Earlier this month Amazon released a browser-based version of its Kindle reading software. Called the Kindle Cloud reader, the software allows anyone to read their Kindle books in almost any browser.
The move is perhaps a little surprising and yet it’s not. But most importantly it could point the way forward for web publishing in general, a world beyond the app store and focused on the web.
The release of the cloud reader for Kindle is surprising insofar as it removes the need to own an actual Kindle reader. On the other hand it’s not that surprising because Amazon already provides an Android- and iPad-based version of its reading software and in doing so removes most of the barriers to buying Kindle books.
And by releasing a browser-based version of the Kindle software, which requires no downloading and installing, removes the last barriers to buying and reading Kindle books. Now users no longer need a specific device to read Kindle books. Any device (PC, laptop, tablet PC) with an internet connection will do.
There’s more, however. What really makes this move by Amazon significant is that it is a defining example of how media companies can move beyond the constraints of the app store to the freedom of the web.
Using the ever-improving capabilities of HTML5 Amazon’s Cloud Reader is an almost exact replica of its other apps for Android and iPad. But available to users without ever needing to visit an app store, such as Apple’s one.
Not only that but it also means that Amazon remains in control of its own store. It no longer has to pass purchases through Apple’s store for which it is charged 30% of sales. Earlier this year Apple updated its licence terms to require retailer to only allow purchases through its app store.
Amazon eventually caved in to these demands in July and removed the link to its own Kindle store in favour of passing sales through Apple platform.
Now, however, with a web-based version of its Kindle software there is no requirement to play to Apple’s rules. iPad users are able to access their Kindle books without needing to check in with Apple’s app store.
Clearly for Amazon the move to an HTML5-based software for Kindle was brought on by Apple’s restrictive terms but it is part of a growing momentum within the media sector towards web-based apps as opposed to platform-specific apps.
The Financial Times is another that has moved to bypass the Apple store. The FT recently released a web-based version of its app which looks almost identical to the iPad version but is free of app store restraints.
There are many other publications looking to do the same because of a number of advantages the HTML5 approach offers. In an interview on its website the FT points out that one of the main advantages is that publishers don’t have to create multiple apps for different platforms. A single HTML version can conceivably serve all platforms.
HTML is still evolving as a standard but as it does it becomes increasingly attractive to publishers looking to create an app-like experience without the restrictions of having to service multiple app stores and multiple platforms.