With all the hoopla surrounding iOS app development, it's easy to forget about Apple's initial suggestion that developers work on HTML 5 app development. Kindle Cloud Reader is a swift reminder that this form of app development is about to take the market by storm.
As cloud services fast become all the rage we're seeing browser-based apps, that are essentially websites but perform like apps, start to take hold. And as far as web apps go, Amazon's Kindle Cloud Reader is one of the best ones we've ever come across. It looks, and more importantly feels, more or less identical to a native iOS app.
Visually you see all the books on a bookshelf (which will be familiar to iOS app users) and clicking a title opens the text in the main screen, again similar to any other Kindle app. Click or swiping the pages switches the text. Tapping the screen brings up the menu options and a slider at the bottom of the display.
It also works with Amazon Whispersync so you can read books on the desktop, or your Kindle, and then use the web app to continue where you left off. It's possible to change the font size and colour, just like the iOS app. In fact, that pretty much sums it up: "it's just like the iOS app".
Getting hold of the Kindle Cloud Reader is as simple as going to read.amazon.com in the Safari (Because it's a web app it isn't available in the app store). You then use Safari's bookmark 'Add To Home Screen' feature to create an icon on the iPad desktop. When you click this icon the app opens without the Safari toolbar. It only works on the iPad (and desktop browsers) for the moment, although we imagine it won't be long before an iPhone and iPod touch version is available.
When you first launch the web app the iPad will ask if you want to increase the amount of storage memory available to 50MB, this extra memory allocation (again, a HTML 5 feature) presumably enables the app to cache whole books so they can be read.
There are a couple of downsides. Perhaps the most notable is that despite the app displaying "Saving app for offline use" we couldn't get it to open without an internet connection. Instead it just returns a error message stating "Cloud Reader could not be opened because it is not connected to the internet".
Another advantage to using the web app is that it is connected to the Amazon Store, so it has a direct link to the place you can buy books. Amazon recently removed this feature from the iOS app, presumably because of Apple's insistence on including its own in-app purchases system and giving Apple a 30 per cent cut. We were a bit disappointed to find that it just links to the regular Amazon store though, rather than having a store that's optimised to look like the web app.
Having said all that. This is still an impressive piece of web technology, and something that you'd be wise to check out. Even if you do carry on using the regular Kindle app for day to day use.
The Kindle Cloud Reader web app is an impressive piece of web technology, and one that is well worth checking out if you're a Kindle user. We couldn't get offline reading to work, which is a drawback, and the dedicated iOS app is still a bit slicker.