Amazon releases the Kindle Cloud Reader – and scores a win over Apple

Adding cloud technology to the Kindle puts Amazon a step above Apple in the e-reader wars.

Amazon's Kindle Cloud Reader will allow readers to shop in Amazon’s bookstore while on an Apple device – without paying fees.

Amazon just won the latest battle in the e-reader wars.

The books behemoth announced Wednesday the release of the Kindle Cloud Reader, a service that lets Kindle users read their e-books online or offline on web browsers. It also has a link to the Kindle store, allowing Mac users to access Amazon’s bookstore. Best of all: When they do so, they will be able to skirt Apple’s rule requiring app developers to strip out links to their external websites and pay hefty fees for products customers purchase while using apps on Apple devices.

Kindle Cloud Reader allows users to read Kindle e-books that are stored in the cloud – no waiting for a download – using a Web browser online or offline. The service currently works with Google Chrome and Apple's Safari but is not yet available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, or BlackBerry, though Amazon says it will be available on additional browsers “in the coming months.”

Amazon used HTML5, the latest language for structuring and presenting web content, to build the application so that customers can access content offline and the app automatically adjusts to whatever platform is being used – from Google Chrome to Apple’s iOS.

Kindle Cloud Reader automatically synchronizes a user's Kindle book library, as well as information stored in the e-books, such as the last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlighted text. The service allows users to view their entire Kindle library on a web browser, with instant access to all books.

Amazon adds in its press release, “To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, we’ve added an integrated, touch optimized store directly into Cloud Reader, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books.”

And that’s the rub. In new terms it laid out in Februrary for companies selling content on Apple devices, Apple began requiring companies selling digital media, including books, to make any content available for sale via an app, rather than a link within the app to an outside website. Apple also said it would take 30 percent of each sale made using an app on an Apple device.

The new Kindle Cloud Reader has a link to purchase e-books from the Kindle Store, something that's now missing from the Kindle apps for iPad and iPhone after Apple enforced its new in-app subscription rules, David Carnoy explained in a CNET article. “Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Kobo all altered their apps to reflect the rules change, removing any links or mentions of their respective company Web sites.”

Amazon’s move to develop web-based HTML5 apps opens the floodgates as others will likely follow suit in order to circumvent Apple’s apps rules. According to CNET, the Financial Times newspaper already offers an HTML5 app and Kobo recently announced that it’s developing one. It can’t be long before Barnes & Noble does the same.

For readers, the increased flexibility can only be a good thing.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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