In a bid to increase its slice of the e-book market, the Seattle-based online retailer plans to roll out a free program Wednesday that brings several of the Kindle's functions to the iPod and iPhone's smaller screen.
The program, which can be downloaded from Apple's online application store, lets iPhone and iPod Touch users read the same electronic books, magazines and newspapers that Kindle owners can buy on Amazon.com. As with the Kindle, the iPhone app lets users change the text size on the screen, and add bookmarks, notes and highlights.
The application does not connect to the Kindle store, however, so users must access the Web browser on their iPhone, iPod or computer to buy the content.
If you happen to have a Kindle and an iPhone, Amazon's program will handily sync the two so you can keep your place in the same book on both devices.
The Kindle program isn't the first e-book reader for the iPhone, but it marks the first time Kindle content is available on a cell phone — a move Amazon recently said it would be making, and something that rival Google Inc. is also doing.
It arrives a few weeks after Amazon unveiled the second-generation Kindle, which has the same price tag as its predecessor but is skinnier and includes updated features like more storage space for books and a longer battery life.
Amazon has been working on the application for several months, said Ian Freed, who is Amazon's vice president for the Kindle. Freed said the company sees the software as a way to introduce non-Kindle owners to the device, potentially turning them into Kindle buyers. (Amazon does not say how many Kindles it has sold.) It also gives Kindle owners an additional way to read their content while on the go, he said.
He added that the new application will show books in color that were developed that way. This is unlike the Kindle 2, which has a 6-inch screen that only shows content in shades of gray.
The application does not include the text-to-speech feature Amazon built into the latest Kindle, which can read books aloud, sparking concerns among authors worried it would undercut separate audiobook sales. Amazon said Friday it will let copyright holders turn off text-to-speech on any book.