Kindle for BlackBerry Review

By Jonathan Spira on 18 February 2010
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Earlier today, released Kindle for BlackBerry, a program for reading eBooks on BlackBerry devices.  The software is available free from Amazon’s Web site (it is not available, however, from the BlackBerry App World store) bold with kindleand allows users to read books (Kindle newspapers, magazines, and blogs are not yet accessible by this app) purchased on the Web, via a Kindle eBook reader, or via the BlackBerry device itself.  I downloaded it to a BlackBerry Bold 9700 shortly after it first became available.

The app makes excellent use of the Bold’s small screen and I found the books I purchased and sampled easy to read.  I found the BlackBerry’s backlit screen to be a great improvement over the Kindle’s (although the Kindle’s is significantly larger, of course).  One can change the font size to get more text on screen or to make the text easier to read.  To flip pages, hit the space bar.  The user can also scroll up and down using either the pearl trackball or touch-sensitive optical trackpad found in newer BlackBerry models.

Shopping on line for books is easy.  The search function in the store is fast and one can also navigate directly to New York Times best sellers, Kindle best sellers, books Amazon calls “new and noteworthy,” and a personalized list of books created by Amazon’s recommendation engine.screen

For one book, I accidentally clicked on “purchase” instead of “sample” and, while there is no cancel option in the BlackBerry application, a quick call to Amazon’s customer service cancelled the purchase.  The book then disappeared from my home screen.

This is the one place where the interface on the BlackBerry could use some work, namely in better highlighting the “Try a sample” button (versus the purchase button).

One significant usability flaw, which one hopes will be remedied in future versions, is that there is no search functionality from within the book.  In addition, while one can create bookmarks within the app, one can view – but not create – annotations created on a Kindle or Kindle for iPhone.

Based on what Amazon has mentioned publicly, the company doesn’t believe that the free application will cannibalize sales of the dedicated Kindle device but sees it as complementary.  Indeed, Amazon just announced plans for Mac and iPad versions of the Kindle software.

Many Kindle device owners love their readers but I never warmed up to the device, even in its improved form.  But for those who own a Kindle, Amazon’s Whispersync service will keep track of where one is on either device and synchronize the two.  Books purchased on the Kindle are automatically available on the BlackBerry device as well.storm kindle

For business travelers who regularly use a compatible BlackBerry smartphone (or Apple iPhone or iPod touch for that matter), the Kindle app may turn out to be the best eBook reader while travelling.  The reading experience, while not book-like, is pleasant, the software is free, and the books themselves are far less expensive than the original paper versions.

While the Kindle device has more storage for books and a larger screen, with its case it weighs 500 grams (18 ounces) and has a footprint of a hardcover book.   Why carry yet another device – or spend an additional $299?

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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