I’ve mentioned before that I’m very happy with my Kindle, and that I’d have no hesitation in getting another one if it was lost or broken. But there are alternatives – the thing is that while Amazon will quite happily sell you a device, they’re not all that bothered if you don’t. What they want is for you to buy books from them – lots of books, ideally. To make this easier, they’ve offered free Kindle apps for Windows, OS X, iPhone, iPad and quite possibly other platforms that I haven’t been taking notice of.
But there were a couple of problems with that. First, you actually had to install some software, and second, Apple’s conditions for selling content via AppStore apps meant Amazon felt obliged to remove the ability to buy books from the iPhone and iPad apps. I won’t go into the details of that, but it ties in with the so-called “Agency” pricing model that I’ve complained about before, which meant that Amazon would have been forced to sell things at a fixed price, and give Apple a quite large cut. Not good.
So, inspired by both of these things (accelerated rather than prompted by the second), Amazon now offer a browser-based Kindle app – Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader. This uses HTML5-type offline storage to enable you keep reading without an internet connection, and so far it works only with Chrome and Safari – other browser support is coming, but this may depend on the browser developers making the required features available. Chrome is still my preferred browser, so I was happy to give it a try.
I logged in with my Amazon account – make sure you use one that’s associated with your Kindle, and was prompted to install a Chrome extension. A few seconds later, I saw this:
Thos are the books I have on my Kindle (well, the first few rows of them!), with reading positions and the like all automagically synchronised. This does depend on your Kindle having a network connection when you stop reading, and for a setting to be turned on (it’s labelled as Annotations Backup, but it does more than the name implies).
There a settings for colour and font size:
Text looks nice and clear on my iMac, and was much the same on the Windows machine I use at work.
This is good stuff for a first release, and will no doubt be developed, tweaked and improved over the coming months. The main benefit for iPad users is that you can now buy books direct from the Kindle page, as it’s running from Safari rather than as a native application. It’s not quite as seamless as the AppStore version, as it’s obviously running in a web browser, but I think that’s a reasonable compromise.
I still prefer the display on the actual Kindle, but this is a nifty way of getting to your reading matter if you don’t have your device handy.
 They’re so happy to do so that you can get them in Tesco, John Lewis, and probably many other places