Friday, July 24, 2009

Kindle Update - The iPhone App

I have an iTouch, and I recently downloaded the Kindle app to give it a try after I broke my Kindle device. It was kind of a knee jerk reaction since I was in the middle of Team of Rivals, War and Peace, and Wicked Prey at the time. My iTouch is much smaller, as shown below:

This is in the Apple App Store, and it's free, so you download it. Once you run the app, it asks for your account and password and then connects to Amazon. From there I immediately saw a list of "Archived Items" in the Home screen. I clicked it and all of my purchases were listed.

Pressing on Team of Rivals (it's a great book) downloaded that book to my iTouch and I could start reading. The device is intuitive, with a press on either side of the screen or a swipe of the finger across the device will turn a page either way. It's easy, and actually it's fairly unobtrusive. It's not as easy as clicking the buttons on the Kindle, but it's easy to do one handed. Plus it's a small, small device.

I tried the normal black text on which background, which was hard on the eyes. Just too much light coming off the screen. The sephia setting, which is an off brown text wasn't any better, but white text on a black screen worked well. It was easy to read, and didn't bug my eyes. Here's an image of the base screen and the options.

Amazon had copies of all my purchases, and selecting any of them downloaded the content to my iTouch. For a trip I had recently, I downloaded 5 of my old books, a couple that I wanted to re-read, and a couple kids books that I thought my daughter might read. They came right down over my wi-fi connection in a minute or two.

When I went to the Amazon site, my account now showed a new option for samples. As shown below, I had a send to "Steve's iTouch," the name I'd given my device.


I sent a few samples from the website and the process was as flawless as with the Kindle. I didn't need to sync with my computer. I could hit the "refresh" button from my home screen and the samples appeared.

Purchasing books was simple as well. On the home screen there's a "Get Books" button in the upper right that opens the Safari browser to Amazon's Kindle store. It's the mobile version of the store, so it loads fast, but it's optimized to work easily and let me look at recommendations, or search for books. I picked Finger Lickin' Fifteen and it immediately downloaded to the device.



I've been using this app for a few weeks, and have read 4 or 5 books on it. The reading experience is nice, and it has worked well for me. I've read during the day, in bed at night, and it's easy to use. The accelerometer is used, so if you turn the iTouch sideways the text rotates. I've tried both ways, and landscape is nice for two handed reading (sitting down), but portrait is better overall for me. Since you can accidentally lean the device too far when reading, there's a lock button in the lower right corner to prevent the text from rotating. I've used that often.

A few times I've been in the car or outside and that's where the Kindle device shines. If you've tried to read your iPod or cell phone in bright sunlight you know it doesn't always work well. I was sitting by the pool one day and it was impossible to read. I've done that with the Kindle device and it's as usable in bright sunlight as a paperback.

The other thing that stood out to me was battery life. While using the iTouch for just reading (no music/video), I could get a couple of good days of reading out of it. But barely. I had to charge it pretty much daily. Since I run with an iPod as well, this isn't as big a deal as I thought it would be, but it's something to be aware of. I'm not sure how well the iTouch would last on a trip. I've easily read multiple books, across 4 or 5 days on the Kindle device without charging it. I rarely had the wireless on, so that helped, but it's something to think about.

The Final Verdict

I like this application, and it works well for me. It definitely means that I can delay the purchase of a new Kindle for awhile as I try this. It also means that I realize that the thing I love most of all is the Kindle platform.

It surpasses the device itself, which I really liked, but the platform is something I love. Being able to access content almost anywhere, buy books as I want them without needing a trip to the bookstore, is amazing. I've still wandered in the bookstore a few times over the last few months, spending some money on kids books to support the stores. I'd be sorry to see brick-and-mortar bookstores disappear and I like walking around. I really wish that Amazon would open the platform and allow me to buy a book in Barnes and Noble as well and get it onto the Kindle. Or that publishers would allow a download a the store.

I searched for a Kindle app on Android for my Google G1 phone, but there isn't one. I think because Amazon is worried about Google Books. However the Amazon platform, delivering content easily from their store, is a huge win, and would grow their market share quite a bit. I'd like to see this application ported to the PC, OS X, *Nix, as well as the various cell phone OSes.

Would everyone read on their devices? Maybe, maybe not, but I know that the porting can't be that hard and I'd like to be able to access some books on my PC (like technical ones). I'd like to be able to read if I only had my cell phone, or just my laptop. It's not a great way to read, but it works for short periods. Or in a pinch.

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