August 10, 2011, 4:17 PM

Amazon takes aim at Apple with a new Kindle service

Kindle Cloud Reader enables easier e-book shopping from iPads and web browsers.

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Amazon.com Inc. today introduced Kindle Cloud Reader, a service designed to make it easier for consumers to read electronic books and which promises to add heat to the already burning rivalry between the world’s largest online retailer and Apple Inc.

Consumers using Kindle Cloud Reader can read their Kindle books instantly using only their web browsers, Amazon says. Consumers also can use the service to buy books from Amazon’s Kindle store.

That means, for instance, that some consumers using Apple’s iPad no longer have to leave the Kindle Cloud Reader to buy from the Kindle Store; Amazon says Cloud Reader has an embedded Kindle Store optimized for web browsers. Apple charges a 30% commission to content providers for sales through apps; by enabling iPad owners to use the browser instead of an app to buy books, Amazon can avoid that fee when consumers buy books from the Kindle store. “This new reader enables Amazon to reach customers directly and bypass Apple’s restrictions on in-app store links,” says a note today from consulting firm Kantar Retail.

Kindle Cloud Reader works with Safari browsers on iPads and with Safari and Chrome browsers on desktop computers. Amazon says it plans to launch the tool on Internet Explorer, Firefox, the BlackBerry PlayBook browser and other mobile browsers over the next few months. Kindle Cloud Reader was built with HTML5, the latest version of the widespread web language. Consumers using the service can store or save their books for offline reading—for instance, on a computer not connected to the web.

"We are excited to take this leap forward in our 'Buy Once, Read Everywhere' mission and help customers access their library instantly from anywhere," says Dorothy Nicholls, director, Amazon Kindle. "To make it easy and seamless to discover new books, we've added an integrated, touch optimized store directly into Cloud Reader, allowing customers one click access to a vast selection of books."

Amazon released its Kindle Cloud Reader as anticipation builds that the retailer soon will release its own tablet computer to compete with the iPad.

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Apple is No. 3.

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