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Free Kindle app comes to Android at last

Amazon released its free Kindle e-book reader for Android phones. It does the job, but will be much improved when the next wave of features hit.

Kindle, Android
Android users have been waiting a long time to see Kindle on their smartphones.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Android users who have been waiting a long time to see an app for Amazon's Kindle electronic book reader can stop waiting, and start downloading.

While a little plain and slim on features, the free Kindle app for Android--available starting Monday--does its job as an e-book reader. Once you fire it up, it lets you shop for new books or download books you already bought.

Since Kindle is about book sales, the app lets you buy e-books through Amazon's online Kindle Store, where works typically sell for about $10 a piece. You can also send yourself the first chapter for free until you decide if you want to go ahead and own the rest of the book. The Kindle app conveniently syncs up your selection wirelessly.

We'd prefer to search for or browse books directly from the the Kindle app, a feature that, according to Amazon's news release,  is coming in future versions, along with full text search.

Amazon's Kindle app for Android is similar to Kindle on other mobile operating systems, like the iPhone and BlackBerry, including support for both portrait and landscape orientations.

Unlike other e-readers, the Kindle reading pane is plain white by default, though the settings let you adjust brightness and font size, and choose a smooth sepia or black background if you're not a fan of the white. (We'd personally love to add other textures, like the crumpled paper or linen looks.)

The app's straightforward navigation have you tapping in the margins or swiping the sides to advance through the pages. Press the center of the page to remind yourself of the book's title or check out what percentage of the selection you've read. As with Kindle on other platforms, this app will remember where you put your bookmarks, though it would be nice if we could rename the bookmark, rather than try to remember the assigned location.

The Kindle app is available free from the Android Market. You can view a list of country support here (scroll down.)

Update, 3:30 p.m. PDT: We provided more details about the app's availability by country.