Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader

Electronic reading is a very hot topic. E-reading devices such as the Kindle, Nook and even the iPad makes reading books fun again. We can all agree, I assume, that the e-reading business is only just beginning to bloom and currently, Amazon is in the forefront of that business. Basically, a lot of money is being made in this sector. So, it should be no wonder that Amazon is there to protect that business. Apple, on the other hand, also has a big business going on with their IOS devices and apps. They’ve got a whole new economy going. To cut to the chase, Apple is now requiring that any app that has an in-app purchase button/function must forfeit 30% of that sale made inside that app. For example, Amazon had a Kindle app in the Apple App store (can be downloaded for free). Within that Kindle app, users could purchase ebooks directly from within that app without first having open a browser and whatnot. This made it real convenient for customers.With the new Apple law in effect, Amazon must now pay Apple a 30% fee of every ebook purchase made through that app. This of course, doesn’t just apply to Amazon but to every other publisher as well from what I’m understanding. Is it fair? Can Amazon and other publishers do anything about this?

In my honest opinion, 30% of every digital sale is a whole lot. Not just a lot but a whole lot. What people have to understand is that just because you made a purchase of an ebook for $9.99 doesn’t mean that Amazon gets to make a profit of that same amount. It’s complicated what goes on behind the scenes but that’s the bottom line of it. With Apple’s new law, Amazon will make even less of a profit for every digital ebook sale through their Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad. They basically have three choices:

  • Do nothing and accept the law. For every purchase made within their Kindle app, pay Apple the 30% tax
  • Remove the ability for users to make in-app purchases of their ebooks through the app.
  • Say screw it and think of another way to allow users to purchase their products on these IOS devices as conveniently as possible

Amazon took the last route (which should go hand-in-hand with the second) and many are applauding them for taking a stand. Just recently, Amazon released their Kindle Cloud Reader “website” to the public in what can be considered a move against Apple’s new law. How it works is simple. Rather than using the iPhone/iPad Kindle app, Amazon now provides users with another way to access their Kindle books without having to download or install anything. All they need is a compatible browser and operating system. They will still be able to read the books they have downloaded and purchased through Amazon, sync them to other devices and purchase new ebooks as well. Wait, purchase ebooks? Wouldn’t they have to pay Apple the 30% tax? The answer is no. KCR is a website, not an app purchased or downloaded through Apple’s app store. Because it is accessed via a browser, Apple has no control over what Amazon can or cannot do. When you want to purchase a new ebook while inside the KCR, you would be taken directly to Amazon’s own Kindle store webpage. Ebooks you purchase will then by synced with your account and all the other devices you own. In essence, this move is like giving Apple the big middle-finger. I’m guessing that a lot of other smaller companies are now looking towards this move by Amazon to see how well it plays with the customers. If all goes well, you can be sure that many of them will follow suit and create a feature-rich HTML5 website/app as well.

Kindle Cloud Reader

As it currently stands, you can only access the KCR website through the Google’s Chrome browser (works on all major supported operating systems), Apple’s Safari web browser (Mac/PC) and on the Safari web browser for the iPad. Firefox and iPhone users are left out of the loop, for now. I have a feeling Amazon had to rush getting the KCR website public because Apple’s 30% tax law is already in effect as of right now. Slowly but surely, Amazon will support other browsers in the future.

To access the KCR, you simply navigate to from within a supported browser and operating system and log in. There is nothing to download or install.

At the moment, the offerings of KCR is pretty slim. Once you are logged in, you’ll see your entire library of purchased ebooks made from Amazon. On the far right side, you’ll get to play with a slider to adjust your book cover display size. Right above that slider is a button that will take you directly to Amazon’s Kindle Store. Users on the iPad will see a specially formatted version of the store in their browser. Users can then make ebook purchases while inside Amazon’s Kindle Store. On the top left side, you’ll get a sync button and a button for management. At this time, there really isn’t anything to do in this management menu except for signing out of your account and learning how to use the KCR. Below thesetwo buttons you’ll get to either display your library in grid mode or in list mode. Finally, you’ll get to sort your library books by most recently purchased, author or book title. Right in the middle, you get the opportunity to read your book in the cloud mode (while you’re online) or via offline mode  (when you’re offline). I’ll go over this later.

