App Review: Kindle for iPhone

iPhone Kindle Start Screen I love love love my Kindle. However, Syp from Bio Break got me intrigued.  He, too, loves ebooks.  And he, too, reads his books on the Kindle.  The difference between us, however, comes in that he is referring to his iPhone app while I have the ebook reader from Amazon.com itself.

So I gave myself a little challenge.  I would read at least one novel in its entirety on my iPhone Kindle app and see if Syp was nuts or if my wife had spent an exuberant amount of money on my Christmas gift that was inferior to something I’ve owned for years.

The book I chose was World of Warcraft – Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden.

Initial Impressions

“This sucks,” I thought to myself as I sat in the faculty parking lot, reading Arthas before my night class started.  I had been under the impression that being backlit would make night reading easier.

iphone-kindle-app_1 I had been under the wrong impression.

After just a few minutes, my head and eyes ached from the glare, so I turned off the Kindle app and started an audiobook to ease my head before I had to teach.

That night, I was perusing Syp’s blog, and I noticed that he mentioned changing the font/background color on the app.  I tried this option (which I had been previously unaware) and inverted the colors.  White letters on a black background was much easier on my eyes.  Even the Sepia setting was easier to read than the stark black-on-white.

Since I made that change, I have had not a headache one.

Pros

Probably the best feature of the Kindle for iPhone app is its portability.  As obvious as it is, it’s true.  Being able to read a few pages of a book while waiting on appointments, sitting in the car, even chilling in the mall waiting for my wife to get out of Ann Taylor is awesome.

iPhone and Kindle and Book While the normal Kindle 2 is extremely portable and I keep it in my briefcase all the time anyway, I found the iPhone version to actually be a little more convenient.  I didn’t have to pull out another device to read on or keep up with a separate device.  I always have my phone with me; therefore, my book is with me, too.

And its easy to read.  It took a little tinkering with, sure, but once I found my perfect text size/color and realized I prefer to read in landscape mode (thank goodness for the ability to lock the app in landscape or portrait), it was a cinch to read. Tap a couple of buttons, bada bing bada boom, a book in my hand, ready and easy to read.

Cons

There is no native downloading support in Kindle for iPhone.  This is unforgiveable.

To make a purchase from your iPhone, you have to go to the Amazon.com mobile site.  That’s right, the mobile site.  You can’t even use the Amazon iPhone app to purchase a book because you can only Wish List Kindle items with it.  This, my friends, is a serious flaw in the technology.

While certainly not a gamebreaker, one of the major advantages of the Kindle 2 is 1-click purchasing.  Convenience is a major selling point for ebooks, and Kindle for iPhone’s purchasing process is anything but.  I hope that Amazon realizes how obnoxious this lacking is and adds an in-app browser for the Kindle Store.

iphone-kindle1 And it’s relatively uncomfortable to hold.  Unlike the actual Kindle 2, the iPhone was not made for luxurious lounging and comfortable reading.  It was made for multipurpose functionality.  And while it’s perfectly functional, the iPhone just doesn’t fit well in my hands for relaxed or extended reading.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the Kindle 2: it’s exponentially more comfortable to hold and read than a physical book.  The iPhone Kindle, however, gave me a couple of hand cramps and just isn’t something that I rush to grab when I want a nice, quiet night at home.  It is great for on-the-go reading, but I don’t see it becoming a fixture of my quiet evenings at home.

Conclusion

While I do not expect the Kindle for iPhone app to ever be my first choice for ebooks, I have to say that it was a much nicer experience than I had anticipated.   I think my wife made the right choice in buying me the Kindle 2 for Christmas.  I like the iPhone Kindle, and I see myself getting a greatiphone kindle logo deal of enjoyment out of it in the future; however, I do not see myself curling up with my iPhone instead of a good solid New Release hardcover or even the Kindle itself.

I have made the decision, though, to keep a couple of iPhone specific novels loaded at any given time.  That way, I still keep the mobility and wonder of literally never being without a good book, but don’t have to deal with those nagging little annoyances that make me prefer the Kindle 2 as my ereader of choice.

Comments

  1. Syp

    I’ll agree with you on the purchase issue — it’s not a huge, huge deal, but it is rather inelegant for something that should be just incorporated into the app in the first place. And I’m still not thrilled at how they let you sort through Kindle books.

