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Last night, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) introduced Fast Flip, a virtual newsstand that allows users to browse by topic, section, or source. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) should be curious; Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) should be worried. Fast Flip looks a lot like the interface the Kindle would have, had it been built by Apple.

If that sounds like a slight, I don't mean it to be. The Kindle is brilliant in its balance of performance and economy. I love how I can send PDF copies of the latest Fool newsletters to my Kindle for on-the-go reading. Fast Flip, by contrast, is merely a portal.

Fast Flip isn't even much of a breakthrough. Content resides elsewhere; Google merely pulls in screen views and adds the browsing and organizing tools. Click on a story and you'll be sent to the publisher's web page. But Fast Flip looks and feels right, like flipping through a newspaper. The difference is that users, not publishers, determine what's browse-worthy.

For example, in browsing for stories about space this morning, Fast Flip's front page presented me with six stories from six different publishers. The results weren't perfect; a Smithsonian article referred to aliens for context -- the story itself was about marine organisms that migrate to unfamiliar parts of the deep. This may be why Fast Flip is still tagged as in "beta," although Gmail carried this designation for years.

Publishers have thus far proven open to the experiment. Both of the namesake newspapers of Washington Post (NYSE: WPO  ) and New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) and McGraw-Hill's (NYSE: MHP  ) soon-to-be-sold BusinessWeek are displaying content at Fast Flip. Nearly 40 big-name magazines and newspapers are involved.

Over time, Google plans to place ads around certain news articles and share revenue with publishers, The New York Times reports.

In the here and now, Fast Flip is the most efficient content browser I've seen, and it's already available on Android-powered smartphones and the iPhone. Both devices allow users to swipe through pages -- again, as if flipping through a newspaper.

Look alive, Amazon. Steve Jobs may be the only one laughing at the Kindle now, but Larry and Sergey are chuckling in the corner.

What do you think? Take the poll below.

Amazon and Apple are Stock Advisor selections. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and Google and a stock position in New York Times Co. at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy was so good at back flips that it almost joined the circus, until a freak accident involving ice cream and jellybeans ended its carny career.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2009, at 1:14 PM, penetrode wrote:

    Wow, what happened to the Motley Fool? I know times are tough but pulling people off the streets to write knee-jerk articles like this failure. I am no Kindle fan, but anyone Google's fast flip is just another revenue stream they have created to create possible future revenue from portable digital devices. INCLUDING THE KINDLE. Do you think e-book readers like the Kindle are just going to go away and we're going to see some kind of nostalgic print media comeback?

    If anything there will only be more e-book readers on the market, BN, NYT, or whoever. I wouldn't be surprised if Google even partnered with a hardware company to hock their own reader. Put some more thought and research into your writing, maybe then you guys will actually attract subscribers.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2009, at 1:38 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Hello penetrode,

    Thanks for writing, but you missed the point.

    The Kindle has its own interface, its own OS. Please tell me you don't think the Kindle's meager browser would actually load Fast Flip and make it work as advertised. Of course it wouldn't.

    Look, I love the Kindle too, but we have to stop pretending that services such as Fast Flip are nothing more than cute little add-ons. They have the potential to be much more.

    Thanks again and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

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