Just a week after launching the Kindle2, Amazon has released an iPhone/iPod touch application that allows users to enjoy the Kindle collection of over 240,000 eBooks right from their device of choice.
The Kindle app is free, and is a really interesting launch from Amazon’s standpoint. While the eReading experience on an iPhone or iPod touch is nowhere what it is on the Kindle, many users may now avoid spending $359 on the Kindle2 device and still purchase and use eBooks through Amazon. But Fast Company is quick to point out a couple of reasons why the iPhone/iPod Touch is no replacement for the Kindle:
[T]he Kindle device itself probably won’t be threatened by the iPhone app. For two main reasons. The first is display technology: Though the e-ink screen used on the Kindle isn’t the most amazing out there, it’s certainly a rather closer experience to reading a book than viewing text on an iPhone. The screen is simply far bigger than the iPhone’s, and e-ink is gentler on the eyes than a brightly-lit LCD–the two main reasons for designing an electronic book in the first place.
Secondly, there’s the question of battery life–the iPhone simply can’t keep up with the Kindle. While all the display, lighting, processing and wireless tech in the cellphone suck on the batteries fiercely, the Kindle manages delicate sips on its power supply when needed. E-ink display tech only draws power when its state is being changed, when you turn a page for example. On a long flight, the iPhone would conk out within a handful of hours, while the Kindle keeps going.
In the end, the iPhone app presents an additional revenue stream for Amazon by allowing the Kindle-less to purchase and download books. No, the download experience isn’t quite what it is on the Kindle—iPhone owners have to either 1) launch Safari from their device, go to Amazon and purchase titles or 2) purchase titles directly from the Web on Amazon’s site. This is because Apple doesn’t allow app-developers to create commerce-enabled applications (why this restriction exists is beyond me; I would expect Apple to be clever enough to work out some sort of revenue-share agreement and create yet another revenue stream for itelf… but I digress). But Amazon’s Whispersync technology means that once you’ve purchased a title online, it shows up on your iPhone and/or Kindle within minutes.
Another nice feature is that, for those who own both the Kindle and an iPhone/iPod Touch, Whispersync will keep track of annotations and bookmarks across devices, allowing users to switch back and forth effortlessly.
As we mentioned in our post about the Kindle2, it’s great to see Amazon launching small enhancements and features that have game-changing potential. The iPhone app probably took a few thousand dollars to develop and launch, but opens the door to an entirely new customer segment and revenue stream. Further, having browsed a few sample chapters of different titles on my iPhone, I’m a lot more likely than before to go out an purchase the Kindle2. That’s a great idea.