60 based Nokia handhelds). Not perfect, but working quite well. Amazon somehow, despite numerous pleas from customers, has refused to provide app for this platform – and it used to have quite big marketshare in the pre-Android era.

  2. That’s “Mobipocket” naturally. Call me master of typos.

    Was a nice bridge to the PDA-Past, the Mobipocket-format. The Reader for Palm OS (not WebOS) did work quite well. Even with dictionary-support.

  3. I can’t access to lexcycle.com which company is acquired by amazon.com, too.
    Does anyone access to the web site?

  4. I will miss Mobi too, it’s been 11 years of my life. Yes, I am the Martin Gorner quoted in the article.

    I confirm that the mobi reader for iOS was eventually shipped as the Kindle for iOS and underwant a hefty redesign for that purpose. A redesign for the better.

    There are indeed pieces of the Mobi format that I still miss on Kindle like Javascript support or more importantly indices and search functionalities.

    These are details however, compared to the success Kindle has developed into. When we started in 2000, we knew ebooks would be a revolution but we did not know how we would make it happen. Thanks to Amazon, the revolution has happened and we are proud that it happened on Mobi technology.

  5. It might be dead but I am still using it, because Win8 Kindle won’t allow you to import books, unless you go through the hassle of emailing them to your Win8 kindle address.

    Long live Mobi

      1. Clean coding, obviously.
        Well-written Windows apps will still be running in the *next* century. ;)
        (MS clearly defines which APIs will be “eternally” supported–stick with them and the app will keep on going like the eveready bunny.)

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