Saturday, July 31, 2010

Software Review: The iPhone/iPod Touch Kindle App by Amazon.com

The Internet has really transformed how we work and play.  One thing I'm really grateful for is connecting with all sorts of like-minded people; especially other mom bloggers.  Recently, one mom blogger in particular, Karrie over at Mommatudes, posted questions to her followers about e-readers.   E-readers have really caught on, and more and more people are looking into investing in one.  Obviously, the choices can be a bit overwhelming.

Several months ago, I blogged about my favorite "Mom-friendly" apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch that I really love; ones in particular that helped me reduce my carbon footprint.  My top favorite back then and still to this day is the Kindle app from Amazon.com for my iPod Touch.  This amazing app turns your PC, iPod/iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, or Android device into an e-reader.   Did I mention that it's also free? ;)

Karrie posed a lot of great questions for current e-reader owners, and I took the time to answer them from the perspective of a user of an e-reader app for a multifunctional device.  Below is my reply to Karrie's post, along with a few more expanded details.

Great post, and good questions.  My husband and I used "e-readers" long before the phrase even existed.  We've carried smart phones for years, and there have always been various text readers that would integrate on those devices.  Hubby and I read a lot, and just like we enjoy having the convenience of only needing to carry one device to manage all of our communications needs, it's worked out perfectly, being able to tote along "books" in the same way.

1. Do you own an eReader.  If so, what brand?

My husband carries around an Android-based Google Nexus One phone, and uses one of the Android-based readers.

I don't use my cell phone as much as I used to, so I carry around one of the "free" flip phones, and do my e-reading (and Facebooking, e-mailing, Twittering, checking my calendar, compiling my grocery list, battling vampires, farming zombies, etc) on my iPod Touch.  I downloaded the Kindle app from Amazon for the iPod Touch, and that is truly my absolute favorite app!  It's also free, and available for PCs, Blackberries, iPhone, iPad, and Android phones as well.

2. If you do not own an eReader, would you like to purchase one in the near future?  If so, what brand?  If not, why not?

Just like my favorite Food Network star, Alton Brown, we don't believe in "uni-taskers".  First, e-readers are not small, and certainly don't fit in my purse or pocket.  Second, you are then "married" to the store where you bought that e-reader (If you have a Kindle, you can only buy from Amazon; a Nook, from B&N, etc.)  With my iPod Touch, I can download other e-reader apps, including B&N’s Nook app, and Apple iBooks, and not be locked into one provider, and I can take advantage of the best e-book prices.  At the end of the day, my iPod Touch does so much more than show me the text of books, and price-wise, I think it's a better bang for your buck.

Still, if I had to choose a standalone e-reader, it would be a Kindle, because I have so many Kindle books already.  However, the Kindle is NOT backlit, and I do most of my reading in bed, right before falling asleep. I’m also not sold on the “e-ink” technology, that it would justify buying a standalone device that does nothing but show me text, albeit crisper text.  I’ve been a computer geek since age 13, and reading from a screen is second-nature.  I'm very happy with the display output on my second-generation iPod Touch, and I'm sure if and when I upgrade to my next iPhone or iPad with the new retina-display technology, my e-books will look even better.

Also, FYI: I recently tried to purchase e-books at B&N for the iPod Touch Nook app.  What an absolutely frustrating experience.  If you don't believe me, try out the Kindle e-books site first, and then browse around on B&N's.  There is absolutely no comparison between how well Amazon has their Kindle store laid out, versus B&N's, which is clumsy, lacks the same at-a-glance reviews and details, and doesn't have the same categorization.  After selecting a few titles at B&N, I actually got so frustrated that I abandoned my cart in the middle of the checkout process.   Did I mention that I have a bachelor's degree in IT management, and minored in e-business? The Internet is my life.  With that being the case, I can confidently say that in the e-book world, Amazon leaves B&N eating their dust.

3. What features are most important to you in an eReader?

Portability, ease of use, text quality, wide range of selection of books at reasonable prices.

4. If you have an eReader, are you going to upgrade to another brand or a newer eReader soon?

As the Kindle apps all "talk" to your Amazon account, you can start reading one book on one device (say, your PC), and then pick up your Kindle, or iPod, or Blackberry, and continue right where you left off. 

With that being the case, sometimes I would like to have a larger screen to read on, like when I'm lounging outside on my deck.  I will most likely invest in an iPad down the road, when the prices come down, and my Kindle books will easily sync between my iPod and iPad, and know exactly where I left off, without a hitch.  Many of my favorite magazines are now available on Kindle, and having a larger screen to enjoy those would be great (and would save more trees).  The iPad will have the same multipurpose functionality like my iPod Touch.  Eventually, my iPod Touch will be replaced with an iPhone, if and when T-Mobile has them on their network.

5. What do you love most about your eReader? (Pls mention brand)

I love my iPod Touch Kindle app, as I buy so much from Amazon already.  All of my e-books are tied to the same, already-established account.  I also love that I don't need any wires or special software to transfer e-books to and from my iPod.  In fact, I can sit here at my PC, browse Amazon for some new books (and there are TONS of free ones, and very cheap ones), and with a couple clicks, they are ready for my iPod.  Then the next time I turn on my iPod and start the Kindle app, it automatically (and wirelessly) checks my Kindle account for anything new, and within minutes, my new books are ready to go!  Deleting old books is easy, with a couple taps, and they still remain tied to my Kindle account, should I ever want to read them again.

I'm also the GreenOrganicMama, so how could I not love that no trees were harmed in the production of my books ;)  No shipping/freight/emissions were involved either; save for the running of the computers involved. 

6. What do you most dislike about your eReader? (Pls mention brand)

I admit it; I'm a member of the spelling/grammar police.  There are the occasional typos in e-books that make me nuts.  LOL! 

I'm a HUGE Sookie Stackhouse fan, and I'm a little irked that I had to pay $12.99 for the latest and greatest installment, and it was very late coming out on Kindle.  Apparently, that was something to do with the fee structure that Amazon pays to the publisher.  So, the most you'll pay for a Kindle book is no longer $9.99, though there are still plenty of books to be had for less than $4, including recent bestsellers.  I also enjoy that Amazon lets you “Send a Sample”, which sends the entire first chapter of that e-book to your device for free!  
Amazon is also very good about updating their special deals frequently.  I noticed the Apple iBooks app doesn’t seem to keep up as such.

One final beef would be that J. K. Rowling, the amazing author of the beloved Harry Potter books, flat out refuses to bring Harry Potter into the e-book world.  I know she’s made her oodles of money already, and anything else she might make from e-book sales would be just a drop in the bucket, but she is losing out.  Amazon just announced that Kindle book sales have surpassed hardback copy sales.  Muggles don’t enjoy books in the same way they used to.  The Hogwarts Express needs to leave the station. 

7. How much are you willing to spend on an eReader? Or how much have you spent on an eReader?

My second-generation iPod Touch was $183, and the Kindle app is free, as are many of the other e-reader apps.  If I could do it all over again, I'd still choose the iPod Touch, over a Kindle.  Price-wise, they are almost the same.  Functionally, they are worlds apart.  While e-books are here to stay, sadly, just like many cell phones have taken the place of the standalone GPS, the standalone e-reader will soon be a thing of the past, too.  With my iPod Touch, I couldn't be happier with having this little multifunctional "mini computer", complete with my library of books in my pocket, at my disposal :) 

Karrie, hope you find the e-reader/app that suits you best :)




No promotional consideration was paid for this post. 
eReader questions were posed by Mommatudes.com. Responses are based on my personal purchases.
Image courtesy of Amazon.com.

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