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Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Amazon scoops up developer of leading eBook iPhone app

Online mega-retailer Amazon.com has purchased the development firm behind the most popular eBook reader application for Apple's iPhone in a bid to extend its reach of the digital book market beyond its Kindle device.

Lexcycle, makers of the Stanza application for the iPhone and iPod touch, announced the acquisition on its website this week, saying its "excited" about the transition and that it "could not think of a better company to join during this exciting time."

A free application downloaded more than 1 million times by App Store shoppers, Stanza (App Store) offers users 24-hour access to a catalog of over 100,000 eBooks in the open ePub format, an eBook container not supported on Amazon's popular Kindle digital reader device.

Outside of broadening its reach to alternative eBook technologies, the retailer's strategic motives behind the move are unclear. However, Lexcycle told customers the deal shouldn't affect the way they acquire and enjoy eBooks through Stanza.

"We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition," the company said in a blog post. "Customers will still be able to browse, buy, and read ebooks from our many content partners."

For Amazon, the acquisition comes a little less than two months after it announced a free application that lets users of Apple's iPhone and iPod touch tap into its catalog of over 270,000 eBooks formatted for its $359 Kindle 2 wireless reading device (review).

During a conference call last week, the retailer said sales of the latest Kindle, introduced earlier this year, continue to exceed its own expectations but would not provide exact sales figures.

Stanza

Stanza, which offers access to 100,000 ePub-formatted eBooks, is now in the hands of Amazon.


Amazon similarly refused to break out sales numbers for its inaugural Kindle device (review) that arrive ahead of the 2007 holiday shopping season, though analysts have estimated the device went on to sell approximately half a million units during the 2008 calendar year.

With industry watchers largely gravitating towards the notion that Apple will eventually introduce some form of tablet-based touchscreen device, many believe company may eventually cross paths with Amazon on the eBook front.