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First Look: Amazon Launches Kindle iPhone App

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
This afternoon Ian Freed, the *Amazon* VP for Kindle, told me books in the e-book format would be available "soon" on other devices. What he didn't say is that "soon" was tomorrow, as in Wednesday. That's when the free Kindle app showed up in the iPhone App Store for use on iPhones and iTouchesmaking all 240,000-plus titles available on the smaller devices, according to the New York Times. (See my "first look: after the jump.) This deal, and others, have been expected since Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) said the Kindle 2 would include a feature called "Whispersync" that allows a user to read the same book seamlessly across multiple devices.

Freed: "We're really excited to expand the ability for customers to get access to over 240,000 books ... I'm really excited about being able to offer that to customers on other devices. But nothing to talk about today."  Pressed, he added, "I would say it would be coming soon." True that.

More after the jump...

Not to be confused with the wireless Whispernet service provided by *Sprint*, Whispersync is a major step in liberating a Kindle book or publication from the proprietary device but designed in such a way that Kindle 2 remains the optimal place to read it. Freed: "We think everybody who likes to read should have a Kindle, it's just so ideally designed for reading and we think for those customers that other devices would be a great companion." In Freed's scenario, he's home reading something on his Kindle for 90 minutes or so, makes what is supposed to be a quick trip to the grocery store, winds up in a long line and whips out another device that lets him pick up from the last stopping point for a 10-minute session, heads home and starts reading his Kindle again with no gap.

Unlike Whispernet, Whispersync doesn't have to be exclusive. Freed explains: "Nearly every smartphone available has the development environment and even some phones that are not considered smartphones, have, for example, the ability to develop Java apps, so theoretically any of those platforms is open to anything, whether it's us building a Kindle application or it's *ESPN* building a sports ticker application. ... There's no limitation on that."

First look: It took me less than 2 minutes to get to the iPhone app store, search for Kindle, find Kindle on iPhone and get it started. (The slowest step is having to log in manually to iTunes to download an app.) In less then five minutes, I was signed in to my Amazon account and had access to the dozens of books in my archive. I quickly retrieved Appetite for Self-Destruction by Steve Knoepper from the archive and it opened where I left it. The text is clear but you can't use multi-touch to zoom; instead, just as on the Kindle device, you select from a series of type sizes and it changes. I can go back to the cover and table of contents of that book; if I pick, "furthest point read" it pinpoints my location and tells me which device I was using and what time and date it was when I last dipped in. What I can't do is access the things I might most want to read in short bursts: my subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and blogsall limited to one Kindle. And so far, no Speech-to-Text so at least Roy Blount, Jr. should be happy.

By Staci D. Kramer