Trying to expand its book sales, Amazon.com Inc. released a free application Wednesday that lets iPhone and iPod Touch users read electronic books purchased at the e-commerce giant's Kindle online bookstore.
The software performs many of the same functions featured on Amazon's $359 Kindle 2 reading device released last month, including bookmarking, noting, highlighting and adjusting the font size, the company said.
But the Amazon Kindle for iPhone application lacks the Kindle's read-aloud feature that garnered controversy. The Seattle online merchant said it would let rights-holders disable the text-to-speech feature after publishers and authors argued that it violates audio-book copyrights.
The Kindle allows owners to download books wirelessly, but iPhone program users can't buy directly through the application. Instead, to shop among the 240,000 electronic book titles, users must access the store via the phone's Web browser or from a computer.
The application could cut into sales of the Kindle device, but it also expands the number of customers who can buy Amazon's e-books. Analysts peg Kindle sales at fewer than half a million. Apple Inc., by comparison, sold more than 13.7 million iPhones in 2008, according to ABI Research. That's not counting the millions of iPod Touch devices also sold.
When it comes to e-books, Amazon will have competition on those Apple devices. Google Inc. offers 1.5 million free e-books in the public domain. Lexcycle's free Stanza application lets iPhone users read digital books bought at online merchants such as eReader and Fictionwise, which has its own application called eReader.