Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm.

Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader: A nice complement, but not an app replacement

Amazon launched the Kindle Cloud Reader yesterday, which is basically an HTML5 web version of its reader app. I spent a little while playing with it last night. A few thoughts:

  • It looks good — much better than the Amazon Cloud Player for music, which feels like a lost menu from Windows 98. I hope this is closer to what Amazon’s tablet UI will look like.
  • It feels okay, but not as good as a native app. Scrolling feels particularly sloppy. (This is hard to do well, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.) Using the “back” button takes you out of the app. Etc.
  • It makes the case for HTML5 websites as a good complement to a native app strategy, but not a replacement for one. Given the choice, I would always rather use the native Kindle iPad app than the Kindle Cloud Reader. But if I want to read something on someone else’s iPad or on a platform that doesn’t have a Kindle app yet, this is a good alternative.
  • One big problem is discovery: There’s no good way to learn that this thing exists. Sure, Amazon can promote it on its homepage, and now I’ll always know to look for it. But there isn’t a centralized directory of HTML5 web apps that people know to visit, or a standardized “tear off our HTML5 app” workflow on websites. The App Store is the logical place to search for apps, and that’s a big reason why HTML5 websites are not yet suitable app replacements.
  • And, sorry, but this isn’t something Amazon made because Apple made it take the “Kindle Store” button out of the iPad app. It’s Amazon’s job to make the best reader available for every platform that it makes sense to build for, regardless of politics. This isn’t about some battle with Apple.

Related: How Apple is forcing a worse user experience on its customers