Amazon App lets iPhone users read Kindle e-books


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Amazon, in a bid to expand its book sales, this morning released a free application that lets iPhone and iPod Touch users read electronic books purchased at its online Kindle bookstore.

The software performs many of the same functions featured on Amazon’s $359 Kindle 2 reading device released last month, including bookmarking, noting, highlighting and adjusting the font size, the company said. There are, however, several notable differences.


The iPhone application does not have the Kindle’s read-aloud feature that garnered controversy when publishers and authors questioned whether the function violates audio book copyrights. The Seattle online merchant last week said it would let rights holders disable the feature.

The application also does not allow users to access the Kindle store directly from the application to shop among Amazon’s selection of more than 240,000 electronic book titles. Instead, users must access the store via the phone’s Web browser or from a computer.

Today’s move could cut into sales of the Kindle device, but it also greatly expands the number of customers who can buy Amazon’s books. Amazon has declined to disclose its Kindle sales, but analysts peg that number at fewer than half a million devices. Apple, by comparison, sold more than 13.7 million iPhones in 2008, according to ABI Research. That’s not counting millions of iPod Touch devices also in consumers’ hands.

But Amazon will have competition on those Apple devices. Lexcycle’s free Stanza application lets readers read electronic books purchased at online merchants such as eReader and Fictionwise, which has its own application called eReader. Both eReader and Fictionwise have more than 60,000 electronic book titles, some of which are free.

Digital book sales surged 68.4% last year even as growth in the overall book publishing business fell 2.4%, according to the American Assn. of Publishers.

-- Alex Pham