A quick read on Amazon's Kindle for PC software
Amazon turned a page in its electronic-book story yesterday with the overdue release of a program to read Kindle e-books on some regular computers, without first having to buy one of the Seattle retailer's $259-and-up Kindle e-reader tablets.
The new Kindle for PC software -- a free download for Windows XP, Vista and 7, with a Mac version "coming soon" -- fills a space in Amazon's e-book portfolio that's bothered me since the debut of the first Kindle reader. But it also looks and works like a first draft, even more so than its "Beta" label would suggest.
Like Amazon's earlier Kindle for iPhone program, Kindle for PC downloads older purchases in seconds, lets you buy other Kindle titles using your regular Web browser, and remembers the last page you read in a title and synchronizes your progress to other Kindle devices and programs. It also matches that phone program's limits in its lack of a text-search function and its inability to show newspaper, magazine or blog subscriptions purchased on the Kindle Store.
But unlike Amazon's iPhone app, this program doesn't let you add notes or highlights to a book; you can only view those created earlier.
The reading experience suffers somewhat in Kindle for PC, thanks to its lack of a full-screen mode that could hide such distractions as the Windows taskbar and its various system-notification alerts and icons. (The same problem exists in Barnes & Noble's desktop e-book software.) At least you can flip through pages -- with a tap of the space bar or the cursor-arrow keys -- a lot faster than on a Kindle device, and you also get a choice of 10 font sizes and the ability to widen or narrow the onscreen page.
A "Menu" button on Kindle for PC's home screen offers a short list of commands and options that includes one somewhat disturbing default setting: "Automatically install updates when they are available without asking me." A "Future improvements..." menu item leads to a page on Amazon's site listing such possibilities as text search, creating notes and highlights on the computer, and zooming or rotating images -- but not text-to-speech or printing.
(Fortunately, the old Print Screen key still works for that last option.)
If you've already Kindled your reading, what do you think this software could do to enhance the experience? If you've yet to buy into the e-book thing, does the arrival of software like Kindle for PC change your mind? The comments are yours...
November 11, 2009; 10:22 AM ET
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