First things first: For those planning on using this with an iPad via Mobile Safari, make sure to click on the “Add to Home Screen” bookmark button to install a one-click Cloud Reader web app. You can, of course, use Mobile Safari instead — but you’ll be stuck with a visible toolbar if you do.
(Seems like something Amazon should make more clear.)
Cloud Reader also works with Chrome and Safari for Mac OS X, but let’s be real: This is about the iPad.
The first thing we noticed is that it’s not very stable — we’ve experienced crashes both in Mobile Safari and the Cloud Reader web app. (We’re using iOS Beta 5, so we suspect the crashing is beta related, more than anything else. We’ll have to wait and see if those running iOS proper have the same issues.) Scrolling and page turning and initial loads are definitely slower than in the native app, as well.
Not surprising, really: Welcome to the Cloud.
"Cloud" in Cloud Reader means that your books aren’t actually stored locally on your device. They’re loaded from Amazon’s servers, on the fly, as you read them. It is possible to download books for offline reading, but this is a book-by-book operation, and must be done in advance, or you’re out of luck.
Given all that, why use Cloud Reader instead of Amazon’s native app?
There’s an integrated Kindle store, and it’s way better than using Mobile Safari to browse the Kindle store on an iPad, because it’s “optimized” for tablets.
That’s it, really.
You can probably see where this is going: Apple recently put the kibosh on linking away to an app store for purchases, so Amazon hits back by releasing a web app that lives outside Apple’s App Store rules. (Feel free to insert the word “draconian” into that last sentence, if it’ll make you feel better.)
Pundits see this as Amazon’s salvo against Apple, but Apple has always supported (and even encouraged) web app development as an alternative to the “closed” nature of developing for the curated App Store. Native Apps are subject to Apple’s rules, web apps are not. This is no surprise attack. And, ultimately, it means that Kindle reading has a guaranteed home on the iPad. Burn! Apple must be so angry!
The upshot, though, is that Kindlers now have a decent buying experience on the iPad and Amazon now has a viable alternative to developing native iOS apps if’n ever they decide playing by Apple’s rules is more trouble than it’s worth.
Don’t hold your breath.