August 10, 2011
Still king of the hill when it comes to e-books despite the competition, Amazon and its Kindle brand are making some new moves on iOS with a brand new, amazing Web app discovered by TechCrunch this morning. Branded Cloud Reader, Amazon's new Web-based Kindle reader is one of the most accomplished HTML5 Web apps you've probably ever seen. As its name indicates, it's an e-book reader that lives in the cloud, or more precisely, in your browser. It's designed to work with any browser (besides the iPhone, for now), but the app seems to be particularly at home on the iPad, especially once you add it to your home screen and get rid of the URL bar. As you would expect, the app lets you log in to your Amazon account, access all your books, and read them. It's very well done, and while the animations and looks of the reading mode aren't as good as iBook's, the Web app is still fully capable of downloading books for offline reading, changing fonts, or accessing your notes. Downloading books will even count against your download limit. Swiping through pages is done through simple taps or gestures. On the downside, purchasing books is still done through Amazon's website, and the experience isn't as great as it could be. Of course, the big fuss about the app is the Web-based side of it, and how it avoids Apple's approval process. If you remember, Apple has been really tough on e-book publishers lately with many rules and complications that, for example, bans them from selling books inside their apps without giving Apple a cut. Amazon launching a Web app so soon after the change is seen as a response, or a sort of plan B. We don't know their real intentions, but it's clear that taking control of their platform apps is one of them. Without a doubt, this is the closest we've ever been to a Web app looking and feeling like a native one. All that it's missing is more speed and animation, but this is progress. You can find Amazon's Cloud Reader for iOS in your browser, at http://read.amazon.com. Check it out and tell us what you think!