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Using Amazon's Kindle app to read all the books

The original Kindle experience was the spark that took ebooks from a cool thing that one friend of yours did to make all of their books digital to a global phenomenon that has threatened the very existence of brick and mortar book stores. Amazon created an experience where all of the books you could possibly want to read were easy to access, reasonably priced, and offered a simple yet powerful user interface.

A lot has changed since Amazon's first attempt at the Kindle, including the expansion beyond their own ereaders. The Amazon app is one of the most popular digital reading experiences out there, due largely to those same core values that made ebooks cool in the first place.

Space Monster Amazon

Amazon's walled garden

First and foremost, Amazon's services are all about keeping you with Amazon. The book format used, .mobi, is mostly Amazon's book format. When you buy a book from Amazon, it's with the expectation that you're reading the book on Amazon's properties. You're not here for books, you're here for Amazon books, which is why there's a small bar of recommended content and top selling content underneath your actual books in the "bookshelf" view. More than any other ebook platform, Amazon is all about selling you more books. That's not to say you can't download the file, there's just not a lot you can do with that file immediately after downloading once you do. There a lots of ways around this, as the format has been around long enough that stripping the DRM from a .mobi file and converting it to a more open book format is fairly common.

You'll need to convert books to either pdf or .mobi if you want to upload them to your Kindle app as well, and even then it's not always as simple as connecting your phone to your computer. Amazon has an account-based cloud distribution system where your Amazon account effectively has an email account, and you mail yourself the book you didn't buy through Amazon. It's a mostly closed system, but it's a really good mostly closed system, and that's why so many people use it.

Kindle App formatting

A simple, powerful user interface

Amazon's dark stylings when you first open the app make everything easy to see no matter where you are, but as soon as you open a book it's all about choice. The settings menu gives the user control over the standard font sizes and spacing controls, but also offers color changes and app-specific brightness controls. The menu is easy to get to, allows for quick switching, and in many ways set the standard for most reading apps today.

The Kindle app does a great job taking advantage of the entire screen, no matter what device you are on. The app menus for when you are actually in a book are designed to be used with one hand and all happen with large icons and tabs to make it easy to look up or swipe to whatever you need. The leftmost menu is a slide in panel for switching between chapters and getting an "at a glance" look at the book you are currently in. If you're reading across multiple books, the sync feature will let you jump back and forth between your current position and the furthest position you're reached in the book. Since Amazon measures your progress by position and not page, this can prove challenging for textbooks but works well for most other books.

Kindle Xray

By far the most impressive feature in the Kindle arsenal is X-Ray. Amazon's app breaks down most of the books in the Kindle inventory and lets you look for words, people, and concepts within the title you're currently reading — and occasionally beyond. You can look up the definition to a word as in the context of the story, and through that can find specific uses of the word or interactions between characters involving that word. X-Ray shows you every instance in a line, and lets you jump around and gain more information as necessary. It's a huge resource for anyone looking up information in a book, especially if you're looking through a text book or researching across a book series.

All about the ecosystem

It has never been easier to get sucked into Amazon's world. Their massive library of books is impressive enough, but when you add in lending services through Amazon Prime, subscription services that give you access to more books than you could ever read for dirt cheap, and an app that is more than capable and works well across all of your devices, the cost of diving in and not looking back is next to nothing for many. Whether or not Amazon's ecosystem is for you is largely a personal choice, but it's one you can make knowing the reading experience will be top notch.

Download: Amazon Kindle (free)

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

21 Comments
  • I am using the Kindle App to read Dance with Dragons. I like it. Posted via Android Central App with my LG G3
  • How do you know someone has read the book? Oh don't worry, they'll tell you... Posted via the Android Central App
  • How do you know someone has read the book? Oh don't worry, they'll tell you... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have no idea what you are talking about. Posted via Android Central App with my LG G3
  • You must be reading Fahrenheit 451 if you're reading it with the g flex via the beastly note 4
  • Ha! Posted via Android Central App with my LG G3
  • The only thing I though of the whole time I was reading that article was: "man those lg nav buttons are huge" don't know if its just me or not but don't look right. Posted via the XT1080
  • You can change the size in settings. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Amazon used to charge you to load documents into your Kindle via the email route- is that still in play?
  • They charged you to view your own downloaded books? No wonder Amazon's products are so cheap. Posted via the Android Central App
  • They charged you to put third-party content on there-- if you bought the book from them, it was free, but if you side-loaded it, there was a charge.
  • That is one of the most dickish things to do to your customers. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It really depends. THey offer 5GB free storage for your 'Personal Documents' if you're a Prime Member, but they don't charge for emailing your books to your devices. If you don't want to pay a charge for storage, just use the 'send to kindle' app and don't archive it. It will remain on your device until you delete it.
  • My friend stripped the DRM off of an ebook and Dropboxed it to me. I then used Gmail on my phone to email it to my Kindle email address. I never noticed a charge. This is not to say Amazon didn't charge me, I just didn't get any kind of notice. Posted via Android Central App with my LG G3
  • Kindle is great for reading books. But don't make the mistake of buying a graphic novel. Last time I tried the experience was so bad I bought it again from Comixology. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Still, by far, the best e-ink experience. There is something fundamentally liberating about reading on a device where you know you can read for hours at a time without worrying about your battery.
  • I haven't needed to strip DRM because Kindle works on all my devices, regardless of operating system. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a Kindle Paperwhite which I love and prefer to read on whenever possible. But this week I experienced the benefits of the Kindle ecosystem as a whole. I purchased a book on my Paperwhite that I had to have finished for a class by the next day. I had forgotten to bring my Kindle with me and, that day, I had two classes and two advising appointments that weren't going to allow me free time until 5 PM. But instead of accepting defeat, I opened the Kindle app and read at free points in my day. By 5 PM, I was about halfway done. Sure, this isn't revolutionary, and it can be done on other ecosystems, but it also helps that the Kindle app on Android is wonderful and the Paperwhite is a pleasure to use. I was never big into ebooks, but I can see their benefits now. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I likr the kindle app however sideloading your own books in there is a lot more complicated than just using another app, i.e. Moon+reader.
  • I have downloaded a couple of free books with the Kindle for Samsung app. The Kindle Voyage is a terrific e-ink reader and keeps me buying from Amazon. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Y