Hands-on: Kindle iOS app update is the most dramatic in years, and brings new reading tool...

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2017
Light mode and improvements to Page Flip are welcome but it's still the number of books available that make the latest version of Amazon's Kindle app for iPhone and iPad a must.




Even if you have never bought a Kindle device, you have one already: there's a Kindle app for Macs, iPhones and iPads. The newly updated Kindle 6.0.1 for iOS revamps the look and feel of the book-reading service and also tightens integration with Goodreads to get you recommendations from a community of fellow readers.

This Goodreads connection is currently only available to U.S. subscribers of the service. If that's you, though, then the new Kindle app adds an extra Community tab at the bottom of the screen. Tap that and you're off chatting inside the Goodreads service while staying within the Kindle app.




All other changes and improvements are available for every user. Of those, the most immediately visible one a small but very effective one: by default you now see a new Light Mode. Wherever you saw heavy black borders before, you now get white and the size of book covers has been increased.

There's no difference when you're actually reading a book: pages are still shown as white by default or optionally sepia. It's when you're in your library of books or searching for others that this Light Mode appears and appeals. It makes the app feel lighter, somehow, and a more pleasant reading experience.

The old Page Flip setting that animated pages turning as you flicked through a book has also had a small update but it's important. If you've ever looked at Page Flip and just switched the setting off, switch it back on now.

When you're on a page and skip back or forth, then Page Flip does what it always did. What's new comes when tap on the centre of the page and the book turns to a series of pages that you can scroll through faster. Then as soon as you do scroll to another page, the one you were reading gets permanently displayed as a thumbnail at the bottom left of your screen.




It looks like iOS 11's screenshot preview except that it stays there until you either tap it to return to your original page or pick a new one.

For non-fiction, it's a particularly great boon as you can skip back to remind yourself of a fact or of who is being interviewed. So long as you don't actually tap on a previous page, you can quickly read what you need and go right back to where you were.

Then for non-fiction or any illustrated book, you can now pull out to see several pages at once. Tap on the page to get that left-and-right scrollable view of pages and you also have a new button to display nine pages at a time in a grid.

The idea is that you can do this to quickly see which page has that Venn diagram or famous person's baby photograph on.




That's the theory but it's not entirely the practice. Previously, if you were reading a book that had a photo or any other image then Kindle might display its caption on the next page. That's not great but it becomes infuriating when sometimes you turn the page just to read the caption. You can find that when you turn back to carry on with the book, Kindle reflows all of the text and you have to hunt for where you'd got to on the page.

We say previously' because we can't prove whether this has been fixed or not: it depends on the book and it appears to depend on how adept the publisher is at creating the ebook file.

Yet other aspects of Kindle that make it less of a pleasant reading experience have remained the same. There has been a change to the formatting but it's the very tiniest alteration to the leading on a page.




On the left is the previous version of Kindle and in the center is the new version 6.0.1. To save you getting out a ruler, let us tell you that the text is slightly higher up the page in the updated version.

You do now get two more font options than you did before but the defaults remain the same.

The image on the right there is of the same book in Apple's iBooks and you can more clearly see the difference. Without appearing squashed, iBooks is showing more text at its default size. It's also got what readers will recognize as an actual chapter title where Kindle is displaying the same thing as a clickable weblink.

The iBooks version also keeps a page number at the bottom. Optionally, Kindle will display its equivalent but usually that equivalent remains the ridiculous Loc (for Location) instead of a page number.

We get that page numbers change when you alter the font size as you can on an ebook, but, still, come on. In all probability, nobody has ever called you and said you must read this fantastic passage at Loc 227 of 12816. If anyone's asked you how far you are through a book, you have never told them you're 71 percent of the way through.

The "Loc" insanity might be changing, though. We do have one Kindle book that limits this figure to when you've tapped on a page to scroll around the book. The rest of the time it displays an actual page number and whether that's the new Kindle app or a publisher working a minor miracle, we'll take it.

Except that even in this one book, Kindle still lacks another feature iBooks has always had with page numbers. Apple's iBooks will tell you "4 pages left in this chapter". We can't count the times we've been reading in the middle of the night and decided we'll just get to the end of this chapter specifically because we could see that figure.

So iBooks remains the more pleasant reading experience but Kindle 6.0.1 is much improved - and it still has dramatically more books than Apple's offering.

