Finally, Android Kindle fans can rejoice! Today Amazon announced Kindle for Android, and it’s live and free in the Android Marketplace. Is it worthwhile, either as a companion to a Kindle or as your primary ebook source on your smartphone? Read on for my quick review and find out!
First off, the app is fast. After the initial setup, I selected a book to download to my Droid and it not only downloaded extremely quickly but opened at the place where was I last reading on my Kindle. It’s a minor thing but I like that the book opens as soon as it downloads since it saves a step in between going back to your library and selecting the book yourself.
I also tested the “shop in kindle store” feature and found that to be equally quick. Yes, it’s just the Amazon mobile storefront, but checkout was easy, and my book was on my device and ready to go in no time at all.
So once the book has been downloaded, how does it look? In a word, excellent. The text is clear and bright, and the settings offer a few options I consider to be essential in a smartphone ebook app. For starters, you can adjust the font size (though you cannot change the font). It also offers three background colors; white, sepia, and black. Black is for night-time reading, where the words are illuminated instead of the background, while white vs sepia is more designed for whichever background is more soothing on your eyes. I also love that they included a brightness slider. With high-resolution, bright screens, it really helps to have the option to tone down the brightness to avoid eyestrain.
Navigating books is super easy. Swipe left and right to turn pages, hit the menu key to access Go To, bookmarks, View Options, Sync, and Home. The app IS accelerometer aware, so it will flip between landscape and vertical depending on how you hold your phone. Also, if your phone has a trackball or a d-pad, you can use it to move between pages! This makes me very happy. I love reading ebooks with the d-pad slid out on my Droid, it makes a narrow, angular phone far more reading friendly.
There are a few things this app doesn’t have… yet. There’s no support for collections, and from what I can tell there’s no twitter/facebook integration. This is something that the recent Kindle update added but it is lacking in the Android app. Further, there’s no dictionary, highlighting or notation options (though you can view existing notes). All of these are minor points in an otherwise great Version 1 app. The important thing is that you can comfortably and easily purchase and read a book on the fly with your device now and that is a welcome addition to my eBook life.
If you already have a Kindle, this is a no-brainer. The app synced beautifully, and if you’re a fan of traveling light but reading on the go, you’ll love it. If you don’t already own an ebook reader, I still think this is your best bet for a mainstream ebook reading app. The Kobo app is far too limited by comparison. And while the B&N app might end up being fantastic, it’s also non-existent at the moment. When/if B&N releases an Android app, I’ll do a full head-to-head of the big three apps! But for now, the Kindle app is the hands-down winner, with the best mix of features and content.
You can check out Amazon’s Kindle for Android page here, and search “Kindle” in the Android marketplace to download the app for free!
What I Like: Fast; Access to Amazon’s large catalog; Viewing options let you adjust background and brightness.
What Needs Improvement: No dictionary support; No ability to change fonts; Limited background colors; Requires Android 1.6 or greater