Amazon’s Answer To Apple’s Terms: A Web-Based Kindle Cloud Reader — Brilliant On PC, Better On iPad

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Much has been made about Apple’s recent changes to the iOS terms. At first, everyone was sure that many big players would be forced to pull their apps, such as Amazon’s popular Kindle app. But then Apple relaxed the rules a bit, and simply said that Amazon and others couldn’t link to their own stores from their iOS apps. Amazon complied. But at the same time, they were also working on an alternative.

While Amazon hasn’t said anything about it yet, Kindle Cloud Reader is already live. It’s a web-based version of their Kindle eBook reader app. It allows you to read your books from the cloud or to download your books for offline reading thanks to the magic of HTML 5 (or a Chrome browser extension). It looks and works great.

Amazon says that the app officially supports Chrome and Safari. This means it works on PCs, Macs, Linux, and even Chromebooks. This also means that it works on the iPad. In fact, Amazon plays that up on their site. Bullet point three on the Kindle Cloud Reader page reads:

Optimized for iPad: shop the integrated Kindle Store for Tablets

Again, that’s something you cannot do within the iOS apps due to the new terms.

However, while the iPad is supported, the iPhone currently is not. Amazon recommends you check out their free Kindle reader native app in order to read on the iPhone. Something tells me that a browser version for the iPhone is in the works as well.

The iPad version is especially good because the store is fully optimized for the device. And you can easily switch back and forth between the store and your own library. It feels like a native app, but it’s not. You can even swipe back and forth to move between pages (though it is a bit slow).

One thing to note is that the cloud versions (and obviously the downloaded versions) of the Kindle books are still limited to a set number of devices. So if you have your books downloaded to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, etc, you may be over the limit and will not be able to read them in the cloud.

A few weeks ago, after Apple began enforcing the new iOS terms, one eBook reader, Kobo, came out and said that they would work on a web app to bypass the restrictions. But again, others like Amazon and Barnes & Noble remained mum, and changed their apps to remove links to their stores. Turns out, Amazon was quietly doing the same thing. And now it’s ready to go. And it’s very good.

Update: And after our story last night, Amazon issued a press release about the service this morning. Find it below:

Introducing Kindle Cloud Reader

Read over 950,000 Kindle books in your web browser – no download or installation required

Based on HTML5, Kindle Cloud Reader optimizes for the platform you’re using and automatically stores your latest book locally for offline reading

Instant Books – no waiting for a download, start reading the book immediately, offline or online

SEATTLE – August 10, 2011 – (NASDAQ: AMZN) – For over two years, Amazon has been offering a wide selection of free Kindle reading apps that enable customers to “Buy Once, Read Everywhere.” Customers can already read Kindle books on the largest number of the most popular devices and platforms, including Kindles, iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, PCs, Macs, Android phones and tablets, and BlackBerrys. Today, Amazon.com announced Kindle Cloud Reader, its latest Kindle reading application that leverages HTML5 and enables customers to read Kindle books instantly using only their web browser – online or offline – with no downloading or installation required. As with all Kindle apps, Kindle Cloud Reader automatically synchronizes your Kindle library, as well as your last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights for all of your Kindle books, no matter how you choose to read them. Kindle Cloud Reader with its integrated touch optimized Kindle Store is available starting today for Safari on iPad, Safari on desktop and Chrome at http://www.amazon.com/cloudreader.

“We are excited to take this leap forward in our ‘Buy Once, Read Everywhere’ mission and help customers access their library instantly from anywhere,” said Dorothy Nicholls, Director, Amazon Kindle. “We have written the application from the ground up in HTML5, so that customers can also access their content offline directly from their browser. The flexibility of HTML5 allows us to build one application that automatically adapts to the platform you’re using – from Chrome to iOS. To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, we’ve added an integrated, touch optimized store directly into Cloud Reader, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books.”

Features of Kindle Cloud Reader include:
– An immersive view of your entire Kindle library, with instant access to all of your books
– Start reading over 950,000 Kindle books instantly within your browser
– An embedded Kindle Store optimized for your web browser makes it seamless to discover new books and start reading them instantly
– New Kindle Store for iPad is built from the ground up for iPad’s touch interface
– Your current book is automatically made available for offline use, and you can choose to save a book for reading offline at any time
– Receive automatic software updates without the need to download new software
– Select any book to start reading, customize the page layout to your desired font size, text color, background color, and more
– View all of the notes, highlights, and bookmarks that you’ve made on other Kindle apps or on Kindle
– Sync your last page read across your Kindle and free Kindle apps so you can always pick up where you left off

Kindle Cloud Reader is available for Safari on iPad, Safari on desktop and Chrome starting today. Kindle Cloud Reader on the iPad is optimized for the size and unique touch interface of iPad. Without even leaving the app, customers can start shopping in the Kindle Store and will find a unique and immersive shopping experience built specifically for iPad’s Safari browser.

Kindle Cloud Reader will be available on additional web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, the BlackBerry PlayBook browser, and other mobile browsers, in the coming months.

Amazon.com customers can start reading their Kindle books immediately using Kindle Cloud Reader at http://www.amazon.com/cloudreader.