Developer: Amazon
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When I woke up this morning and read my Twitter feed, I couldn’t believe my eyes – Amazon had released a Kindle app for the iPhone / iPod Touch! I immediately ran to my bedroom window to see if a mushroom cloud was forming in the distance, but alas, the sun was shining in ethereal stripes between the trees in my backyard, and the sky was an azure crystal. Birds were even chirping in a nearby oak. Maybe this wasn’t the Apocalypse after all.

If you’ve been living under a rock for a while, then you don’t know that Amazon recently released version 2 of their hardware-based Kindle ebook reader. While a definite improvement over the first version, the Kindle just seems like a device that is several steps behind the curve, even with its future-gazing e-ink technology. With my iPod Touch in hand, I always pined for access to Amazon’s growing collection of ebook titles (as well as their relatively low cost), but never thought there would be a chance in Hell that Amazon would undercut its own reader by releasing an app for the iPhone. What has become obvious, as of today, is that Amazon is willing to be on any device that will generate revenue. Smart move, Bezos.

The app itself is pretty bare-bones, but it gets the job done. When you first load Kindle for iPhone you’re asked to log into your Amazon account, and if you’ve previously purchased any Kindle books they will instantly download to your iPhone / iPod Touch. The books themselves display as you’d expect from any ebook reader, allowing you to adjust font size, select and add bookmarks, and turn the page with a swipe of a finger. A simple status bar at the bottom shows how far along in the book you’ve read. The format of the books is pleasing to the eye even at the default font size, including illustrations and imagery.

One of the cooler features is what Amazon is calling Whispersync, where your bookmarks are synced up between devices. While I can’t see this being widely used, if you already have a Kindle it’s kind of neat to be able to leave your Kindle at home and pick up your place on the iPhone when you’re on the move.

Beyond the thrill of having access to Amazon’s ebook collection, Amazon has really skimped on the features of the app itself. At the moment it doesn’t even compare to the options provided by Stanza or eReader, lacking screen rotation, page turning preferences, background color, and more. Another oversight that is a real shame is the inability to zoom in on illustrations and images which, as you can see in the screenshots, appear so small within the text that you can’t really appreciate their finer detail. At the moment, you also can’t purchase books within the app itself, instead having to click a link to the Safari version of the Kindle store, purchase your book, and then open the iPhone app and sync your purchase. I have to imagine that Amazon, if they’re smart, will continue to iterate the app and add these features in future releases.

All in all, it’s worth having the app on your device for the access to Amazon’s virtual library alone. In many cases, the pricing on Kindle versions of books are much cheaper than other ebook stores (compare the Kindle version of “The Graveyard Book” for $9.99 to the Fictionwise version which is $17.99 and the stand-alone iTunes store app which is $17.99, for instance), and they often have books that other stores do not. Given that the app is free, it’s a worthy sidekick to your current ebook reader and will go a long way toward bringing ebooks into the mainstream.

Posted in: Books, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

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