The recent change in Apple’s App Store Terms of Service precluded companies, like Amazon, from having external links to content in their applications. So, in the Kindle app for iOS, Amazon could not have a “browse the store” button or link that took users outside of the appstore to purchase content. Why? That was so Apple could get an additional revenue cut from content sold through applications (something which it couldn’t get if the user was going to the Amazon site, for example, to process the transaction).
Unfortunately (for a lot of reasons) the result is that it ends up hurting the end user because instead of being able to purchase books within the Kindle app (and then having them downloaded immediately for reading) it required the user to open the browser on their iPhone/iPad, browse through books, purchase, and then return to the application.
Thankfully, Amazon being as innovative as they, figured out a way around this.
Enter Kindle Cloud.
Kindle Cloud is a web-based application that allows you to read all of your Kindle-purchased books no matter the device. Supporting the Safari browser on iOS as well as Safari on the Mac/PC and Google Chrome on the Mac/PC/Linux (not sure where the FireFox support is but I’m sure it’s coming), the experience is the same across all devices.
The thing that makes this cloud-based approach different than others is the “offline” feature. Not only can you read books while you are connected but you can even download them. Basically the Kindle Cloud is a “browser application” that resides on your desktop or tablet/phone. It works by storing book data into a localized database that is part of the application. So, for example, when you first browse to Kindle Cloud, you will be asked to login to your Amazon account. Once you log in, the application will perform a “setup” (on an iPad or iPhone, this will include a dialog box asking you if it’s okay for Kindle Cloud to increase the database size of the application to 50mb–more than enough room to store 25-40 books). Then, all you have to do is tap on a book. Kindle Cloud will automatically begin the download process even as the book is opened for reading.
(notice the lower-right hand corner where it says “downloading”).
Once the book has been downloaded, it can be accessed by tapping on the “download” button on the Kindle Cloud homepage.
This is exactly the same user experience as the Kindle application on iOS or PC/Mac: there is a home screen (showing downloaded books; in this case, it’s a “downloaded screen”) and another screen showing all the books in my library (in Kindle Cloud, that’s the “cloud screen” and in the app is the “archive” screen). Either way, I have a view into all the books I have purchased through Kindle and those that I have downloaded. Of course, downloading one or removing one I have downloaded is as easy as a click away.
What seals the deal on this read, though, is the fact that it incorporates all of Kindle’s synchronization services.
Tapping in the upper-right corner shows me the bookmarks/notes pane. Anything that I do in these books (whether on a downloaded title or a title in the cloud) is synchronized so that when I pick up reading from another device, everything is the same. The only drawback I see, unfortunately, is the loss of Whispersync which automatically downloads a book that I purchase to my devices. I do like the “push” model and wonder if it’s possible that this could someday incorporate it. For example, Amazon could create a new iOS application called “whispersync” whose sole purpose is to interface between Amazon’s services and the database of the Kindle Cloud that resides on my device/PC. Because this application would run all the time, it could automatically update my database of downloaded books so that when I come back to Kindle Cloud on my iPad, for example, the book is already in the “downloaded” section.
And for those of you wondering, the user interface/experience is exactly the same on Google Chrome on the PC/Mac:
I can’t applaud Amazon’s ingenuity in replicating the experience of their native PC/iOS applications into the browser. This truly demonstrates that applications don’t need to be tied to a specific framework (like iOS) and can exist freely within more portable, cross-platform frameworks like Chrome and Safari. Perhaps the browser will truly become the operating system of the future.
Regardless, this application is the perfect solution for anyone out there who is an Amazon Kindle software user that wants to free their books into the cloud for easy access and true portability.
So I tried the app today to see the offline mode in action and I was unable to get it working. Although I could download an book, as soon as I disconnected my wifi, I got a pop-up dialog that said “Can’t access because you aren’t connected. Retry or Cancel?” I tried this before opening a book and after opening a book. I’m not sure if I have this wrong but I will continue to work with it as I believe the offline capabilities are critical for success. If anyone has a different experience, definitely share in comments.
There are a couple more good hands-on-reviews of Kindle Cloud out there by ReadWriteWeb and Ars Technica. Ultimately, all of the reviews (including mine) have similar points:
- The app is great
- It demonstrates what you can do with HTML 5 over native applications
- Although it’s not identical to the Kindle app yet, it will be
Originally posted 2011-08-10 08:21:35.