Amazon has launched a new web-based Kindle Cloud Reader, seemingly in an attempt to give iPad readers direct access to both their Kindle books and the Amazon bookstore, without allowing Apple a 30 percent slice of the sales price.
Amazon’s launch of the iPad-optimized web service is the latest blow in a battle that has been brewing since February, when Apple announced it would take a 30 percent cut of sales made through in-app purchases of books, periodicals, music and movies, and that sellers couldn’t use their websites to offer better deals than available through the apps.
Cupertino later relaxed requirements slightly, but still mandated that Amazon and other ebook app vendors scrub their apps of direct links to their online stores. The Financial Times chose to respond in June by offering one of the first subscription-based iPad-optimised websites.
Amazon is following the Financial Times model with the Kindle Cloud Reader. While its new read.amazon.com site is also compatible with the Chrome and Safari desktop browsers, the site is clearly aimed at iPad Safari users.
When you log into your Amazon account from within the app for the first time, you’re shown your entire library of ebooks, and prompted to add the page to your iPad’s home screen. The web app claims 50MB of storage space on your tablet, which in turn gives you the ability to store cloud-based books for offline reading.
The web app comes with a number of downsides. It simply doesn’t offer as alluring a reading experience as the official iPad app. For one thing, there’s no access to periodicals: If you recently started subscribing to newspapers or magazines through Amazon, you’ll need to stick with the iPad app. The same goes for the ability to share book quotes via Facebook and Twitter.
There’s no highlighting or note-taking enabled, though you can see the highlights and notes you’ve made using Amazon’s other Kindle apps (or actual hardware Kindles). Even the page turning is less intuitive, with readers tapping to change screens instead of “swiping” back-and-forth. If anything, the experience is closer to the desktop Kindle app than the iPad app.
The only clear advantage to the web app, in fact, seems to be the easy access to Amazon’s store. Amazon does promise improvements are coming. “We’ll continue to expand the feature set, stay tuned for more,” said Amazon spokesperson Kinley Campbell.