Main Interface

By looking at the main interface, I’m sure you’ll already have figured out that you wont’ be spending too much time here. Let’s get to the bottom of it and see how well KCR fares when reading an actual ebook. Obviously, to start reading one of your books, simply click on it. If you’ve made a recent sync, your book should start off exactly where you left off on your previous reading device (on your Kindle, for example). The main reading interface of KCR is simple and uncluttered.

Main Reading Interface

At the top, you’ll have a toolbar to configure different things. Going from left to right, you have the Library button which brings you back to the main interface, the book icon which allows you to quickly navigate to certain parts of the book such as the beginning, table of contents and a certain “location”, the Aa symbol which allows you to customize the reading display to your liking, the bookmark ribbon which allows you you to set different bookmarks throughout the book, and finally the synchronize button. To the extreme right corner, you get the notes and bookmarks toggle. Any notes that you’ve previously written or bookmarks that you have set will be shown here. However, notes you’ve made on your Kindle device will not show up here. Finally, on the bottom you’ll get the usual location slider which allows you to quickly jump to certain sections of a book.

Reading Management ToolbarOne of the most important tool here is the one that allows you to customize your reading display (the big “Aa” button). Because different users have different reading styles and habits, KCR allows you to set different reading layouts and font sizes. There’s not a whole lot going here but it should be enough to satisfy most users. The three settings you’re allowed to configure includes the font size, the margins (how much texts are displayed on each line) and the color mode. The awesome part here is as you adjust your browser size, KCR will immediately re-adjust the reading display.

Reading Display SettingsWhen you are done reading, simply press the synchronize button on the toolbar to sync your page location across all your devices. Here’s the weird part. You currently cannot sync your reading display preferences across multiple devices. Therefore, you’ll need to readjust them each and every time. If you like reading with the Sepia background color, then you’ll need to go ahead and make that change every time. Not really a big issue but hopefully this will still get changed in the near future.

Offline Mode

With KCR, you can read your books even if you are not connected online by simply downloading them ahead of time. However, it doesn’t work like you expect it would and it’s a huge disappointment in my opinion. Whenever you log in to KCR, you will be prompted with a message asking if you want to enable Offline Mode (assuming you haven’t already turned it on). By hitting the Enable button, you’ll then download the KCR Chrome app. Once installed, you can now right-click on a book and select to download it. Once downloaded, you can then switch from Cloud mode to Downloaded (offline) mode and you’ll see the book there for you to read even without an internet connection. Here is the huge caveat: You Must Be Logged In to KCR Prior to Reading a Book in Offline Mode!

What this means is that you must be connected to an internet connection to first log in to KCR because your library will simply not load without it. Once you are logged in, you can only then download and pin the book. After that, you may then disconnect from the connection and read the downloaded book. If you can’t find an internet connection, then you’re stuck because there’s no way to load your library, cloud mode or downloaded mode, without it. This doesn’t make sense at all and hopefully will be fixed in the future, assuming this is not by design. Also, I notice that the books I download will completely disappear from the Downloaded tab as soon as I log out!

Offline Mode
Final Words

Make no mistake about it. Apple has waged war and now companies like Amazon and other content publishers are fighting back. This subject can definitely be a whole article by itself and indeed, the web has been buzzing the last couple of months about what Apple as done. No matter how you look at it, the bottom line question is this: Does Apple have the right to charge content publishers a 30% tax for each sale made through their app? I’ve read numerous comments and debates about this subject and I’ve come to the conclusion that no, they do not.

With KCR, Amazon circumvents Apple’s required tax law. How users react to this change remains to be seen. It is inconvenient to not be able to purchase items through an app but most users probably wouldn’t know about what went on behind the scenes to have Amazon do what they did. This is why a lot people are looking to Amazon to see how this affair plays out. KCR is an additional method supplied by Amazon to allow anyone to read their books no matter where they are. As of right now, KCR seems incomplete and that further reinforces my theory that they had to rush this out to the public. But given time, I’m sure Amazon can iron out the kinks with KCR. Besides, this whole issue is bigger than just KCR itself. Amazon may have started a movement against Apple that may continue to pick up speed so who knows what’s going to happen in the future?

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