Yesterday, Amazon launched Kindle Cloud Reader, a Web browser-based version of its popular e-reading platform.
Built using HTML5, an emerging standard that lets Web applications function like desktop ones, the Kindle Cloud Reader looks and acts a lot like the Kindle apps created for the iPad, Android tablets, and PCs, even offering the ability to store content so it can be read in the browser offline. Experts say the move furthers Amazon’s efforts to make Kindle the dominant standard for e-books.
Amazon’s original Kindle, a device designed specifically for electronic reading, has long enjoyed dominance in the e-reader market. But Amazon has also built an empire that stretches far beyond this one device. The company gives away Kindle apps for a wide variety of devices, including PCs, Macs, Android tablets and phones, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry smart phones and tablets, and the iPad and iPhone. These free apps get readers to expect the Kindle format, and they encourage those who don’t own a Kindle to build up a Kindle library.
The cloud-based app could extend Amazon’s reach farther still. In a statement released at launch, Amazon noted that the Kindle Cloud Reader supports its philosophy of “Buy Once, Read Everywhere.” The Kindle device and related apps all sync with one another via the cloud, so that a user can access her full library—with bookmarks, notes, and highlights intact—from any device.
Much of the early discussion around the launch has focused on the way the new app circumvents Apple’s stringent App Store rules, because it can be accessed via the iPhone or iPad’s browser, and doesn’t need to be approved by Apple. Apple recently limited developers’ ability to take users out of an app—such as by offering a link to make a purchase on Amazon.com. But publishing experts say that focusing on this squabble is shortsighted.
“The Kindle Cloud Reader is a game changer, from my perspective,” says Kassia Krozser, owner of Booksquare, a site that tracks the publishing industry. “What really excites me about this platform is that it is browser-based; it uses the technology that people are using all day long. No special software is needed, no dedicated devices.”
Krozser believes the browser is “the future of reading,” since it gives aficionados the most flexibility and provides a familiar, easy-to-use environment for newcomers to test the waters.