It's a shame that Apple's App Store-related fees essentially mean Kindle makes you buy ebooks at Amazon instead of directly within the app. Yet, when you've done that dance once or twice, you do get used to it and the sheer wealth of reading matter available is what makes Kindle a great iOS app.

Kindle 6.0.1 is free on the App Store for both iPhone and iPad.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,341member
    I don’t like the new white look quite frankly. I also don’t like the fact that my books are no longer in the listing. Now, only books gotten since the change show up, unless you were in the middle of a book when it was updated. It looks lousy goosy now.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    I got a Kindle after years waiting for Apple to care about readers. I thought by 2017 iPad would have an e-ink or reading mode.

    It’s nice because it’s easy on the eyes and “feels” like a book but it’s missing all the Apple touches you get from Apple. 
  • Reply 3 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    I'm not crazy about the new UI. I guess the previous wasn't anything to write home about, but this one hides commonly used items (like accessing your bookmarks, notes, etc.) and emphasizes the Goodreads, taking up space when we might not even ever use it. They also did a sloppy job in some area, like the settings page, where tops and bottoms of text are chopped off in areas.

    re: page number - Yes, that has been a mess since the start. Then they added 'real' page numbers for *some* books (probably from when the book was scanned?). It's too unreliable to really use, and seldom available when you need it (for example, citing when writing an academic paper). The Loc, as silly as it seems, is actually more universal and accurate for academic work.

    The problem is the reflow, and I'm not sure there is a better way to solve the problem. Even if you try to match to the print version, there are often several print versions of a book... so then we'd have to make sure we have an e-book to match each printing. The whole citation thing is a mess anyway... maybe the whole system should get some kind of overhaul some day.

    Oh, btw, I found this neat article for anyone who has wanted the text-to-speech feature on a real Kindle when using Kindle books on iOS or macOS.
    http://blog.the-ebook-reader.com/2015/02/19/how-to-enable-text-to-speech-on-ipad-iphone-for-kindle-ibooks-etc/

    If you combined this with Overcast's paid plan, you could easily turn books into audio-books and put them in your podcast library.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 4 of 19
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,900member
    I like both iBooks and Kindle and use both extensively. I agree with pretty much everything stated in this article, especially the lack of page numbers in Kindle being an annoyance. The Kindle light theme does nothing for me since I like to tone down the brightness in these apps.

    The biggest beef I have with Kindle is the variability in the enforcement of the maximum number of instances of each book allowed to be installed locally on reading devices, which includes all Kindle devices as well as Kindle apps. With a Prime subscription a number of books are no longer metered but some still are. Without a Prime membership even some free books are also metered, which seems rather odd to me.

    iBooks does not seem to apply any metering from what I can tell. But perhaps it does meter the number of installed copies for expensive journals and textbooks. Because of this metering difference I tend to purchase books that are available on both Apple and Amazon from iBooks unless the price difference is substantial.

    I suppose the Kindle metering limit is defined by the book's author or publisher. For my use cases I'd prefer that metering be done based on the number of simultaneously open instances of a book, as is the case for many floating software licenses. For me the maximum number of open books would hover very close to one (1) because I have multiple devices and tend to only use one device at a time. But I understand the reason why floating licenses would be a pain if you don't have an online connection to handle check-in and check-out tracking. Perhaps allowing customers to choose between floating use licenses instead of local install licenses would be a reasonable compromise. 
  • Reply 5 of 19
    Kindle’s “Loc xxx of x,xxx” is indeed ridiculous. It’s the sort of left-brained nonsense you get when programmers are in charge of UX. Loc isn’t useful to anybody. Guys like Bezos like to think of themselves as Jobs running Apple, but stuff like this reminds us that they aren’t. 
    macky the macky
  • Reply 6 of 19
    I can't see myself going back to Kindle until it picks up a scrolling mode like iBooks. 

    new icon is nice
    Oferdocno42
  • Reply 7 of 19
    Not a fan of hidden tools, but Amazon’s product is miles ahead if Apple. Apple wants everything locked in their ecosystem and is biased heavily to iOS.
  • Reply 8 of 19
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,341member
    Not a fan of hidden tools, but Amazon’s product is miles ahead if Apple. Apple wants everything locked in their ecosystem and is biased heavily to iOS.
    iBooks is much more pleasurable to read with. It’s hardly a contest.
    SpamSandwichdocno42
  • Reply 9 of 19
    Kindle’s “Loc xxx of x,xxx” is indeed ridiculous. It’s the sort of left-brained nonsense you get when programmers are in charge of UX. Loc isn’t useful to anybody. Guys like Bezos like to think of themselves as Jobs running Apple, but stuff like this reminds us that they aren’t. 
    Now it displays the page number along with percent and loc.

