Review roundup: Kindle on the iPhone

Screen grab from iTunes

It seems Amazon is willing to play with others. Today, the company extended the Kindle brand beyond its stylish new model and released an ebook app for the iPhone. The free application allows users to read books already purchased through their Kindles, buy new ebooks from their phones, and access Amazon's 240,000-title catalog even if they don't own a $359 Kindle. So, is it any good? Here's what the critics think:

The convenience factor:

Kindle for iPhone also supports Whispersynch, grabbing updates over the air and letting you read your books on various devices. It even supports auto-bookmarking, so you can put down your Kindle, head out to the shops and seamlessly continue reading on your iPhone as you wait at the checkout. [via Wired]

The ownership question:

The experience highlights both the pros and cons of the "digital locker" approach taken by Amazon with Kindle content. Although some have criticized the fact that one can't resell or give away their Kindle books, the site does provide other aspects of true ownership. In this case, I didn't need to re-buy anything and as soon as I entered my account information, I had access to every book I had purchased for the Kindle. [via CNET]

The down sides:

Let me note the key features of the hardware Kindle that aren’t carried over to the iPhone app. It doesn’t support periodicals. It doesn’t read books aloud. It doesn’t allow you to enter notes or highlight text, look up words in a dictionary, or perform searches. [via All Things Digital]

The naysayer:

While Amazon might be able to find a market for $9.99 books on the Kindle, the iPhone/iPod Touch world is a very different place. Very few people are willing to pay that kind of money for any sort of application, let alone an e-book. In the Apple app world, the sweet spot for selling anything seems to be less than $4.99 -- and more like $.99 or $1.99. Sure, you're going to get some best-selling series with almost cult-like followings (read: "Harry Potter" and "Twilight"), but the vast majority of books being "sold" on the iPhone are very cheap -- and rightly so because the overall iPhone reading experience doesn't justify spending $10 (or even $5) on an e-book. [via David Carnoy on CNET]

The last words:

Today's move could cut into sales of the Kindle device, but it also greatly expands the number of customers who can buy Amazon's books. Amazon has declined to disclose its Kindle sales, but analysts peg that number at fewer than half a million devices. Apple, by comparison, sold more than 13.7 million iPhones in 2008.... [via LATimes]
Reading on the device was easy. You turn pages using the iPhone’s horizontal swiping gesture, and you can change the font size on the fly, and create bookmarks, which then can be synced back to a Kindle device. You can view any notes you made on a hardware Kindle. And there’s a slider to quickly go back and forth through chunks of the book. [via All Things Digital]
As for reading on the iPod Touch (or iPhone), I found it quite acceptable for my 15-minute public transit commute to work. The iPod's small size makes it easy to read on a crowded train. One can even hold the iPod and flip pages in one hand while hanging on to a handrail with the other hand. That said, I'm not sure I won't go out and buy a Kindle 2 eventually. The iPod Touch reading experience, while fine for short bursts, isn't the easy-on-the-eyes phenomenon I had with the Kindle. It's harder to buy books and I can't read newspapers or magazines. Also, I suspect it will do a number on my iPod's battery. [via CNET]
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