Checking up on how Kindle is doing on iPad and iPhone

Things are actually looking pretty good for Amazon -

  1. Kindle for iPhone is the #1 Book App.
  2. Kindle for iPad has climbed up all the way to #10 Free App (it was around #23 at launch).

All Amazon had to do was create two good, simple Kindle apps (actually one App that works on both iPhone and iPad) and they get all these customers for free.

Kindle for iPad gets skewered on reviews

You’d think an App doing so well (it’s the #10 iPad App (in the Free section) and the #1 iPhone Book App) would be very well liked. Well, opinions are divided. For the latest release there are 4,024 5 star ratings and 3,620 1 star ratings. And around 1,500 each of 2, 3, and 4 star ratings.

Note that there is one App that works for both iPad and iPhone – the reviews and the ratings are from both iPad owners and iPhone/iPod Touch owners.

The 1 star reviews are enlightening -

No way you beating iPad, Kindle!!!

I hate it. It’s a good app but you have to buy books for it. It doesn’t give you books – u buy them!!!

Why does it need ur credit card number for a free book that’s just stupid.

No search feature. Sold me a black & white photocopy-PDF of a book.

Need the dictionary feature for this to be in the same league as the iBooks app…

Lacks the Apple “touch”. Does not carry the typical Apple look and feel or quality.

This app style is kind of flat. They can make more realistic features like iBook.

Please Kindle make the books nicer visually – sharper text, more fonts, better animation.

The 5 star reviews are of the usual ‘really good app, lots of books’ variety.

iBooks getting a lot of love

iBooks gets 2,068 5 star ratings, 489 4 star ratings and around 300 each of 3, 2, and 1 star ratings.

There are a ton of reviews. Here are the last 10 or so reviews (May 11th and 12th) -

This is an amazing book app. Although the digital paid books are pricey, the free books are sometimes good.

Very disappointed in the selection of books.

Unquestionably better than the Kindle (he’s talking about Kindle for iPad). And people can complain about $14 books but they’re still less than newly-released hardcovers. Would like to see more titles eventually.

The store is organized poorly and does not offer many titles.

I’d really like a night-time mode. Otherwise I’m quite impressed.

Lower the book prices and I will buy them.

High Prices. Few books.

I’m speechless what an amazing app

iBooks needs sci-fi books like spider man, iron man, x-men, star wars, etc.

It is much more enjoyable to use than Kindle for iPad.

Much better than Kindle. Has bookmark and search but less books.

Geniusly invented.

A few quick thoughts -

  1. There are actually a non-trivial number of people who talk about reading more after getting the iPad.
  2. People are very, very forgiving of the lack of range and prices. They mention it and then give the app 4 stars or 5 stars.
  3. Looks and ‘enjoying’ the app come up again and again in 5 star reviews.
  4. There are a significant number of people who are upset about high ebook prices.
  5. A lot of people mention missing features (and still rate it 5 stars) – notetaking, better organized store, cheaper prices, better selection, back button.

There’s definitely some sort of Apple aura where people love it despite its flaws.

Consider this review (courtesy Michael Parker) titled ‘Best Way to Read’ -

Kindle for iPad is pretty terrible …

… However, I rated it (iBooks) 4 stars, and here’s why -

1. Right now, the selection is pretty limited. I’ve had a hard time tracking down a lot of books that I’d enjoy reading through iBooks, that are already available on Kindle.

2. The price on some of these books is just ridiculous.

Let’s get this straight – iBooks gets 4 stars even though the selection is pretty limited and the price of some of the books is ridiculous. At the same time Kindle for iPad is pretty terrible.

There are a surprisingly large number of reviews like this. You won’t believe the number of people who love the animated page turns – Apple definitely knows its target audience’s preferences.  

Should Amazon start tailoring Kindle for iPad to Apple iPad owners?

It’s hard to figure out how to approach iPad owners.

iBooks is getting 5 stars even from people who think there are very few books available. It’s getting 5 stars from people whose ‘absolute favorite’ feature is the animated page turn. This definitely isn’t the kindle demographic.

It almost seems like Amazon should have two modes for its app -

  1. Reading Mode – For Kindle owners and for serious readers. 
  2. Apple-centric mode – Where the importance of being aesthetically immaculate means actual reading and actual books are mostly ignored.

Seriously though – Amazon should stick to its guns. Amazon isn’t going to beat Apple on animated page turns and for all we know these might be people who would ALWAYS prefer the official Apple app. Today its animated page turns – tomorrow it would be animations in the book.

The real reason a lot of iPad owners would always prefer iBooks is that they’re wedded to Apple. That’s why they’re downplaying things like book availability and book prices. They’d never ever admit that any other company could create something better than an Apple offering.

It’s all good though.

Basically, Amazon is playing with House Money

Amazon is getting a lot of new customers for free. Jumping from #23 to #10 in a month is good.

iPad owners might ooh and aah over the animated page turns but they usually have to come over to Kindle for iPad to actually be able to read the books they want to read.

Amazon’s customer acquisition costs are limited to coding and maintaining the Kindle for iPad App. They get tons of free publicity by being in the Top 10 Free Apps and they get to reach a lot of people they wouldn’t reach otherwise. Kindle for iPad is a success in more ways than one.

3 Responses

  1. As someone with an iPad and both of those apps, I find those reviews startling. (I never bothered to look at them.) I don’t get the anger towards the Kindle app. It’s not perfect, but neither is iBooks. I suspect a lot of the problem is people are confusing the Kindle *hardware* with the Kindle app.

    I’ve never understood the point of the Kindle hardware. I’m a huge book reader (I buy hundreds of books a year) and I’m an early adopter tech person. Yet I had zero interest in the Kindle hardware. One, because it was so ugly and kludgy (horrible controls) and I find e-ink difficult to read (not enough contrast), and two, and most important, the high price. Kindle is way too expensive for a single purpose device. Drop it to $99 Wifi only and I’d buy one tomorrow.

    But despite my dislike of the Kindle hardware, I jumped for the Kindle software on iPhone. I loved it and started buying Kindle books. (About a dozen on iPhone.) iPad interested me because it’s way more than just a book reader, and I love that the Kindle app lets me access all the books I’d already bought. I’ve bought several dozen Kindle books since I got my iPad. I bought precisely one book via iBooks.

    That percentage may change in the future, but right now, I love having the choice of ereading software and different book stores. With the iPad, I get that choice. It’s silly to be griping about one app over the app — they Bo work fine and will eventually have identical features. Right now iBooks wins with dual-page view in landscape mode and the dictionary lookup, while Kindle wins with the ability to set the paper color, a less cluttered display, and a better selection of books. But iBooks let’s you bring in any epub file, while the Kindle app only reads Kindle format files. Both apps fail for me in not allowing you to organize your library — you can’t even set up folders to organize your books! (Trust me, when you’ve got hundreds of books, that’s a problem.) But they’ll fix that eventually.

    Anyway, I love my iPad and the kindle app and I love that it syncs to my iPhone so I can continue reading there as well. And if they ever come out with a $99 kindle hardware, I might consider that. It must be light and tiny and have no physical keyboard, though.

    • Marc, the reviews are for the App. A few might be confused but the majority specifically mention the Kindle app or mention limitations (lack of search) that are present only on the App.

  2. I am really disappointed with book buying limitations. I gave away my kindle away when I got this as a gift and am sorry I did. will apple ever remedy this

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