One of the big surprises of the past couple years has been the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader. Serious readers love it, but at around $350 it’s a bit pricey. So I was thrilled when in early March Amazon released a free iPhone app that lets you read any of the 240,000 titles you purchase from the Kindle eBook store.
Quickly, Kindle for iPhone received hundreds of reviews, with most of them giving it four or five stars. One of the best features is Whispersync, which “remembers” where you left off reading and takes you back to that spot, even if you open the Kindle eBook on another device. You can also enlarge the text and add bookmarks, and unlike the Kindle itself, which is limited to displaying grayscale, the iPhone app will display color. If the eBook you purchase was created with color text, graphs, or images, these will appear in color on your iPhone.
There are some important features we would like to see added to the app. Unlike the Kindle, which allows you to shop for books directly from the device, iPhone users cannot shop from within the app—they must use their Web browser. Also missing from the app is the ability to search. In addition, you can only use the app to read books; although newspapers and magazines are available for the Kindle, they cannot be read with the iPhone app. Finally, one sore point for many readers is that the app does not have a landscape viewing mode. Hopefully, many of these shortcomings will be addressed in the next version of the app.
The process of getting books on your iPhone is nearly as seamless as getting content from the iTunes store. You simply go to the Kindle store on Amazon via your Web browser, purchase a book or click the button requesting a free sample, and then the book or sample automatically downloads to your iPhone via your phone’s data connection. (You may need to tap the refresh button in the Kindle app to have the title appear.) Amazon recommends that you order your books or sample chapters via your Mac or PC, but it is possible to order them via Safari on your iPhone.
Current bestsellers are typically priced at $10, which is a good discount over the hardcover version.