By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm
Amazon.com, whose first pass at putting Kindle e-books on the iPhone was simultaneously amazing and disappointing, has released a new version of its iPhone app. It’s still not the ultimate iPhone e-reader, but it sh0ws welcome influence from the excellent Stanza (recently bought by Amazon).
Four new features make it worth checking out, and one of them is important enough to turn iPhone Kindle from an app I almost never user to one I’ll use frequently when I have time to kill.
New feature #1 is the ability to read in landscape mode (with a lock that lets you prevent yourself from accidentally jumping from landscape to portrait orientation, or vice versa–nice touch):
New feature #2 is the addition of two new color schemes: white text on a black background, and a sepiatone mode:
New feature #3 is the ability to pinch and stretch photos with multi-touch gestures (I don’t own enough Kindle tomes with pictures to know if the fuzzy quality shown below is typical or unusual):
I can’t show new feature #4, but it’s the one that has me excited. The original iPhone version of Kindle made you turn pages by swiping them with your finger or thumb. In theory, it was an approriately iPhone-esque way to handle things, but so few words fit on the iPhone at once that swiping through a book quickly gave me a sore thumb. In fact, it was such an unpleasant sensation that I pretty much avoided using the app.
In the new version, tapping on the right or left edge of the page flips you forward or backward, respectively. Much better. I still think Amazon could have handled this even better–you’ve got to make sure you touch the edge, since tapping closer to the middle brings up the app’s options and settings. But I’m grateful to have a version of the app that doesn’t feel–to me, at least–like an ergonomic disaster.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the best iPhone e-reader by far remains the wonderous Classics. It offers only a small library of public-domain works, but its typography is far more elegant and readable than that of either Kindle or Stanza. Maybe Amazon should buy it next, and bolt its elegant front end onto the current Kindle app’s underpinnings?