Cat and mouse
In launching its new Kindle Cloud Reader Amazon was quick to point out that you can already access your Kindle books through most devices thanks to the many Kindle apps it has developed and made available for free. So it could be argued that the presence of these apps makes a new browser-based reader somewhat redundant, until you look at the underlying competitive environment, that is.
Right now Amazon has the market-leading e-book reader in the Kindle, but that supremacy faces its severest threat yet from the popularity of tablets - especially Apple's iPad. The business model behind the Kindle, however, is not so much to make money from the devices themselves, but to encourage the purchase of e-books from Amazon.
So as long as people are still able to buy Kindle books from other devices Amazon's still happy, but the Ts and Cs for iOS apps dictate that they may not link directly to purchase outside the app, which renders the Kindle book purchasing process on the iPad much less smooth than Amazon would like it to be.
Apps accessed through a browser - i.e. web-based ones - are not subject to Apple's Ts and Cs, however, so third parties can do what they want; just as they do on the boring old PC Internet. So the broader significance of this new Kindle Cloud Reader is that iPad users can go straight to the Kindle bookstore and spend lots of money, while Apple is forced to stand impotently by.
"We are excited to take this leap forward in our 'Buy Once, Read Everywhere' mission and help customers access their library instantly from anywhere," said Dorothy Nicholls, director of Amazon Kindle. "We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser.
"The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you're using - from Chrome to iOS. To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, we've added an integrated, touch optimized store directly into Cloud Reader, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books."
Right now the app, which does need to be downloaded as a browser extension, is only available for Safari and Chrome, so this move has clearly been made with tablets in mind. Here are the key features as listed by Amazon.
- An immersive view of your entire Kindle library, with instant access to all of your books
- Start reading over 950,000 Kindle books instantly within your browser
- An embedded Kindle Store optimized for your web browser makes it seamless to discover new books and start reading them instantly
- New Kindle Store for iPad is built from the ground up for iPad's touch interface
- Your current book is automatically made available for offline use, and you can choose to save a book for reading offline at any time
- Receive automatic software updates without the need to download new software
- Select any book to start reading, customize the page layout to your desired font size, text color, background color, and more
- View all of the notes, highlights, and bookmarks that you've made on other Kindle apps or on Kindle
- Sync your last page read across your Kindle and free Kindle apps so you can always pick up where you left off