Kindle Cloud Reader: First impressions, impressed

Posted on by Mike Evans

If it looks like an app and works like an app is must be an app? True, but in the case of Amazon’s new and ingenious HTML5 Kindle Cloud Reader, it’s a web browser in app’s clothing. Amazon have socked it to Apple in a very effective way, nicely circumventing Apple’s Diktat that 30 pennies in every pound be rendered unto Caesar Jobs whenever you buy a book.

Cloud Reader starts off as a Safari web page but by the time you’ve finished following the prompts, it appears to be a fully fledged app which works in exactly the same way as the long-familiar Kindle App. The big difference, though, is that the new Cloud Reader gives direct access to the Kindle Store, just as did the Kindle App until Amazon were forced to snip snip with the vasectomy scissors.

At first I was unimpressed. Why would I want a web-based book reader when the Kindle App does it so well? But I had to try, and my initial conclusion is that I am mightily impressed. Cloud Reader does a remarkable job of masquerading as a proper app. In fact, you wouldn’t really know the difference.

It works well and it looks and feels better than the original. There’s the use of colour, in chapter headings, progress bar and bookmarks which immediately differentiates Cloud Reader from Kindle Reader. In all other respects the facilities mirror the original app. About the only thing you forgo is double-column layout in landscape mode. I’ll miss this, but I can otherwise live happily with Cloud Reader.

Once you have logged in, all your purchased books are displayed in the Cloud view (which mirrors the Archive view in the Kindle App). Download as required and books are held in the iPad memory for off-line reading. In fact, it works just like the original app before emasculation. In common with the Kindle App for iPhone, iPad and other tablets and smartphones, there is one important feature missing. That’s the ability to create collections so you can sort your books into manageable chunks. As far as I am aware, this essential feature is confined to the Kindle Reader tablet. I suppose there must be some incentive to buy a Kindle. 

I can see no reason not to adopt Cloud Reader as a default iPad window on the Kindle eco-system. It just looks better and works every bit as well. And if the fancy takes you, you can buy a book right there without having to open Safari. As yet there’s no iPhone version but it can only be a matter of time before one appears.

This is one in the eye for Apple and could lead to other similar defections from the App Store, where in-app purchases are subject to Cupertino’s 30 percent tax. The Financial Times has taken a similar heretical course. While I am all in favour of Apple’s iron grip on the App Store and its controlled eco-system (in the interests of user convenience and freedom from problems), I have to applaud Amazon for introducing such an impressive “app” within days of being forced to cut off in-app purchases.

See also this more comprehensive review on Ars Technica. Note something I missed. You cannot make new notes or highlights in the Cloud Reader, forcing you to go back to the native Kindle App. You can still view notes and highlights, however.

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