    There’s also no option to convert files into a format for the iPhone app to read, as there’s no special e-mail address for it that the Kindle proper has.

    As for comfort, I’ve really gotten used to it. I’m sure that its big brother looks and handles better, but a lot of time I read in bed and just rest it on a pillow beside me. Works great that way.

    Glad to see you gave it a go!

    • I hadn’t even thought about that, Syp, but you’re right. The inability to utilize personal documents/ebooks is a fairly sizable limitation for the app. And with Apple removing USB connectivity from most of its approved apps, I don’t see a manual upload coming anytime soon, either.

      I tried the bed/pillow strategy, but my glasses skew when I try that and I could never find a comfortable, hands-free angle.

      I am glad you got me to give it a go; even if it’s not my main ebook reader, it’s definitely going to be a staple of my personal library.

      Have you tried Stanza? I read a lot with it, too, since I downloaded almost all of Lovecraft’s books from Feedbooks onto it. It’s amazing for classics and public domain books.

  2. Aden

    Stanza also has a program that converts .lit files in case you hadn’t toyed with it to that extent. It’s the only program I use, but I know I should really give Kindle a shot some time. Most of the romance novels my friends and I come in .lit format so it’s just easier. What I’d die for is some to successfully convert .pdf files. Most just turn them into gobbledy gook.

    I still envy you your Kindle. Even Best Buy told me to go with Kindle for ereaders and I believe they sell the Sony ereader. I was always dubious about their lighting system though.

    • Well, there is no lighting system for any ebook reader currently on the market (the iPad will change that, though). The Kindle, nook, and Sony eReader are all non-lit screens, and I prefer it that way. It takes much less toying with to be able to prevent eyestrain. As I said above, I almost gave up at the get-go because the stark black-on-white text was so hard to get used to.

      I did not know about the Stanza’s .lit features. I’ll have to check that out. When I convert PDFs into HTML before trying to convert them, I’ve found that I have a lot more success at not having the text turn into gobbledygook..

  3. I absolutely love the Kindle app for the iphone. I have an ipod touch that I carry with me everywhere. It is much easier than having a paperback (much less a hardcover) to haul around.

    I ended up doing the same thing as you, I changed the font to white with a black background and locked the app in landscape mode. It makes a world of difference. I, also, got the idea from Syp. It’s good to see that you tried it out.

    The best part about having the app for the ipod touch is that I can read in bed at night with the lights off. My fiance falls asleep fast, but I always stay up and read for about an hour. That is something I wouldn’t be able to do with the Kindle itself. Without the backlighting I wouldn’t use the app as much as I do.

    It’s also great for checking out new authors and books. I like that I can download samples of anything in the store.

    Overall, I like it. That being said, all of your complaints are warranted. Hopefully they fix some of them with software updates.
    .-= Void´s last blog ..Remembering to Play Games =-.

    • My wife, too, sleeps before I do. She is a pretty hard sleeper once she makes it there, and I can turn a lamp on if I come back into the room to read. I also have a booklight I can attach to my Kindle’s case that makes that a non-issue for me. But I do have to admit that being able to just sit and read in the dark was nice.

      Samples are the best idea ever. There is no reason for anyone to not try a book before he/she buys it anymore.

      And yeah, many of my complaints are software issues. They do a few quick updates, and bada bing presto chango, the app is double what it was before.

  4. I think if I had a real Kindle I would probably get the app for the iPhone because you can sync your position between books on them can’t you? Of course, considering I leave it what’s apparently a third world country for publishing laws, it’s not going to happen anytime soon 🙂
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..The Price Of Success =-.

  5. They have “whispersync” which automatically syncs up your position between different devices (as long as you have an internet connection). I would consider getting a Kindle in the future as well, but for now I can’t get over the lack of backlighting. I’m very content with my Kindle app.
    .-= Void´s last blog ..Sunday Reading: Ubisoft DRM =-.

    • I think it’s funny: the lack of backlighting is one of the reasons I am supremely happy with my Kindle. I look down on the iPad because I think it’s glare would end up giving me a headache for extended periods of reading. I never read for extended periods when I was on the iPhone.