Amazon's "Kindle for iPhone" sets ebooks free from your Kindle

Kindle iPhone appIt didn’t take long for Amazon to make good on its promise to expand into mobile territory. Last week, only a couple of weeks after releasing the Kindle 2, an official app showed up on the iTunes App Store that allows you to read your Kindle ebooks (but not mags or newspapers) on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Here’s a first look at how the app works, including what it does well and doesn’t do at all.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, is that for the first time, customers who don’t own a Kindle can purchase Kindle ebooks. This throws open the doors of the Kindle bookstore to millions more customers. What doesn’t change, of course, is the fact that the titles remain DRM-shackled. But for the savvy user who knows how to remove the DRM, you suddenly have access to what’s still the cheapest ebook store on the planet. For now, at any rate.

(Update: it looks like as of this weekend, Amazon has pulled down the serial number from your “Manage My Kindle” page, which you need in order to remove the DRM. However, it also looks like some clever readers have already figured out another way to locate it.)

You may have noticed that Amazon is only extending the service to iPhone/iPod Touch users right now, which I think indicates that its real reason to release the app isn’t to benefit customers but to squash iPhone competitors like Stanza, which sucked up a lot of publicity as a “Kindle killer” late last year. In fact, no other mobile platform has been released (although Bezos says this is just the first of several). Tellingly, a PC or java-for-mobile-devices version wasn’t released first, which would likely have been of benefit to a greater number of customers–but wouldn’t have the same effectiveness at drawing publicity, or at winning the PR battle for ebooks on the Apple platform.

“First Look: Amazon Launches Kindle iPhone App” [Washington Post]
“Is Amazon’s Kindle iPhone app crippled or companion? CFO says companion” [ZDNet]
“Comparing Kindle 2 with Kindle’s iPhone app” [Crave]

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