Amazon is taking another step forward in the e-reader game with the launch of its Kindle Cloud Reader, which lets users read Kindle e-books via their Web browser without the need to download and install an app.
"We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser," Dorothy Nicholls, director of Amazon Kindle, wrote in an Aug. 10 statement. "The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you're using-from Chrome to iOS."
In addition to the ability to read offline via the Web browser, the Kindle Cloud Reader also offers a holistic view of the user's entire Kindle library, instant access to nearly a million books, an embedded Kindle Store, and automatic software updates.
Amazon is launching the Kindle Cloud Reader Aug. 10 for Safari on iPad, Safari on desktop and Chrome. The online retailer plans on expanding the platform to Internet Explorer, Firefox, the BlackBerry PlayBook's browser, and other mobile browsers "in coming months."
Amazon's move toward HTML5 plays to the company's increased interest in the cloud, and offers a hard rebuke to Apple's mobile policies (it's probably no accident that Kindle Cloud Reader is available first for Safari on the iPad and desktop). Apple has imposed ever-tighter restrictions on mobile apps downloadable via its App Store, requiring that developers strip in-app purchasing mechanisms from their offerings if they want to display content purchased outside the app. In-app purchasing will apparently still net Apple some 30 percent of the fee.
In response to that policy, Amazon had already issued an updated Kindle for iPhone application that removed the Kindle Store button, meaning that anyone attempting to use an iOS device to purchase Kindle e-books would need to route over to Amazon's Website, instead of being able to order the text via the app itself.
Both Kobo, a Kindle rival, and the Financial Times have built HTML5 Web applications as an alternative to App Store mobile applications. "Over the past weeks, Kobo has worked with Apple to create a solution that would benefit the iOS eReading community within Apple's new App Store guidelines," Kobo claimed in a July 26 press release. "Unfortunately, Apple has mandated that Kobo, along with all eBook retailers, substantially change the eReading experience for consumers by removing in-app access to the Kobo store."
In addition to giving Amazon a workaround when it comes to Apple, the Kindle Cloud Reader also represents an expansion of the retailer's consumer cloud presence. It will join the Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player, which allow users to store and play their voluminous music libraries via the cloud. Such assets could also come into play in a big way if Amazon decides to launch a (much-rumored) Android tablet.