On Wednesday, Amazon.com released Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch, a program for reading electronic books on those devices. The software is available free from Apple’s App Store and allows users to read books purchased on the Web or via a Kindle eBook reader. I downloaded it to an iPod touch shortly after it became available.
Based on what Amazon has mentioned publicly, the company doesn’t believe that the free application will cannibalize sales of the dedicated Kindle device but sees it as complementary. After using the app to read several books, I am not sure they are right.
If you already own a compatible Apple device, however, the new Kindle app may be the best eBook reader for you. Indeed, if you don’t already own one, you still may wish to consider an iPod touch for your eBooks. Text is clear and navigating from page to page is simply a matter of touching the screen.
The app makes excellent use of the iPod touch’s small screen and I found the books I purchased very easy to read. You can change the font size to get more text on screen or to make the text easier to read. To flip pages, swipe the screen with your thumb or other finger.
I found the iPod’s backlit screen to be a vast improvement over the original Kindle’s; the Kindle 2 uses the same E Ink screen technology and is reportedly sharper than the original model.
The app lacks direct access to the Kindle store and does not support newspapers, magazines, and blogs (despite reports in the media to the contrary), however the devices themselves support Web access and thereby provide free access to almost all of the very publications Amazon.com sells, plus many more not available at the Kindle store.
Two major flaws, which one hopes will be remedied in future versions: there is no search from within the book and graphics can’t be resized. In addition, there is no landscape reading mode and the software does not support annotations.
If you do own a Kindle, Amazon’s Whispersync service will keep track of where you are on either device and synchronize the two. Books purchased on the Kindle are automatically available on the Apple device as well.
There are other eBook options for the iPhone and iPod touch. Shortcovers allows users to purchase and read books on the iPhone and iPod touch and Google supports eBook reading on a Web site optimized for the iPhone, although the books available from Google are out-of-print.
If you are looking for a good eBook solution, the Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch merits strong consideration. The reading experience, while not book-like, is pleasant, the software is free, and the books themselves are far less expensive than the original paper versions.
Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.