Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kindle for Macs - finally here. What it does and doesn't do. - Update4

So it finally happened.  Kindle for Mac is actually here!  Unlike the page for the Kindle for PC, it doesn't say it's in beta format and the "Future Improvements" listing fot the PC are not showing on the Mac page though it may later.

 However, I see that the news release has a paragraph about that (not sure it was there early on), which says, "Several features will be added to the Kindle for Mac app in the near future, including full text search and the ability to create and edit notes and highlights.  Kindle for Mac is available to customers around the world as a free download."

  Reaction to the news in the Amazon Community Discussion is of course elation.  The promise of "a few months" was kept but it obviously seemed a long time for Mac owners.

System Requirements
  * A Mac with a 500MHz Intel processor or faster
  * At least 512MB of RAM
  * Screen resolution of 800x600 or greater
  * Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
  * 100MB of available disk space

NOTE - Sending a book to your Mac (or PC) adds a device used for the book you've sent.  Remember that some publishers limit us to 5 or 6 Kindle or Kindle-compatible devices used for any one book.  That will include iPods, iPhones, Blackberrys, and soon, iPads.

  It's great to be able to read these books on the desktop or a laptop or netbook when wanted, even if for shorter periods of time depending on the eyes.

 Some features that Kindle owners are used to but which are missing in the current editions of Kindle for Macs and PC are not mentioned on the Amazon page for this Mac software yet, although they are noted on the Kindle 4 PC page and the press release, and the temporary limitations are the same:

  Annotations made on your Kindle can be viewed on the computer-versions if you choose that option, but they can't be created on the computer, although Amazon does list that function as a future improvement.  You can make bookmarks, though.

  The excellent Kindle Search function is not part of the Kindle for computer versions yet and that is said to be coming as are 'zoom and rotate' though they did not include the future improvements section on the Kindle for Mac page.  Too much on the plate for now, maybe ? Or, maybe an oversight if the ad was created by a separate group.  The Kindle for PC title even says "Beta" next to it but not here; it's as if they didn't check the Kindle for PC page.

  I'll summarize what the software offers:

This is a file format that releases the book owner from dependence on the Kindle device
  Essentially, this new software that makes it possible to read any purchased or free Kindle book on computers -- whether a Mac, 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 buy one 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.).

  In other words, you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books you buy.
  Also, you can request free samples (usually the first chapter or two) just as is done with Kindles.

Shared reading by other household members.
  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 on Kindles and computers should have different last-page-read markers.

  Again, the computer counts as an added 'device' for the feature that allows up to 6 devices to share a book under one account, but also remember that public domain books and many new books published on the Amazon Digital Platform don't have these limits.

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.

Control of font sizes and column-widths (Update 2 to blog entry)
You can click on "Aa" for font control of the type you have on the Kindle, except that for this -- on both PCs and Macs -- you can move the horizontal line to modify exactly the width of the column you're reading, for eye-comfort.  Much better than deciding with 3 fixed options.

This is a larger feature than some had noticed in early reviews of the PC version.  That an e-reader formatted Kindle book can be read on any of your computers, with a Kindlestore registration and purchase, does two things, one of concern to publishers.

  While (1) opening up your reading options and making you far less dependent on having or keeping your Kindle, it still (2) protects publisher and author rights (to a point), 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 iPhone/iPod, Blackberry, or Kindle from where you'd last read on another device.  (For the PC version, 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.)
 It turns out there's no multi-touch capability with the Mac version though, ironically, there is with the PC software used on a Windows 7 system.

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 -- Sample here), the new Kindle for Mac software probably includes an optionally-displayed pane that lists and links to the annotations you've made in the book, as the version for PC does.

  Amazon is working on a way to add annotations via the Kindle for computer readers, 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, for the PC as I mentioned.  In the meantime, Windows users can use the Ctrl-F or (Find/Search) feature of Windows to find a word on a page, and Mac users can use the Cmd-F or Find feature of Macs for that -- but it's not a real substitute for the Kindle search of a book).

Reading a book when you haven't brought along your Kindle or an iPhone, iPod, or Blackberry
The new application software allows you to read any Kindle book you own, during lunch, while at work (if you work on a Mac), for example, even if you didn't bring your Kindle.

Free samples
Free samples from books can be ordered in the way they're ordered from the Kindle.

Kindle periodicals are not included currently for Mac or PC software
Amazon has limited the reader to books for now, explaining: "Kindle newspapers, magazines, and blogs are not currently available for Kindle for Mac" - 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 but delivered often daily or a few times a day.

PDFs - For Kindle 2's
PDF books are not easily readable on the 6" Kindles (though placing them in Landscape mode often makes them quite readable).   But PDFs are meant for computers.

The system-requirements are modest and are listed at the beginning of this blog article.

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 tried, early, the beta version for PC -- which should apply to the Mac 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.

  . 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.  See the bottom of your ManageYourKindle page to turn that on or off.

  Adar noted that the menu item "Future Improvements" on the PC version 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.

  Is that menu option there for Mac owners?  Let me know.  Thanks.

  UPDATE4 - Turns out that while "Future Improvements" was shown under the Menu button for the PC version, it's now placed under the "Manu/Help" option.

  The "Back" button (on the PC version) 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
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.

Pressing Home button before leaving Kindle for Mac and Kindle for PC
From experiences with Kindle for PC, people have found that the sync'g of the computer with Kindles can be unreliable unless you remember to press the 'Home' button at the top, left.  That apparently logs current page and passes the info on to the servers for sync'g.

All in all, this is a great 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.

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  1. There is no "Future Improvements" menu on the Mac version.

    This app arrived at a propitious time for me. Both my iPod Touch and K1 died yesterday.

  2. My2¢worth,
    Thanks for getting back to me on that already. Will note.

    Are you sure the K1 is dead? It probably just needs a new battery after 2.5 years? They're about $20 each. Have you tried a reset on it, with the charger plugged in at the same time?

  3. Yes. Actually it was the insertion of a new battery that killed it.

    I posted the whole story on Kindleboards. Subject: Kindle vs Apple: A Tale of Two Customer Services. Had some fun with it. Anyway, replacement K1 expected later today.

  4. Not an Amazon battery for the Kindle? Anyway, glad you're squared away on that.

  5. "Future improvements" is a menu choice under "Help"

  6. Anonymous,
    Thanks for finding that! On the Kindle for PC it's under Menu at the same level as "Help" - interesting.

  7. Sorry, my bad. Until I read "anonymous's"comment my eye had never gone to the top line and I was merrily content to use the home, archive, sync, sort and buy in Kindle store "menus".

  8. Not your bad - Amazon showed it on top with the KforPC but hid it under 'Help' on the Mac version, knowing probably that no one ever touches the Help button :-)

    Don't forget to press Home button before leaving the program to make sure you get sync'd correctly.

  9. Yes, an original equipment new Amazon battery for the Kindle (not a cheaper version). Have found over the years with camera batteries that you often get what you pay for.


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