Early last month Amazon dropped hints that its Kindle-formatted e-books would soon become available on a range of mobile phones, leading to speculation that the iPhone and iPod touch could be included. Wednesday's announcement means Amazon has joined Google's Book Search in the iPhone marketplace.
"We are excited to bring the new Kindle application to Apple's App Store and think customers are going to love how easy and fun it is to read their Kindle books on the iPhone and iPod touch," said Amazon Kindle vice president Ian Freed. "Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch is a great way for customers to catch up on their current book wherever they are, like in line at the grocery store or between meetings."
Like on the Kindle device itself, the iPhone app (App Store link) lets users add bookmarks and adjust the text size of digital books. Amazon says it will also allow iPhone owners to "view notes and highlights" that were created on the Kindle. Unfortunately, annotations cannot be created on the app.
Since all purchased Kindle books are linked to an Amazon account, users of the iPhone app must purchase new ebook titles through Amazon.com using a web browser, or make purchases directly on the Kindle. Those titles can then be pulled into the Kindle iPhone app the next time it's launched. In all, Amazon advocates "hundreds of thousands" of ebooks to choose from.
The app uses Amazon's Whispersync technology, meaning the place where the reader stopped is automatically synced to every device. This allows Kindle customers to read a few pages on their iPhone or iPod touch and then pick up right where they left off on their Kindle or Kindle 2.
This intention to sell more Kindles is made clear on the App Store description: "Books you purchase can also be read on Kindle and Kindle 2, Amazon's portable readers that wirelessly download books, newspapers, magazines and blogs to a crisp, high-resolution 6-inch electronic-paper display that looks and reads like real paper."
According to the AP, Freed sees the app as a way to introduce non-Kindle owners to the device while at the same time giving Kindle owners another way to read their content.
He said Amazon has been working on the app for several months. One advantage the iPhone has over the Kindle is books intended to be seen in color can be displayed that way. The Kindle's screen is capable of only showing only 16 shades of gray.
On the other hand, the iPhone version lacks text-to-speech and the larger Kindle screen. The iPhone and iPod touch are the first mobile devices to get Kindle access.