Kindle on the iPhone — I <3 Amazon

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[I’ve updated this with a brief review after the end of the original post.]

I purchased a Kindle when they first came out and blogged lots about what I liked and didn’t about it.

I decided that Kindle fanboy Aaron Pressman was saying everything on the topic I would (and had lots more passion about the topic) so I announced publicly that I was outsourcing my opinion on the topic to his blog. [Note: I’ll track down the links and add them to this post later.] Of course, we’ve had our disagreements on the topic — early on, especially — when the topic came to Apple and the eBook market. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’ve been predicting for several years a device that could do to the eBook reader market what the iPhone did to the mobile phone market. Ironically, I’ve been predicting this since before there was in iPhone. More ironically, the iPhone comes extremely close to that device.

With that as my mindset, I made some observations about the iTunes Store channel vs. the Amazon.com channel and suggested the two are the only viable mass merchants of eBooks. Granted, I know how Sony and publishers and independent bookstores all have other channels, but Amazon and Apple are the only potential Walmart vs. Costco of this category — and Apple isn’t even in the game yet.

Today, Aaron jumped on the news that Amazon is now providing an application for those who’d like to read a Kindle-formatted eBook (purchased from Amazon) on their iPhone. That’s something I didn’t see coming, but Aaron did — so he won that debate. (I’m going to skip my typical “DRM sucks” rant for 2-3 years until the publishers figure that out.)

The next logical step (to me, at least) is for Amazon to allow Apple to sell Kindle-formatted books via the iTunes Store. Amazon would not really lose that much, as the incredible — and I mean incredible — customer experience that comes when you purchase an eBook via your Kindle is what gives the Kindle its unique advantage. Those who might purchase Kindle-formatted ebooks on the iTunes store would likely not be Kindle owners, in other words.

I’m currently downloading the app and look forward to trying it out after some appointments I have early this afternoon. However, for now, I’ll just agree with Aaron on whatever the thinks.

And I think he likes it:

“Wow – just wow. Pretty much ever since Amazon announced its nifty Kindle e-book reader in November 2007, people have been predicting that Apple would jump into the e-book game and blow Amazon away. Today, Amazon decided it wasn’t going to wait around and introduced an e-book reader program for the iPhone and iPod Touch that likely blows anything Apple might do away. The new program uses the same book format as the Kindle. In other words, you can now read every Kindle book you ever purchased on your iPhone or iPod.”

Sidenote: David Rothman has a great analysis of the news.

Later: Okay. I’ll add my wow. First, read Aaron’s review and I’ll ditto all he said. Here are my insta-thoughts on the app:

1. How do they do that? How does my Kindle know that I read a chapter of the book on my iPhone. It’s obviously some sort of magic and it scares me. Except for the scaring me part, it’s one helluva a feature.

2. It’s a great iPhone eBook reading app, but it’s not a full-featured eBook reader. I use the “highlight” feature while reading books on the Kindle which is not, and probably should not be, on such a lite-weight version of a reader.

3. I like how bright the screen is. The E-Ink technology used on the Kindle enables a long battery life and it results in something that looks more like text on real paper. However, I read a screen 100X the time I read text on paper, so I am somewhat addicted to the experience of having a light source and text originating from the same source. (I know, I know, the scientists have been working decades to perfect the ink on paper experience and then I go and spoil it all by saying I prefer light coming from the back of the words instead of shining on them from the front — we users can be a fickle bunch, you know.)

4. Why can’t Apple do this? I logged into my Amazon account my iPhone Kindle app and it automagically lists everything I’ve purchased there — which in my case, is 30+ books. I click on a title and it near-instantly (or however fast 3-G is) downloads the book to my iPhone. Shouldn’t it be that easy to log onto the iTunes Store and have content I’ve purchased there previously download instantly to by iPhone — straight from the iTune Store’s servers, as in, not having to synch with my computer? Anybody? Anybody? I’d give Amazon 5-stars if that’s all the app did.

Bottomline: I think I’d use the App even if I didn’t have a Kindle. I’d probably not purchase dense novels, but it’s perfect for short-stories or something like a David Sedaris collection of humorous essays — things you’d read while stuck in a line. If you already own a Kindle and an iPhone, download the app immediately. If you don’t own a Kindle, I’m still not ready to declare it a must-have gadget unless you haul around lots of books or don’t have anymore room on your bookshelves. Do the math: How many new books do you read each year? If a lot, the typical $10 per title price may justify the $350 expense of the device. If you want to have one and don’t care about the price, then great: buy it and be proud you’re helping stimulate the economy.

But just remember: A good public library is way better than a Kindle.

  • I like your idea of integrating Kindle book purchases with the iTunes Store. It would be a good solution for the purchasing interface which is currently lacking in the Kindle for iPhone application. There’s about 4 other big things that I think need improving but overall it’s a great addition to an iPhone / iPod touch. I wrote a full review of it over at Obsessable: http://www.obsessable.com/feature/kindle-for-iphone-review/

    Just make sure you don’t buy any graphic novels for iPhone / iPod touch reading. It just doesn’t work with the lack of any true multi-touch zoom.

  • Rex – thanks for the link! I have been playing around with Amazon’s web site and Kindle for iPhone. Once you sign up for Kindle on your iPhone or iPod Touch, it becomes a new destination to which you can send books or free chapter samples! As you point out, the ability to buy Kindle e-books without paying $359 for a Kindle could be a way more people decide to start saving money, especially in this economy. Thanks again!
    -Aaron