Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kindle for iPhone

Or, in my case, Kindle for the iPod Touch, but it amounts to the same thing: A free app that lets you read Kindle formatted ebooks on your Apple iPhone or iPod Touch. I downloaded it the other day, installed a few books, and think it works pretty much as advertised. But I'm not about to give up on books entirely just yet.

The best part of Kindle for iPhone (or KiP, as I'll call it from this point on), is that it's free. Amazon seems to understand the same thing that Gillete and Remington have always known: Give the razors away for free, make a killing selling overpriced razors. You can't install anything on this app that wasn't purchased from Amazon.com.

So that begs the question: Why is the real Kindle $360? I've never understood that ridiculously exhorbitant price and I know it will never take off until it becomes affordable. The Kindle is too expensive, and books are expensive. It's a no win situation.

"But, Donald," some people are probably asking, "the iPod is expensive too, but those are huge even though people have to pay to install content on that as well. So doesn't that prove you wrong?"

No, for a couple of reasons. First of all, you can install your entire CD collection on an iPod. You have to purchase all new material for a Kindle. And if you can't find it on Amazon.com, it ain't going on your kindle. You can put any CD (or almost any music file) on your ipod. Second of all, having an ipod lets you carry around hours or week's worth of music (or more) in your pocket. For most people, one or two books is probably a week's worth of reading (or more). Who really needs to carry around their entire library wherever they go?

But I've digressed from my main review. Yes, nobody needs to have their entire library in their pocket at all times, but it would still be cool. And Kindle does make that a possibility, and KiP makes it an affordable luxory.

But how does it work already?

It works fine. It's mostly just a question of whether or not you can stand reading from your iPhone without getting a headache. I couldn't. It's just too bright. You can go into the settings and turn down the brightness, but then you have to go back in to adjust it when you want to use a different app. Amazon needs to allow you to adjust the brightness within the app itself. The only real functional adjustment you can do is choosing between four or five different font sizes, but none of them are really all that great. Too small and your eyes start to hurt, too big and you're turning the page after every couple of sentences.

But, you know, it's a book... on your iPhone. So it does what it says it does.

Putting books on there is pretty easy, but it could be easier. You have to register the device and make all purchases through amazon.com, either on your computer or through the browser on your iPhone. Once you make a purchase, it automatically sends it to your device, but it still would've been nice to have this built in to the app itself. And why can't I send ebooks from my computer to my device? All books have to be purchased from Amazon.com and sent wirelessly by them to your device. This is needlessly obtuse and means you're out of luck if you don't have wi-fi.

As far as content goes, Kindle is pretty good. For this review (and probably forever), I've restricted myself to the stuff Amazon.com is offering for free. They actually have quite a bit of free content, ranging from older stuff that is in the public domain, and a few newer works by famous authors. Most of their new books cost about ten to seven books, with some stuff being just a few bucks or a few cents. Chances are good, you'll find something you'll want to read.

But for ten bucks, I'd probably just buy a book.

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