Why Isn’t Kindle Promoting Its Social Networking Features?

Twitter is abuzz over the discovery of Amazon’s “new” Kindle social network, but these features–sharing notes, following and finding users with similar reading interests–have been around for awhile. Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) just doesn’t use them as a major selling point. Meanwhile, the Nook’s promised sharing features are nowhere in sight.

Amazon added Twitter and Facebook sharing to the Kindle in 2010 and later added those features to its apps as well. Kindle.Amazon.com is a fairly bare-bones page “dedicated to making reading better by bringing readers together and by helping them to learn more from the books that they read. You can follow people of interest to you to see their Public Notes and reading activities, and review your books, highlights, and notes.” Note that Amazon is pretty adamant about not calling this a social networking site–or even giving it a title other than its web address.

Also, it does not seem that Amazon is behind the buzz about the site. The company has not issued a press release or more casually mentioned the site on Facebook, for instance. Rather, former MySpace president Tom Anderson mentioned the site on Google+ yesterday (“It sorta looks like Amazon has just launched a social network“) and the “news” spread from there. (As blogger Phil Bradley pointed out, perhaps the most noteworthy thing here is that news actually spread from Google+ to Twitter.)

Competing e-reader makers have been a little chattier about social and sharing features. The new Kobo has the company’s social networking technology, Reading Life, built into it and the company used that as a major selling point at launch. When Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) released the new Nook, it said it would launch MyNook.com, through which users could access their libraries and see friends’ recommendations, by June–but that has not happened. www.mynook.com simply redirects to Barnes & Noble’s homepage.

Why are Amazon and Barnes & Noble so subdued about these features? I’ve asked both companies for comment and will update this post when I hear back. in the meantime, theories: In the case of MyNook.com, B&N may simply have gotten delayed…or decided the effort isn’t worth it. (After all, there are a lot of social networking reading sites, like Goodreads, already.)

As for Amazon, it could be quietly building and testing its social networking presence in preparation for the rumored-slash-pretty-much-definitely-happening releases of two new Kindles and the Amazon tablet this fall–devices that might integrate social features more prominently.