Kindle iPhone app off to promising start despite eBabel/DRM and page turning annoyance
March 4, 2009 | 9:10 am
If you just have to own a book and can only find it in the Kindle format, then, yes, Amazon’s new app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a possibility—despite Amazon’s eBabel/DRM and certain annoyances, such as with page turning.
No, I couldn’t download Philip Roth’s Indigmation directly to the app in my Touch. But the process took just five minutes when I tried the Safari browser on my Touch and keyed in my Amazon ID and password. Amazon’s Web site was a cinch to use, with explicit instructions provided for "David’s Touch." Then I left the Touch’s Safari browser and fired up the Kindle reading app for the device, which, of course, is essentially an iPhone without the "Phone." I instantly spotted Indignation in the iPod’ app’s archives. Had I downloaded Indignation earlier for another machine, I could have easily synced to pick up my previous place in the book. Click on left image for a bigger view of a buying page as viewed in Safari
Why the app is off to a promising start
So why, objectively, do I think that the iPhone app is off to a promising start despite the eBabel/DRM issues I mentioned earlier?
1. I can use the scroll bar to navigate my way through the whole book all the way to the end. No need to go back and forth constantly to a chapter-by-chapter menu that provides just a certain range of pages at a time. Here’s rooting for Stanza (the most popular iPhone reading app) and others to catch up! (Update: I’m reminded that BookZ, eReader and BookShelf do have The Big Scroll—this just shows you how much I’ve made Stanza part of my reading life!)
Granted, the Kindle iPhone/Touch app is sluggish when you use the scrollbar on an entire book. But I suspect this will get better with time. What’s more, you can go to individual pages by typing in their numbers. You can speed back to the start pretty quickly, too. Normally, by the way, you see just the text, no menu and scroll bar, which you can easily summon up with a tap on the screen.
2. The general interface is simple. It doesn’t offer as many customization choices as Stanza, which, unlike the Kindle software, lets you choose from different typefaces, including some heavy faces that display outstandingly well on my Touch screen. But I suspect Amazon will eventually get around to adding more fonts beyond the Times-type.
The big problem of the current interface, one more reason why I still vastly prefer Stanza, is that I apparently can’t change pages just by tapping a corner. I have to slide my finger over the screen, and that is a major hassle (pages even move sideways). It’s probably a quick fix, though. Hello, Amazon? Get to work. And meanwhile please think about ePub capabilities, as well as the ability to read existing DRMed Mobi libraries.
Detail: The Roth book might be in other e-formats—I haven’t checked. I was impatient to read it, however, and this test gave me a good excuse. For DRMed books, my current format preference is eReader since it runs on a bunch of devices and even works in Stanza. Of course, far better for books either not to have DRM at all, or else social DRM.
Two negatives, picked up by Andrew Savikas of O’Reilly: No search feature in reader. And no support for constant-width fonts.
Interesting tip from Roland Dobbins: Try the Amazon Mobile app from the App Store. I haven’t—I need to go out now—but I will. Thanks, Roland. Other iPh/Touch tips for Kindle books welcome from all!