How does the Kindle app measure up to the Kindle device? Taking into account the more obvious differences such as screen technology and greyscale/colour, has the function of the popular Kindle device been adequately matched or improved upon in the iPad app? What thought has gone into the function and usability of the application, and its interaction with the wider technological world?
Are there similar ways to configure the reading experience? Are all features supported across both platforms?
Let’s explore these areas a little…
First and foremost, it has to be said that reading in the iPad Kindle app is a delight. Portrait view fills the screen with auto-flowing text, and allows comfortable reading of a whole page of continuous prose.
If you prefer shorter reading lines, rotate to landscape, and the same content auto-flows into a concise easy to read format, perhaps feeling more like a classic paperback.
You can also easily rotate the screen on the hardware Kindle by using the five way controller (Aa) to select the desired orientation.
Back in the iPad Kindle app, there are also some other settings and options that appear at the bottom of the screen with a single touch.
These allow you to go back to a previous location, Search, go to a new location, adjust screen preferences, and synchronise with Amazon. All of these functions are mirrored from the Kindle device, seen here in the title page of a book:
Adding highlights and comments is, perhaps, more asthetically pleasing on the iPad, though:
In the Kindle app, movement around your e-book is swift using single taps to the left and right of the screen, much as you might press the hardware advance and reverse buttons on a Kindle. If you’re a fan of page-turning animation, be sure to switch the Kindle app out of basic reading mode to enjoy this added app feature:
Kindle for iPad is a good platform to read on, but perhaps not for long periods of time. Glare is an issue out of doors, or with certain lighting conditions, and you’re going to be more comfortable reading for an extended period of time with the e-ink display on the Kindle.
There are, however, some helpful tricks you can use on the iPad to help you make your bedtime reading easier on the eyes. Here are a few tips to try:
- Adjust the brightness down to a lower level.
- Lock the orientation of the iPad to allow obscure reading angles.
- Try using a Sepia background rather than bright white.
- Perhaps try the white on black setting for reduced eye strain (and perhaps happy sleeping partners).
When you’ve finished your book for the night, your reading progress, notes, and bookmarks will be stored centrally, assuming you’re in an area that has a Wi-Fi or 3G signal to allow a connection to the Kindle central servers.
Amazon’s “Whispersync” technology will then distribute these updates to all of your Kindle reading devices and apps across all platforms, so you can pick up your book where you left off, and see all your notes and highlights.
Both the Kindle and Kindle for iPad benefit from an integrated dictionary, allowing quick lookups or full page definitions. Note taking and highlighting words for social commentary is possible on both platforms, although the iPad app also benefits from the full colour ‘highlighting pen’ look thanks to its colour screen:
When you are reading, you don’t want any other distractions, and so it is a pleasure to see that the Kindle iPad app mimics the Kindle’s full-screen, uncluttered view, removing even the status bar for maximum screen acreage for your reading pleasure.
With the latest software updates for both platforms, you can also now see real page numbers in your books that match published volumes – this is most helpful if you need to follow along with those in a classroom setting, for instance.
Storing It Up
One of the joys of the hardware Kindle device is the integrated store that allows you to purchase anywhere (Wi-Fi/3G signal allowing), which makes buying new titles a breeze, even where you’re sat on the beach in the breeze.
To comply with Apple’s recent rule enforcement, the Kindle for iPad in-app store has now been removed. Apple’s rule states that:
Publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.
All is not lost, however, as Amazon have responded with an HTML5 app, the Kindle Cloud Reader, which mostly mimics the iPad app, and allows for fully integrated in-app purchases (with the return of the store button). To get the Kindle Cloud Reader, simply navigate to the Kindle Reader Page, and then select “Add to Home Screen”:
Kindle Cloud Reader also gives you access to your whole Amazon book purchase archive for immediate download, with full colour book covers to browse your purchased titles. The Kindle, of course, can only display your archive in a simple list view – functional, but not as delightful as the iPad native app and the Kindle Cloud Reader.
One neat feature of the Kindle Cloud Reader is that as you start to read a book, it is quietly downloaded for you to enable off-line reading:
If you have to leave the Kindle app during mid-download, the reader app intelligently resumes downloading when you next read the book.
A Cloudy Tomorrow?
The reason behind the Kindle Cloud Reader is in direct response to Apple’s law enforcement, and you can’t help wondering as bandwidth becomes faster and more readily available that many applications, if not all, will go this way, breaking out of Apple’s strict guidelines and also avoiding additional royalty payments.
The Kindle Cloud Reader, however, is not quite up to scratch with the Kindle iPad app, with some functions (dictionary, highlights, etc.) still missing, but we’re hoping that Amazon will be sorting this out soon with further software updates.
To Sum Up
Whilst the dedicated e-ink reader has its own unique benefits, the Kindle app for iPad seamlessly integrates with the whole Kindle reader experience, and also across multiple platforms. Its customisable display and orientation settings allow for a pleasant way to just get on and read a book.
Amazon have revolutionised the whole reading experience with the Kindle, and the iPad app intelligently extends and expands their hardware offering, making good use of the iPad’s form factor and features. With the addition of the Kindle Cloud Reader web app, even in-app purchasing is available again on the iPad.
Amazon are doing a great job at providing a worthy contender to Apple’s iBooks app, and a great reading and purchase experience for the consumer. I prefer reading on the iPad Kindle app, but I am pleased that whatever platform I read on, Amazon’s consistent user interface and background synching are making my experience both easy and enjoyable.