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Today was a big day in the eReader world. Amazon released a beta version of Kindle for PC. It's absolutely free to download in the Kindle store. I tried it out, and my impressions are below. If you have a Kindle, you might want to try it out yourself; I say might for only one reason. Using the app requires registering the PC you're using as a Kindle device, and since you can have a maximum of six devices on one account, you are using up one of your options for sharing books; keep that in mind.

If you don't have a Kindle but you have an Amazon account, you can still download and use the app to read Kindle books, and I recommend that you do so if you don't mind reading on your PC or laptop screen. The biggest benefit is you can take advantage of the tons of free books— not only public domain works but books whose author are giving them away as a promotion— that are available oin the Kindle store. Second, if you happen to be visually impaired, the app makes every Kindle ebook a large print book, and that can be a real benefit.

My review
First the bad news. This is a beta version, and it shows in the fact that a few things you can do on the Kindle are missing on the PC app. You can't annotate a book (although if you have a Kindle and made notes in it already, you can read them). You can't search the books. Amazon plans to add both those features plus zooming on images in future releases. There was no mention of showing location numbers or percentage of the book that has been read, two things you see on a Kindle screen but not on the PC version. It must know the numbers because it has a Go to Location function.

The good news? Well, besides the obvious (it's free!), buying Kindle books with it is dead easy because once you register, you get a "Download" button in the Kindle store; if you have a Kindle already, the PC becomes another choice on the drop down. Whenever you buy Kindle books, they go into your personal archive. That archive is available to the PC app, and books download from it even faster than on a Kindle. Both your archive and your home screen (the list of books downloaded) show color thumbnails of the book covers, along with the title and author, and when you open a book, the cover is in color. My 97 archived books showed up and looked great on the screen. None of the magazine issues showed up, though. I don't know if Amazon plans to add them or not.

Also, the PC app offers more font sizes than the Kindle, and the largest one is honking big, two or three words on a line. I can read without my glasses, which is amazing.

The interface is clear and intuitive. You double click on a thumbnail to open a book. When I opened a book I had started, it took me right to where I had left off reading. Some of the things are very-Kindle like, such as the Menu options on the Home screen. Others are not; there is no Menu button while you're reading a book, and Shop in Kindle store just takes you there in your browser window.

Creating a bookmark dog-ears the page display, just as it does on a Kindle. You can sort your downloaded books by author, title, and latest read, just like on a Kindle.

I think Amazon was smart to release this version so early, and mark it as beta. That way they get feedback while they're still doing development. Plus, the eReader market is so hot now, they need all the buzz they can get. And the free PC app (it works on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7) may well lure in folks who are interested in eReaders but not willing to invest in one without kicking the tires. After all, except for Mac users, who doesn't own a PC? And the Mac version is coming, too, so don't feel left out.

If I had to pay for it, I would give it a B- but since it's free, I'll give it a B+.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 11th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Patty (ex Authonomy) here.

I was trying to downoad this, but can only find out where to buy a physical Kindle. Don't want to do that, since it doesn't accept PDF/RTF files.
Nov. 11th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)
Whoops, sorry. I found it ;-)
Nov. 11th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
Hi, Patty! That's good. Actually, Kindle will accept RTF and PDF but only if the file is sent through Amazon's email conversion. And that "private documents" function isn't available on the iPhone or the PC app, only on a physical Kindle.

Gosh, I haven't check Authonomy in ages! Twitter has taken over!
Nov. 11th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
I really want an ereader that can view private PDF and RTF files as well as ones downloaded from a site, you know, for reading people's beta versions of novels, and short stories downloaded from the web etc.

But I'll have a look at this one. I think it's inevitable that I'll end up e-publishing something.

I haven't been on Authonomy for ages either ;-)

I'm also on Twitter as pattyjansen
Nov. 11th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
Found you on Twitter!

I do put my own m.s.s. and other folks m.s.s. on my Kindle. I can annotate but not edit them. I can also have it read them aloud, which is cool. Helps me find those missing or extra words my brain keeps skipping over when I read with my eyes. I just email them in and pay 15 cents per megabyte; I could convert them for free but I am too lazy to get out the USB cable.

If you are at all interested in buying a dedicated eReader, I recommend the MobileReads forum. They have folks with all different kinds of eReaders on there.

Amazon makes it very easy to publish on the Kindle. I think over the next few years, more and more new publishing ventures will be primarily digital. Right now the momentum is mostly for romance and some fantasy but it's moving into mainstream ad even literary.

Nov. 11th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
That's interesting news. Thanks for the review :)
Nov. 11th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thanks for commenting.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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