Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kindle Cloud Reader: First Impressions

Apple forces Amazon to remove their in-app purchase button from the Kindle app and Amazon complies. Meanwhile, Amazon was obviously developing their HTML5-based Kindle Cloud Reader for all platforms. Advantage, Amazon! If Apple ever had any hope of grabbing 30% of all Kindle content sales taking place on iPads/iPhones that dream just crumbled.

If you're a Kindle device user this development doesn't mean a whole lot to you...yet. You'll continue using your Kindle hardware like you always did. But if you own a tablet like the iPad you'll find Kindle Cloud Reader is a terrific alternative to Amazon's native app for those other platforms (e.g., Apple's iOS, Android, etc.)

You'll notice a significant user interface difference vs. what you've been used to in the platform-specific Kindle apps. Amazon built this from the ground up and the result is an extremely clean interface. Some might argue they've hidden too much but I'm hoping they'll allow for more interface personalization in a future update.

So what does it mean to have all your books in the cloud? In simplest terms it's delivering on the "buy once, read anywhere" promise Amazon hypes in their press release. That's not all that different from how things worked yesterday though. I bought Kindle books on my iPad and was able to read them on my Kindle, iPhone or Mac, to name a few platforms. And all that content was sync'd across my devices. The same holds true for this cloud approach. Now though, if you're using the Cloud Reader your content starts out living remotely on Amazon's servers. You can download books for local storage, which is something you'll want to do anytime you're offline.

Given that this is an initial release it's not without bugs. For example, I'm a huge sampler. I've tried downloading a few samples on my iPad using the Cloud Reader and they're nowhere to be found. Then there's the purchase option. If you buy a book on Amazon's website (or with their native apps) you can tell Amazon where you want the book delivered (e.g., to your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, etc.). The Cloud Reader doesn't offer any of these options. All purchases simply go to the Cloud Reader. In fact, they don't show up automatically in the Cloud Reader. I've had to press the sync button to make them appear. Again, not a huge bug but a minor annoyance. I'm also disappointed I still can't get my one and only Kindle magazine subscription (The New Yorker) onto my iPad through the Cloud Reader. Lastly, you'll find the Cloud Reader takes a long time to load, at least it does on my iPad. And once the app is loaded I've been getting synchronization errors. If you touch the "Kindle Store" button in Cloud Reader you'll also find it takes a long time to load the store page; much longer than it used to take to hit the store from the Kindle iPad app. These are issues I'm sure Amazon will address soon.

Since I recently switched from long-form reading on my iPad (with the Kindle app) to a new Kindle device I probably won't get a lot of use out of the Cloud Reader. Most of the time I'm just shopping for content and buying it on my iPad and then reading it on my Kindle. For those situations I'll probably just stick with the simple home screen shortcut I created to the Kindle store I wrote about earlier.

I'll check in on Cloud Reader from time to time though to see what enhancements Amazon makes to it. I'm particularly curious to see if this will become the model they'll use for the Android-based Kindle tablet that's supposedly coming soon. It makes a ton of sense to shift to this HTML5 platform across the board since they'll not only avoid the Apple hassles but they'll have one common app for all platforms.


Brian Sawyer said...

Amazon's Cloud Reader is much more than a play to get in-app purchases on the iPad. It means ubiquity of the Kindle platform across *any* new device that comes along, without requiring any additional app development. Amazon's going to win the battle for the ebook space by truly being everywhere. As an aside, I think this explains why Amazon seems to have abandoned the long-promised Kindle app for the PlayBook. Now, it's just no longer necessary.

Joe Wikert said...

Hi Brian. Totally agree. That's the point I was trying to make in the closing paragraph of my post but perhaps I should have moved it to the top!

Andrys Basten said...

You just moved to a new Kindle device? The K3? or the DXG? I was most fond of the DXG (still am, for PDFs) but after getting the K3, it is so sweet on the eyes while being so light that it's the one I pick up first and always have with me, of the e-readers. I enjoy my NookColor for other things though.

I just hope that when they go to touchscreen Amazon can do a better job of screen contrast (relative font darkness) than has been done with the Nook Touch, iRiver, ir Kobo, which are all too light for eye comfort in my case, after being used to the K3. The NYT story by Bilton suggested Touchco was having some difficulty in that regard. Hope they solve it.

Joe Wikert said...

Hi Andrys. I went with the K3. I bought the original Kindle back in early 2008 then jumped to iPad on day one in 2010. I then saw a K3 while I was at our Tools of Change conference in Bologna earlier this year and was couldn't resist buying one when I got back to the U.S. I use it every day and wound up buying another one for my wife.

Regarding touch screens... While I'm sure I'd like having one I could easily live without it on a dedicated e-reader. When Amazon comes out with their rumored tablet I'd *definitely* want touch screen functionality, but not so much on an eInk reader.

Andrys Basten said...

Joe, good to know you had a similar reaction to the K3 that I have had.

Bologna! What a neat place for a conference.