Kindle for iOS review: A great e-reader with one catch

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Kindle for iOS lets you read sample chapters in the latest version and offers a built-in dictionary for quick reference. You also have the the Send to Kindle feature for saving items from around the Web.

The Bad Apple's rules prohibit a dedicated e-book store, and it's hard to keep track of your bookmarks.

The Bottom Line Kindle for iOS is a rock-solid e-reader for anyone already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, but it's harder to browse and buy books than it is with the native iBooks app.


7.8 Overall
  • Features and Support 8.0
  • Installation and Setup 8.0
  • Interface 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

Kindle for iOS is an excellent e-reader app that seamlessly ties to your Amazon account. The latest version comes with new book samples that let you read the first chapter of any book before buying, and lets you download third-party dictionary apps for looking up definitions while you read.

Unfortunately, Apple's stringent App Store rules against apps that compete with iBooks mean you'll still need to buy books through Amazon's Web site instead of from a dedicated e-book store within the Kindle app. Luckily, the process is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and you can download the first chapter for free.

Obviously, the workarounds don't make for an ideal user experience, but it's also not too much trouble, and having the power of both iBooks and Amazon is worth learning the process. The Kindle app also comes with a few bells and whistles to enhance your overall mobile reading experience.

The app opens up to the Home screen, which is entirely blank on first launch, with no best-seller lists, and other curated content like you would find in iBooks or Kindle on other devices. The Home screen will not be blank if you have books already tied to your Amazon account, and you can select to view the covers as thumbnails or in a list. From here, you can either tap a book to go inside or long-press to delete it from your library. Across the top you have buttons to sort by all your items, just books, your newsstand, or the docs you have saved to the Amazon cloud.

Like I said above, if you want to expand your library, the best way is to use your Web browser then transfer the books to your iOS device. However, you can touch a magnifying glass in the upper left that lets you search for books and -- in this latest version -- download a sample that has roundabout purchase options at the end. Along with books, magazines, and newspapers, the Kindle app offers illustrated children's books, comics, and graphic novels. All let you preview the first chapter of any book before buying.

Kindle for iOS
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The Kindle app will prepopulate an e-mail to send to yourself. From there you can check your e-mail, touch the link, then buy the book. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

While you read
Kindle's in-book experience is as straightforward as it gets. To turn the page, simply swipe or tap somewhere in the margin. A tap to the center of the page brings up a status bar along the bottom with location information and a slider if you want to skip ahead or back in the book. There's also buttons at the top of your screen, in case you want to change text size, brightness, margins, line spacing, or background color. For now, the Kindle app offers only black, white, and sepia (my favorite) background options, but hopefully Amazon will add other textures and colors in the future.

The open book icon at the top of the screen lets you quickly go to the cover, beginning of the book, table of contents, or choose the exact location in the book you want. You'll also find a listing here for Book Extras, which are community-curated factoids (think Wikipedia) that are meant to provide readers with helpful information as they read.

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