Amazon announced its latest attempt to the cloud reading market, Kindle Cloud Reader, that delivers the popular Kindle book collection to the web for all reading lovers. As a Kindle user for almost 3 years, I truly like the e-reading tool and the convenience it brought to me. Does Kindle Cloud Reader offer the same enjoyable experience? Let’s find it out.
How to Use Kindle Cloud Reader
Same as other popular web apps, you can find Kindle Cloud Reader in Chrome Web Store. Just go to the following link to install it.
Alternatively, you can directly buy books or ask for sample chapter from Amazon and order it be sent to the Cloud Reader via Amazon. You would be brought to the book you downloaded rightaway.
A third way to use it is to go the its web site directly: https://read.amazon.com/. Unfortunately it supports Chrome and Safari only.
The first time you open it, a getting started window appears, telling you that you can download your e-books for offline reading. This is a cool feature because you can keep reading even if there is no WiFi connection nearby or you run out of the 3G data plan for your Chromebook.
The bookshelf is as simple as it could be. All books you bought are shown with the cover, title and author’s name. What you see are my collection, Stieg Larsson’s millennium trilogy that I bought last year and the user’s guide for my Kindle. Click on a book cover to start reading it.
The reading pane is simple and clean too. Down below is a progress bar that indicates your position in the book. You can adjust the slider to jump within different parts of the book easily. Flip pages by clicking the left and right arrow on the left and right. Your reading progress is synchronized to the cloud, so you can always resume reading from the same paragraph on all Kindle devices (Kindle, Android, iOS and cloud reader).
Up on the top are setting buttons. The one next to the Kindle logo closes the book and takes you back to your bookshelf. The arrow is a back button. If you jumped from one section to another, you can always go back if you found that you landed on the wrong place. Next to it is the navigation button where you can find hyperlinks to the cover, table of contents, beginning or a particular location. If you haven’t used Kindle before, you may wonder what location is. Since the font size varies according to user’s preference, the layout on each device would be difference. There is no way a Kindle book to have definite page numbers. Location is used to indicate the position in a book instead.
Next to navigation is display setting. Here you can adjust the font size, background colour and margin width. Changes could be previewed before apply.
To the right of the display setting button is bookmark button. Click on it to insert/remove bookmark. A bookmarked “page” (which is location in effect) is shown with a blue mark on the top right corner. You can find a list of bookmarks in the current book by clicking the small icon on the top right corner adjacent to the blue bookmark.
The last icon is synchronization. You use it to sync your progress to the cloud to keep every Kindle device of you at the same location.
Loading a book in Kindle Cloud Reader is fast. For my millennium trilogy (which is roughly the same as other paperback novels in terms of length), it took only a few seconds. Kindle does not blow the whole thing up in one go. It gradually loads the book in the background. If you jump from the beginning to the end, it will take another few seconds to load. But overall the speed is fast.
I like the dictionary look-up function on Kindle, Android and iOS Kindle apps very much. On Kindle, you look up the meaning of a word by moving the cursor to that word. On Android and iOS devices, you simply tap on the word. This function is absent in Kindle Cloud Reader.
Another important function is note-taking. While I can select texts and clip to a clipping file on Kindle, there is no way I can select any text on the reading pane in Kindle Cloud Reader, let alone copying or saving.
Since early 2010 Amazon added a social element to Kindle. You can let your friend know what book you are reading and share quotes via Twitter and Facebook, right on the Kindle. I can’t believe that Kindle Cloud Reader, which is a HTML5 web-based app, does not have this function! This is simply insane.
The Cloud Reader is purely a reader. Unlike its counterparts, you cannot buy books directly through this reader. You have to buy from Amazon bookstore and ask Amazon to send the book to your Cloud Reader.
Amazon should also re-think its launch strategy. Why would it limit the Cloud Reader to two supported browsers only? Now you can only run it on Chrome and Safari (including iPad’s Safari). It’s smooth on iPad, the user interface is well-designed for touch input. But you can’t run this Cloud Reader on the Safari on iPhone and iPod. And Android tablets just can’t use it.
The user interface is good. The screen is neat, tidy and stylish. It’s a nice experience to use Kindle Cloud Reader. However, unless the above drawbacks are fixed, I think Kindle Cloud Reader is just a ebook reader with good user control, but not an impressive one. It is a bonus to Kindle owners, but it can hardly get new customers on board.