What is it? A very basic e-book reader app that syncs up to your Amazon account to access the Kindle books you’ve purchased. You can’t buy books directly from the app, but you can via a computer or the iPhone’s Safari browser (or a Kindle). Good enough.
We downloaded the app, and within a few moments, we were synced up to the exact page in Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” where we left off last night on the Kindle we’re borrowing from Amazon (AMZN). This is the “Whispersync” feature Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been talking about that lets you read Kindle e-books across a variety of gadgets without losing your place in a book.
The Kindle app isn’t as polished (or full-featured) as some other iPhone e-books we’ve seen, such as Scrollmotion’s. But it’s clean and not offensive, so for many people, it will be enough. And because Amazon subsidizes Kindle book sales, and has the most leverage with publishers, it has (and could always have) the best selection and pricing.
So what will this mean for Kindle sales? And e-book sales? Reading a book on an iPhone isn’t ideal, but we think it could suffice for some people. So there could be some cannibalization of Kindle device sales, and the e-book sales that go along with Kindles. Or perhaps people will try one Kindle book on their iPhones and rush to buy a Kindle. Either is possible.
We also think — based on the fact that there are likely 10-15 million iPhones and iPod touches in the U.S., and fewer than 1 million Kindles — that Amazon could see a boost in e-book sales from this app.
We don’t plan to buy a Kindle until they’re much cheaper. But we could see ourselves buying Kindle titles for our phone in the meantime. (An Amazon exec told the WSJ he doesn’t expect people to read for more than 20-30 minutes on the iPhone. But those 20 minutes on the subway are about the only reading time many of us ever get!)
Amazon’s long-term goal isn’t just to sell Kindle devices, but to become the dominant e-book platform the way it’s become the dominant online bookstore. That’s where the profits are going to come from. Opening up to the iPhone and other devices — how about a Web-based Kindle reader? — can only help.