Kindle and iPhone: New Killer App

We used to talk a lot about the “killer app” back in the early days of personal computing, late 1970s and early 1980s, when a killer application was something that would create a new market, or bring a technology into the mainstream. VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet, was a killer app. So was PageMaker, which, combined with the early Apple LaserWriter, started desktop publishing. Aldus Persuasion, precursor to PowerPoint and Keynote, was a killer app.

Yesterday and iTunes announced the killer app for ebooks. The combination of Kindle and iPhone is going to finally create the market that ebooks have deserved for years. It’s an unbeatable offering.

I’ve read good things about the Sony eBook reader, and, at least until now, the Kindle was not quite good enough and about two times too expensive to create a real power market. But with the iPhone app, in combination, I predict it’s going to.

I’ve been a happy Kindle owner since I got one, just a few weeks after it started shipping. I’ve said so in posts on this blog here. Then yesterday Amazon announced the Kindle for iPhone, which is exactly what I’d been hoping for.

The experience was absolutely seamless. I went to the iTunes application store and downloaded the Kindle for iPhone application, then plugged in my iPhone and synchronized. Then I picked up the iPhone, started the application, typed in the obvious email address and password of my Kindle account, and within literally less than a minute I had 21 books available for downloading — the same 21 books that are waiting for me on my Kindle.

I downloaded five of those books. None of them took more than a few seconds. And they were all already mine, purchased earlier for my Kindle, waiting to be read. Some of them are partially read.  I switch moods, go from something on business to a novel, sometimes short stories; I rarely get so involved in a book that I read it straight from cover to cover. That’s more of a vacation behavior, and generally with fiction.

My Kindle (first generation, by the way … I’ve seen the version 2, and it looks nicer than mine, but not worth getting a new one when the one I have works fine) is great for vacations, reading at night, and traveling, in airports, airplanes, and hotels. But the iPhone is always with me, there for company if I get caught waiting for something. I really hate waiting. And it’s also nice at night, and it’s going to be nice in dark planes, because it has it’s own light. The Kindle doesn’t. The Kindle needs a bed light or one of those tiny book lights.

And what’s best about the Kindle — the great access to a library, electronically, without having to break out time for buying or shipping, such as while you’re at the airport — is also there for the iPhone application.

And, perhaps the best of all, I’m not fussing with two libraries, buying one book for the iPhone and another for the Kindle. Now I can buy everything for the Kindle, and have it in both places.

The synchronization looks just fine to me. I haven’t had time to test this one, but they say that it will keep track of the last page read on either device, synchronizing between them.

How cool is that?


  • Tim Berry says:

    On reflection, a couple of days later, I wonder if we're all missing the obvious: why not a Kindle format for our laptops? Or would that be a kindle killer, instead of a killer app?

    Maybe I'm just regressing to wanting the Microsoft eBook Reader on my iPhone, since it's always worked fairly well for me on various laptops. So in that case, why have the physical Kindle?

    The problem that would solve for me would be consolidating my kindle account as the one place to buy and manage ebooks. Maybe that's the argument to, that it would be more complementary to the Kindle, like the iPhone is.

    And it worries me, as I add this comment, that maybe that's already possible, and I just haven't figured it out yet.

  • Jacob Webb says:

    Great post, Tim. This partnership will contribute to a much more sustainable model for Amazon's Kindle. It's going to create a powerful barrier to entry for all other ebooks struggling to establish a competitive distribution model.

  • N.Jonathan Christopher says:

    Thanks for the article on KillerApps (that is going to help readers). With these KillerApps, I guess that iPhone will get prominence over the Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones in this highly competitive (mobile phone) industry.


  • Tim Berry says:

    Hi John, chuckling, that's embarrassing, I grabbed that screen shot from the Amazon site.

    I was a lit major in college, and I do read good stuff, but I haven't read Murakami. Now, of course, through the magic of social media, I probably will; and on my iPhone as well. Because on your recommendation I just bought it, so it's on you.

    If I had shown you my Kindle list, it would have had a lot more Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Heath Brothers (Made to Stick, and Nassim Taleb (Black Swan).

    But, in the spirit of sharing, the best fiction book I've read recently, as defined by interesting people, good plot, well written, was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.

  • John Caddell says:

    Tim, did I see that right? Are you reading "Kafka on the Shore" by Murakami? Bravo! He is one of my favorite writers, and "Kafka" is a great book. If you like that one, you may want to read "The Elephant Vanishes," a collection of his stories, which is unbelievable.

    regards, John

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