During a 23-hour airplane ordeal coming back to the U.S., which was relieved by time with my Kindle DX (placed too close to my tomato juice and coffee), Amazon released the free "Kindle for PC" beta software for download.
Much has already been written on it and I'll summarize what it does (or doesn't do) and link to early reviews of functioning of the features.
A file format that releases the book owner from dependence on the Kindle device
Essentially, this new software that makes it possible for us to read any purchased or free Kindle book on our computers -- whether desktop, netbook or tablet -- upends the argument that if our Kindles are lost, destroyed, and we don't want to order a replacement, it would mean we'd no longer have access to the book we purchased. Now, we have a sure way of being able to read any Kindle book we got from Amazon, whether or not we still have a Kindle.
In fact, people who have never bought a Kindle and never may can also use this app and buy Kindle books for their computers at the usually excellent Kindle pricing offered (though they cost more outside the U.S.).
Shared reading by other household members. (Update)
Note that other household members will be able to read, on a shared computer and at no added cost, any of the books bought by the account holder.
In that case, whispersync should be turned Off, as different people reading concurrently should have different last-page-read markers.
It should also be noted that the computer counts as an added 'device' for the feature allowing up to 6 devices to share a book under one account.
We can read a book in color, if that's important -- not ordinarily, since most books are black text on light background. But if it's a travel or photography book or a book using illustrations or charts dependent on color coding, then this will be extremely useful as a supplementary way of reading the book.
Kindle books don't always have high-resolution photographs, and some will even exclude some photographs (which the publisher should note in the product description and if the publisher doesn't, then it's good cause for returning the book for refund, possible within 7 days of the purchase). But most do include the photographs and usually in the original color.
This is a larger feature than some have noticed in reviews I saw tonight. That an e-reader formatted book can be read on any of your computers, with a Kindlestore registration and purchase, does two things:
While opening up your reading options and making you far less dependent on having or keeping your Kindle, it still protects publisher and author rights, at a time when it's so easy for some to distribute whole books for the taking from anonymous-membership binary download areas. Unlike musicians, who get the bulk of their income from live concerts/performances after CD and mp3 exposure, the book is the end-'Performance' and if that's freely distributed to all out of a love of "cool" things to do (which happens to deprive a writer of income for the work), then it's not helpful to the book scene.
Kindle-user book-annotations shown
Some online writers have noted the currently unrivaled flexibility of this e-reader in its ability to allow you to continue reading on your netbook or iPhone/iPod, or Kindle from where you'd last read on another device. Some have used the touchscreen capabilities of their laptops when using Window 7's new touch-screen feature with any Kindle book though it is not yet working in a very smooth way yet. I'll return to that further down this post.
In addition to the current (largely unknown but excellent) feature of being able to read your annotations (notes and highlighting) for any of your books on a private Amazon web page (if you opted to allow backups of annotations to the Amazon servers), with the ability to "See all your highlights and notes on one page" (offered at the bottom of the first password-protected webpage of notes for a book), the new Kindle for PC software includes an optionally-displayed pane that lists and links to the annotations you've made in the book.
Amazon is working, they say, on a way to add annotations via the Kindle for PC reader, which would make this a much more valuable academic tool. Personally I highlight and add notes often, to reinforce and then jog my memory and to share info I can find easily then, with friends.
Kindle Search feature - missing for now
The Kindle Search feature (giving location-identified results with surrounding context) is not included yet, and Amazon says that's being worked on also. In the meantime, we can use the Ctrl-F or (Find/Search) feature of Windows to find a word on a page -- but it's not a real substitute for the Kindle search of a book).
Reading a book when you haven't brought your Kindle or an iPhone or iPod.
The new application software allows you to read any Kindle book you own, during lunch, while at work, for example, even if you didn't bring your Kindle (well, if your work includes a Windows computer). Amazon has confirmed that it is working on a Mac version and one for Blackberry smartphones too.
Free samples from books can be ordered in the way they're ordered from the Kindle.
Kindle periodicals are not included currently
Amazon has limited the reader to books for now, explaining: "Kindle newspapers, magazines, and blogs are not currently available for Kindle for PC" - all these require ongoing agreements with publishers and authors. Blogs tend to be relatively low-cost but have higher distribution costs because they are not sent or downloaded only once as books are.
PDFs - For Kindle 2's
PDF books are normally converted for the Kindle 2 and not particularly well when they involve complex layout with diagrams or multiple columns and surrounding text. But in this case Amazon should be able to just send the original PDF and it would be readable on the computer.
The system-requirements are extremely modest so that this can be used on older computers as well:
* A PC with a 500MHz Intel or AMD processor or fasterNote that this means this won't work on Win 3.1 or a Mac, though they are working on a Mac version which is "coming soon."
* At least 128MB of RAM
* Screen resolution of 800x600 or greater
* Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, or Windows Vista or Windows 7
* 100MB of available disk space
Selection of books and International Kindle book costs
Kindle users outside the USA have a smaller selection of books available due to lack of publisher agreements in the other countries.
Unfortunately, 'free' books (for US Kindle-owners) at Amazon will involve a charge of about $2.30 US for international Kindle users living in countries with high wireless-access costs.
Reports from writers who have tried the beta version include:
. Kindle for PC: Game, Set and Match for Amazon - Ed Moltzen for ChannelWeb.Com reports its ease of use and "... a new leader in the drive to make data truly portable and cross-platform."
. Renay San Miguel for TechNewsWorld points out that the quick and small download "sets up an easy-to-navigate Home page for you and automatically archives any previous Kindle purchases." If you don't have touchscreen capabilities on your netbook you'll need to use the Kindle-style "Aa" font button. One book was received in "full-color glory" while another had some color photos in b&w.
. TestDrive by AppScout using a touchscreen laptop (Lenovo). (Update)
. Amazon Leaves Behind its Rivals with a New Version of Kindle - Sidhrath Surana for The Latest News in India reports that it's very easy to use.
. Yardena Arar for PC World under the Washington Post web page, finds it "highly useable" but writes that the app "does not support registration of multiple accounts" (which would not be the same as multiple Kindles under one account).
Adar says that arrow buttons or mouse's scroll wheel can be used to turn pages. There are 10 font sizes available and the page width can be set with a slider - something not doable with Kindle hardware except that with the Kindle DX you are given three choices of left/right margins, which will allow reading to the edges or, at the other extreme, a more newspaper-column type look to the page, but with only one column.
As ever, Whispernet synchonization is for a one-user account when that person wants to read on another device from the last point read with another device. The default setting is Whispersync" is "On" but I turned mine off as I haven't needed it yet, and definitely two people reading the same book should not have that feature turned On.
Adar notes that the menu item "Future Improvements" says that Amazon plans to add both annotation (adding, since it already offers viewing of those) and book-search support similar to the Kindle's.
The "Back" button works in the same way it does for the Kindle 2 and DX. Remember that 1-yr factory warrantied refurbished DX's are available for $399 ($90 less than a new one). The Back button doesn't take you to the previous page but takes you 'back' to any page that linked you to the current one and from which you clicked to 'jump' to the current page.
For example, on the Kindle, if you look up the full detail for a word, in the dictionary, clicking on 'Back' will take you back to the page on which you read the word.
All in all, this is a delightful new capability. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.
(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
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