Amazon launches free Kindle Cloud Reader app for Web browsers

Will initially support Safari and Chrome for instant book reading; others coming

Amazon today introduced the free Kindle Cloud Reader application, which allows users to access Kindle books instantly from a Web browser without needing to download the book first.

The application is available online now for the Safari browser on the iPad or a desktop and on the Chrome browser, and will be available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, the BlackBerry PlayBook browsers and others in coming months, Amazon said in a statement.

Dorothy Nicholls, director of Amazon Kindle, said the cloud reader concept fits into Amazon's effort to allow users to buy a book once and read it everywhere.

The cloud application is based on HTML5 and optimizes the reading device or computer being used. Even though the book can be read instantly, it is still stored locally for offline reading, Amazon said. Bookmarks, notes and highlights are also stored and the reader automatically syncs to a user's personal Kindle library and last page read.

The Kindle Store has more than 950,000 Kindle books, many of them free. Amazon already makes a variety of best-selling Kindle e-reader devices, with the Kindle with Special Offers model starting at $114. Those devices require a download via wireless cellular or Wi-Fi, unlike the Kindle Cloud Reader concept introduced today. However, Kindle books can be read on tablets such as the iPad, iPhones, PCs, Macs, Android phones and BlackBerry devices.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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