Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kindle Cloud Reader for iPad: Stormy or Clear Skies?

The new Kindle Cloud Reader is Amazon's response to Apple's forced removal of the purchase capability once found within the Kindle for iPad app. Several other eBooksellers such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble were also required to comply with this demand but Amazon decided to go a step further by taking a page from Google's eBooks app and go the way of the cloud. In other words, they developed an HTML5 web-based reading experience that's independent of Apple's App Store, which enables mobile and desktop reading just about anytime, anywhere.

So...how well does it work?

I accessed and downloaded the Kindle Cloud Reader directly from my iPad, which was quick and easy to do, and after using it for a few hours found this version of my Kindle library to be simple, functional, intuitive, and performed very much like the Kindle App (also on my iPad). However it's worth noting a strong 3G or Wi-Fi connection is necessary to read books stored on Amazon's servers instead of having to download them and that a weak signal results in slower page turns and longer load times. There is an option to download 50MB of the KCR platform onto the iPad to cache content and reduce the reliance on a good cell or Wi-Fi connection. But if you decide not to do that, you can "download and pin" individual titles instead. Both choices are meant to ensure a smooth reading experience and overall I'd say it works pretty well.

So...how does it compare to the app?

The app version of Kindle's reader is downloaded directly to a computer or mobile device and doesn't rely on a signal in order to work. Instead it's essentially an independent mini software bundle containing many of the integrated bells and whistles we've come to enjoy within book related apps, such as word definitions, highlighting, social media sharing, and a wealth of information from sites like Wikipedia.

From what I can tell, all those great features are currently not included when using the cloud based Kindle reader. But one feature that is available is a tablet optimized Kindle Store that looks terrific and is a pleasure to browse. Purchases seamlessly appear in the KCR and that's exactly why Amazon has introduced this alternative way to buy and read Kindle eBooks, which will certainly be a major highlight of the soon-to-be-released Amazon tablet.

I think the Kindle Cloud Reader is an interesting development in eReading, which began with Google and lesser-knowns like Ibis Reader, but has now been mainstreamed by a retail powerhouse and will most likely be replicated, and soon, by the likes of Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, and others.

I'm forecasting sunshine with the occasional chance of drizzle ;-)

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