    Edit: but now a page may take two “screens” in my current font size. Weird.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Kindle’s “Loc xxx of x,xxx” is indeed ridiculous. It’s the sort of left-brained nonsense you get when programmers are in charge of UX. Loc isn’t useful to anybody. Guys like Bezos like to think of themselves as Jobs running Apple, but stuff like this reminds us that they aren’t. 
    Now it displays the page number along with percent and loc.

    Edit: but now a page may take two “screens” in my current font size. Weird.
    The display of page numbers is limited to books that support it (and the new Page Flip feature). I tried it on the books I'm reading and don't support it, then I tried it on Hunger Games, where it works. 
  • Reply 11 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    Kindle’s “Loc xxx of x,xxx” is indeed ridiculous. It’s the sort of left-brained nonsense you get when programmers are in charge of UX. Loc isn’t useful to anybody. Guys like Bezos like to think of themselves as Jobs running Apple, but stuff like this reminds us that they aren’t. 
    At least it works to get you to a citation. 'Page' is meaningless unless it can be correlated with a print book of known print run.

    StrangeDays said:
    The display of page numbers is limited to books that support it (and the new Page Flip feature). I tried it on the books I'm reading and don't support it, then I tried it on Hunger Games, where it works. 
    It only works if they've added it in by linking points in the text to real paper book page numbers.
  • Reply 12 of 19

    iBooks still doesn't sell books in India so I use Kindle on the rare occasions when I read a digital book (still prefer a physical book!).

    It isn't the most intuitive app to read books in but there really isn't much of a choice right now.

  • Reply 13 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member

    iBooks still doesn't sell books in India so I use Kindle on the rare occasions when I read a digital book (still prefer a physical book!).

    It isn't the most intuitive app to read books in but there really isn't much of a choice right now.

    Even in North America, Apple was late to the game and half-baked... though I think now it's as good or a better solution. I have some of both platform, but since I started with Kindle, that's where I buy most stuff. I'm sure it is better now, but initially, iBooks was mostly fluff content, whereas you could get more serious and a much broader library via Kindle.

    Aside from one or the other being a better 'reader' both pretty much suck in terms of how content is licensed, managed, and controlled. It would be nice if some company challenged the status quo with ebooks like Apple did with digital music. Maybe doing it with some kind of block-chain tech or something would be cool, so you could truly own, lend, buy, and sell books. That would be a game-changer.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    This update is dramatically fluffy; like all previous updates.  It only re-arranges old features in new packaging.  Real features such as easy collection management, book list export, accessibility improvements, etc. are still missing from the apps as well as the backend delivery systems.  All noise and no real substance.  Its disingenuous to imply otherwise.  BUT, I have used that book to speech work around for a few years and it works well.

    iBooks really is not much different.  

    I have several thousand books in each so I feel qualified to complain about my particular use case.  

    I do not want to accidentally purchase books that I already own in a different format or edition.  Since I cannot move books between the two, I need another method to simply and efficiently prevent an accidental purchase.  I also want to group my books simply and efficiently.  I want to be able to import the overall list into sites such as Goodreads all at once, rather than on a book-by-book basis.  

    In some instances, I may be preparing a written work, professional or academic, and need my notes as well as citations for inclusion into the work product.  Since I have a huge number of technical books, with very similar titles in some cases, this becomes especially difficult.

    To do any of this, I first need a consolidated list of all my books.  Something you'd think would be one of the simplest features both to implement and use.

    Amazon has intentionally removed online features that would make getting a list easy.   For example, you are no longer able to print a report about your e-book purchases.  Goodreads no longer can bulk import your Amazon purchases.  

    We are actually going backwards while being made to think we are going forwards.  
    docno42cgWerks
  • Reply 15 of 19
    >So iBooks remains the more pleasant reading experience but Kindle 6.0.1 is much improved...

    But for one super-duper thing: after all these years, iBooks **still** cannot sync samples acros devices. Does Amazon hold some kind of a patent on this? Because even if you reset your iOS device, every sample you’ve ever looked at in the Kindle app is still there. iBooks cannot do that. Plus, you still cannot adjust margins or line-height in iBooks so it’s not always the more pleasant reading experience. 
  • Reply 16 of 19
    cgWerks said:
    Kindle’s “Loc xxx of x,xxx” is indeed ridiculous. It’s the sort of left-brained nonsense you get when programmers are in charge of UX. Loc isn’t useful to anybody. Guys like Bezos like to think of themselves as Jobs running Apple, but stuff like this reminds us that they aren’t. 
    At least it works to get you to a citation. 'Page' is meaningless unless it can be correlated with a print book of known print run.

