Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Amazon skips by Apple's gate

Amazon had to remove the Store button from its Kindle app for iPad a few weeks ago, to avoid having its app removed from the Apple store altogether. Apple says that all sales from an app must use Apple's own API and must remit 30% of every sale to Apple. Apple also prohibits links to stores on one's own site. The new Kindle app is the same as the old, except it's missing the Kindle store button.

We knew that wouldn't last long. Today. Amazon released a new web-based Kindle app called Cloud Reader.

A web-based app, in contrast to an iOS app is just a little program that works through the browser. It can do almost as much as an iOS app but has several advantages:

1. Web apps (like websites in general) do not need Apple's approval. Indeed, Apple has no control over the contents of a web app. It could, however, conceivably limit a web app's power and access to iPad features, like the accelerometer (sp?).

2. A web app can be updated automatically without the user's interaction. That means Amazon (or whoever) can add features without having to wait for anyone else (like Apple) to approve such additions or for users to download an upgrade.

3. A web app can download information to the iPad—including data (like ebooks) and even the app itself—so that it can continue to work when the user does not have internet access. Amazon's books are initially available directly through the cloud, but if you click them, they are downloaded to your iPad.

And voilĂ . Amazon's Cloud Reader, complete with downloadable books, and the all important link to the Kindle Store:

Kindle Cloud Reader overview

A little pop-up message reminds you that you can "install" the app (that is bookmark the app's web address to your home page) by clicking the bookmark icon and then choosing "Add to Home Screen" from the pop-up menu that appears.

Add to Home Screen

Add bookmark

Then the web app (which is really just a Safari bookmark) will appear on your Desktop (can you tell my kids have been using my iPad!?)

Cloud Reader on desktop

Curiously, when you access the web app through the bookmark, it appears without any Safari header. And indeed, looks a lot like the regular Kindle app.

Kindle Cloud Reader

Here is the same book accessed through the Cloud Reader directly from Safari:

CloudReader with headers

I don't think I know enough about how apps work to explain that. If you know, I'd be happy to hear about it in the comments.

It will be interesting to see if Apple continues to try to enforce its 30% take on everything sold through iOS. I can't see how they can possibly do it, but what do I know.

The other thing to take away is Amazon's perhaps obvious insistence on being available on the iPad (the app doesn't work for iPhone yet). And to me, that continues to point to Amazon supporting EPUB and all of the wonderful things you can do with it.


  1. I think the bookmarks do not run inside Safari, but are wrapped into a UIWebView control. That's why you do not see the Safari stuff. It's like a site embedded inside a native app.

  2. pjorge is correct and there have been other, less welcome, differences between Safari and UIWebView. The most dramatic of these being the absence of the high-performance Nitro javascript engine in UIWebView. That difference has been eliminated but it does underscore the potential for differentiating between web apps launched from a WebClip and those run directly in Safari.

    I don't see Apple getting that petty but I could be wrong.

  3. Yes it is just a Web view rather than the full Safari experience.

    Apple have stated that Nitro will be sped up in iOS 5 to match the speed of normal Safari so it could get better very soon.

  4. does the cloud reader only allow you access to your purchased books though? cos the majority of kindle users i know have a small number of purchased books and a large number they've acquired via alternate means.
    if it is only books that have been delivered via amazon (and i can't see how they'd do it otherwise) then i can see amazon much preferring users to use cloud reader, but i can't see many users being interested

  5. Thanks Liz for this. I will make your blog a part of my business learning. I need you to write a dreamweaver book. I have your html book from 1998 I think it is. Your book is the best one available for learning HOW to do something. I need a dreamweaver book by you.

  6. Boy, it would have been even nicer for this cloud reader to support epubs instead of the substandard kindle format. Now THAT would have been a game changer.

  7. It seems like your blog and the ThreePress blog are the only ones pushing the envelope on what ePub can do.

    Are there any other resources that you can point us to?



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