The same day that Apple and five of the Big Six publishers were sued for allegedly conspiring to fix ebook prices, Amazon unveiled further ebook news. Yesterday, it launched its Kindle Cloud Reader, a browser-based application that allows users to buy and read Kindle ebooks on the cloud via a web browser. It also lets users download books for offline viewing.
The browser-based approach is a slight departure from device-specific apps that users are most familiar with. Formerly, iPad users that wanted to read their Kindle ebooks on the device had to use a Kindle app specific to the iPad. But due to recent Apple rule changes, Amazon could not sell ebooks directly through that app. That is, users could read their ebooks, but couldn’t buy more without leaving the app.
The Kindle Cloud Reader gets around the rule by bypassing Apple’s app ecosystem entirely. It does so by displaying ebooks in web browsers, which work across many different devices. Users can read and buy ebooks directly through their browser.
For now the Kindle Cloud Reader can run on any device with either a Chrome or Safari browser (including the iPad). Versions for other browsers, including Firefox and Internet Explorer, will be available “in the coming months,” according to Amazon’s announcement.
It’s an interesting development, and could expand the audience for Kindle ebooks—although it’s unknown how the Kindle Cloud Reader will interact with OverDrive’s forthcoming Kindle ebook library lending functionality, due later this year.
Using a browser to read ebooks, of course, is hardly a new idea. Indeed, last October—shortly after Amazon unveiled an early beta version of what would become the Kindle Cloud Reader—the Internet Archive hosted a conference called “Books in Browsers 2010: The Future of Reading on the Web,” which included demonstrations of several browser-based ereaders and applications.