What’s the point of Google’s new FastFlip reader? Not to change the way you read news on the Web — it’s too ugly and simplistic for that.
But because it loads pages very fast — and requires minimal effort to navigate — it could be useful for portable devices. Specifically, tablet-like gadgets with 3G modems that could compete with Amazon’s Kindle.
This could represent Google’s latest attack on Amazon’s e-reader business. Google also operates a giant book scanning operation, and it provides over 1 million free e-books to some readers — such as Sony Reader devices — that compete with Amazon’s paid e-books.
What’s FastFlip’s edge? Because FastFlip’s “stories” are just single image files, there’s no need to render text and multiple image files per page. Just load and go. (And, wow, Google put no effort into rendering antialiased text in a way that looks good. Apple’s default system text looks much better.) To zoom around, you just touch the screen or push the left/right buttons on a keypad.
That could be ideal on a device with limited processing power and/or a slow Internet connection — say, a touchscreen tablet running Google’s Chrome OS. With full-colour graphics, it’s instantly a better newspaper- or magazine-reading experience than a Kindle, which is grayscale and has an awkward user interface.
And while Google’s contextual ads — offered to publishers via FastFlip — are not famous for being big money-makers, they could easily be as profitable (or more profitable) than the crappy 30% revenue cut from Amazon’s Kindle subscriptions.
There’s a lot of time between now and whenever a reader-sized tablet running Google Chrome OS or Android hits the market. (Or an Apple tablet, or whatever.) But we could see FastFlip being one of the featured apps in Google’s mobile operating systems. And it’d instantly give today’s Kindle a run for its money — at least as far as periodicals are concerned.