    StrangeDays said:
    The display of page numbers is limited to books that support it (and the new Page Flip feature). I tried it on the books I'm reading and don't support it, then I tried it on Hunger Games, where it works. 
    It only works if they've added it in by linking points in the text to real paper book page numbers.
    Eh, I think "Pages" in an ebook is inherently more useful to the reader than "Loc" because it's easier to comprehend the size of the book and your position within. "125 of 310" is more useful than a strangely labeled figure in the thousands. It doesn't matter if you can correlate it to the print copy or not. Especially if you don't have nor care about the print copy. 

    Where did you find that the pages are linked to the paper edition's page numbers? Since the kindle ebook has flowing text that re-renders itself based on text size, I don't believe the Pages number is supposed to mirror positioning of the print edition(s).
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 19
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,271member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    I can't see myself going back to Kindle until it picks up a scrolling mode like iBooks. 

    new icon is nice
    Yes to both of these.  The lack of scrolling in the Kindle app drives me crazy.  I get it for the dedicated Kindle units with eink, but not an app on a tablet. 
  • Reply 18 of 19
    docno42docno42 Posts: 3,271member


    I do not want to accidentally purchase books that I already own in a different format or edition.  Since I cannot move books between the two, I need another method to simply and efficiently prevent an accidental purchase.  I also want to group my books simply and efficiently.  I want to be able to import the overall list into sites such as Goodreads all at once, rather than on a book-by-book basis.  


    For all it's warts and clunky UI, Calibre is what I use to manage my ebooks.  And I keep forgetting you can convert the Kindle stuff to epub so I can use the much better reader in iBooks.  D'oh!  

    Yes, it's a pain and it would be dramatically better if either Apple or Amazon took curation and managing of our digital libraries better - but at least with Calibre there is some help.  
    cgWerks
  • Reply 19 of 19
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,893member
    Real features such as easy collection management, book list export, accessibility improvements, etc. are still missing from the apps ... 
    No doubt! At least now it's possible in Kindle, but it isn't well implemented and is a quite painful time-consuming process. Also, I really wish I could just disable the 'all' type view, as our account has books for family members and combined, like you is over 1k. My stuff tends to get lost in the mix. I really only want to see my categories.

    StrangeDays said:
    Eh, I think "Pages" in an ebook is inherently more useful to the reader than "Loc" because it's easier to comprehend the size of the book and your position within. "125 of 310" is more useful than a strangely labeled figure in the thousands. It doesn't matter if you can correlate it to the print copy or not. Especially if you don't have nor care about the print copy. 

    Where did you find that the pages are linked to the paper edition's page numbers? Since the kindle ebook has flowing text that re-renders itself based on text size, I don't believe the Pages number is supposed to mirror positioning of the print edition(s).
    I see, you just want it for relative position within a book? Why not percentage if it isn't indicating an actual location anyway. Your second statement kind of contradicted the first... the problem with 'pages' is that since screen sizes vary and the text re-flows (sometimes even when flipping between 'pages'), it's kind of arbitrary.

    I think it was in like 2010/11ish where Amazon added real page numbers for some books, where they are actually linked to the paper edition. (In fact, unless it changed... if you see page numbers, that means it's linked, otherwise you just get the Loc and no page number.) This was ***REALLY*** helpful in grad school, as then I could just cite traditionally rather than the special Kindle Loc type citation (which the profs reluctantly accepted).

    docno42 said:
    For all it's warts and clunky UI, Calibre is what I use to manage my ebooks.  And I keep forgetting you can convert the Kindle stuff to epub so I can use the much better reader in iBooks.  D'oh!  

    Yes, it's a pain and it would be dramatically better if either Apple or Amazon took curation and managing of our digital libraries better - but at least with Calibre there is some help.  
    Yes, I need to get back at this. Several years ago, I de-DRM'd a bunch of the important and expensive books in our collection as a backup, and was considering trying to standardize on some app to keep the whole collection. I may look back into that one day... but yes, I guess if you get them in the right format, you could use them in either Kindle or iBooks. The problem is more keeping notes and highlighting with them, if that's important to you.
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