Kindle Cloud Reader: Is this the future of online reading?

The Kindle Cloud Reader, a free web-based app, was launched by Amazon on Wednesday.

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    Kindle Cloud allows users access to their Kindle libraries from a range of devices, including iPads and and BlackBerry handsets. Here, the Amazon Appstore.
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On Wednesday, Amazon released a new Web-based app called the Kindle Cloud Reader, which allows users to access their Kindle books and magazines from a range of mobile devices, including desktop computers, BlackBerry handsets and iPhones (take that, Apple!). The only stipulation: Your device has to be running Safari or Chrome. The Kindle Cloud app is available beginning to today.

"We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser," Amazon Kindle director Dorothy Nicholls told the AFP this afternoon. "The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you're using – from Chrome to iOS."

The idea here is pretty simple, and also pretty revolutionary, as these things go: All your Kindle books, stored somewhere up in the cloud, available anytime you can manage to hook yourself up to a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. For dedicated readers, or for readers who read across a range of devices, this is welcome news: You can start reading on your iPad in the morning, pick up on your PC at work, and finish reading on your iPhone in the evening.

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All content is synced, which means Cloud Reader remembers what page you were on.

So how does the Cloud Reader perform? Well, in an early review at PC World, William Fenton endorses the cloud software, with a few caveats: There are some syncing glitches, and a few missing features, including text search. And that the Cloud Reader is supported only by Safari and Chrome doesn't make Fenton particularly overjoyed.

Still, he says, Cloud clearly addresses a need.

"While Amazon already has dedicated mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry, and desktop applications for Windows and Mac, by creating a browser-based solution the company has created an installation-free alternative for experiencing Kindle libraries," Fenton writes. "It isn't perfect, but it's a start, and a promising one at that."

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