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Amazon Brings Kindle Books to iPhone, iPod Touch

Earlier this morning, Amazon released a free program for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch that lets users of either device read books they've purchased on one of the Seattle firm's Kindle electronic-book readers.

The new Kindle for iPhone application -- available in Apple's iTunes Store and in an iPhone or iPod Touch's App Store -- is easier to use than even the simpler Kindle 2 Amazon debuted last month. That's because it does less than that device: This program doesn't let you buy Kindle titles (though you can visit Amazon's Kindle Store in a Web browser and designate titles for delivery to an iPhone or iPod Touch), nor does it display your newspaper, magazine or blog subscriptions.

In that respect, Kindle for iPhone is no competition for other iPhone/iPod readers, such as the free Stanza.

kindle_ipod_touch.jpg

Amazon's application does, however, seem to do a fine job of keeping Kindle readers current with their reading. On an iPod touch, a tap of the "Archived Items" link on the Kindle program's home screen brought up a list of the Kindle books I've bought. I tapped one to download it over the Touch's WiFi connection, and the title arrived a few seconds later, open to a page two chapters behind where I'd set it aside on a Kindle 2 earlier in the evening.

Text looked sharper on the iPod touch's screen, thanks to its higher resolution and immensely superior contrast -- not to mention its ability to draw a new page without hesitation or flickering. And since the iPhone and iPod screens are backlit, unlike Kindle displays, you can read in the dark too. But even with all those advantages, I'm still not sure I'd want to read an entire novel on a 3.5-in. screen.

I give Amazon credit for shipping this program far faster than I'd expected from its vague promises of compatibility. But the arrival of this one program doesn't make the Kindle any sort of open system: You're still limited to reading your not-quite property on the devices that Amazon permits, not the ones you might want.

You're welcome to debate that judgment in the comments -- and share your own experiences with this program, if you've already downloaded Kindle for iPhone.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 4, 2009; 7:50 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Gadgets  
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Comments

Rob, you make is sound like the iPhone App is useless if you don't also own a Kindle. But you can get Kindle books on your iPhone even if you don't own a Kindle.

The drawback is that you can't browse the books within the iPhone App. You have to use a web browser to go to the Amazon web site and buy them there.

After installing the Kindle app on your iPhone, you register it with your Amazon account. Then when you buy a book on amazon.com using your account, you get an option to deliver the book to your iPhone.

This is great for me, because the price of Kindle ebooks is much lower than other ebooks retailers. For instance the price of the Kindle version Daemon by Daniel Suarz is $11.99, but the Stanza version is ~$30.

Posted by: kjhealey | March 4, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Kjhealey, thanks for clarifying that. I don't need or want a Kindle, but I have a Touch.

Posted by: Janine1 | March 4, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

For anybody confused why Kjhealey says the post doesn't mention how to get an e-book delivered to an iPhone/iPod touch when the post does mention that issue: I updated the post a few minutes after it went up, but before I saw any comments on it; he/she must have added his/her as I was revising the post.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | March 4, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Rob - Yep. It took me a while to finish my comment (cause I had actual work to do - hate it when work gets in the way of blogging). So I didn't see your updates.

Posted by: kjhealey | March 4, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Rob>>>

Kindle is a big name BUT there are better eBook Readers out there. I appreciate your columns and efforts but do not understand why you never ventrue outside the box. If you have some problems with Kindle as you have listed... take a look at what others are doing. CES, this year, drew record crowds to those exhibiting eBook Readers (such as Astak and Ectaco)... so much so that CES is now planning an eBook area at CES in 2010. Branch out, good columnist!!

Posted by: EZReader1 | March 4, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Call me a luddite, but I prefer to read books in their native open format. I simply don't think the advantages of ebook beat the price and inconvenience. And now with all the DRM and closed-format restrictions, you'll just end up with all your library in a format that only Amazon can read.

Posted by: tundey | March 4, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I installed the Kindle reader on my iPhone during lunch. Overall, it's pretty nice. You can use the Safari browser on the iPhone to connect to the Amazon store and download books from there. I downloaded the sample chapter from one book. The sample was quick to download. The only thing I didn't like with the Kindle app is that you have to swipe your finger across the screen to advance the page (well, unless I'm missing something). That's unlike Stanza, which I used to read one book, where you can just tap to page forward. The price of books on Amazon also works in their favor compared to Stanza and the eBook Reader. So the app is nice, it's just a question of how much I'm willing to read on such a small screen, but there's not much Amazon can do about that. There are times though, believe it or not, when it's handy to have a small book with you on your phone, but I'm not sure I'd want to build a whole library of books for my iPhone.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | March 4, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Rob>>

Are such open source readers also available for the Blackberry Storm ?

-----------------------
Did you get a call from Kingston, JM. telling you that you have won %5,000,000 ? LOL

I told them to call Ed McManon instead of me.

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | March 4, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

The iPhone app works well as a companion to a real Kindle, but I'd disagree with the argument that you can read entire books on the device (regardless of the app being used).

The difference is that with the iPhone you're staring into a lightbulb, which eventually gets very uncomfortable.

It seems like a great way to pick up a few pages when you're on the go, as well as a great marketing device for Amazon (you buy a book for your iPhone just to check it out, and then realize you need the real thing to read the whole book comfortably)

Posted by: datapolitical | March 4, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

No landscape?

No loading my previously purchased Mobi-books?

No thanks.

I'll stick with eReader and Bookshelf, thank you velly much.

And for those of you who doubt, reading on the iPhone/iPT is a delight. Try green ink on black screen!

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | March 4, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

@ datapolitical

U-sed: The difference is that with the iPhone you're staring into a lightbulb, which eventually gets very uncomfortable.

I don't have a iPhone, but I do have a Palm E2 on which I read stuff all the time for long periods of time with eReader software. I just grab the backlight control and turn it all the way down. That makes the page about as light as a paper page with reasonable light. YMMV on the iPhone, but I suspect a similar situation exists with controlling the backlighting.

Posted by: RHMathis | March 5, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

ON READING BOOKS ON THE SMALL SCREEN

Years ago, when I first saw an "ebook" demonstrated on a Palm IIxe (Civil War diaries), I too thought "There's no way I'd ever read a book on such a tiny screen."

But after getting my own Palm and then SONY Clies and reading several classics in the middle of the night (and not having to turn on a light and disturbing my spouse), I was a convert!

The iPhone/iPod Touches are even better with their much larger screens. Readers such as Stanza & iSilo allow one to set colors, and using orange, blue, or green text on a black background works wonderfully.


ISSUES WITH THE KINDLE DEVICE

1) No backlight, so unusable in the dark.

2) Horrendous screen flickering on page turning.


ISSUES WITH THE KINDLE FOR THE IPHONE APP:

1) I'm put off by having to register before I can use it!

2) I'm put off by screens of a licensing agreement.

3) They're kidding right? You can't fetch books directly to the i-device through the app? Big limitation.

4) No way to fetch and read public domain books from the app (e.g., from Gutenberg, manybooks, etc.).

I gave up on even trying it. What's the point?


THE ALTERNATIVE: STANZA

I'm happy with Stanza, an easy-to-use ebook reader with an incredibly intuitive, powerful way of finding and downloading books to the i-device!


Posted by: Astrogal | March 6, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

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