Amazon announced an upgrade to its Kindle for PC reader yesterday.
Wait! You didn’t know that you could use your PC as a Kindle and get access to over 375,000 ebooks? Well it’s easy. And free. All you have to do is click on this link and then find the download button. (I understand that Kindle is only available for the Mac in a beta version so far, but apparently that will change soon.)
Then all you have to do is pop across to the Amazon site, set up an account, and navigate to the Kindle -> Books catalog. Lots of ways to navigate there: by genre, sales, price, number of reviews, publication date, author or title, topic tags. Or just browse till you find something you like (The Lebanese Troubles, plug, plug, plug – just click the Amazon link on the right), and then to test your PC Kindle, download the free sample.
That’ll take you back to your Kindle application. On the home page, you’ll see the book you’ve selected in your library. Open it up and you’ll be able to play with the features. What can you do? Select a font-size you feel comfortable with. Change the background color – white, sepia, or black. Bookmark a page or find a previous bookmark. Right-click to add a note or highlight a key passage. Review all notes. Move to full-screen. Nothing especially fancy, but everything I needed. And it’s a very comfortable, smooth read.
So why use Kindle for PC? First, because it is comfortable. Much more so that any other way I’ve found of reading a book on a PC. But for lots of other reasons too:
- It’s a great way to discover new writing. (Check out the Amazon discussion groups or Kindle Boards – listed below – to find out other reader discoveries
- Ebooks are much cheaper than printed books – and many cost almost nothing. (Amazon doesn’t publish free material, but Smashwords does.)
- You can usually sample a book before you commit to buy
- Delivery is instant.
- Reader reviews – from people just like us – are pretty good guides to the quality of the book. Look for quality reviews.
- You’ll kill fewer trees.
But what if you’re a really serious reader, and 375,000 books just isn’t enough for you? What if the book you want to read isn’t on the Kindle list? Many of the out-of-copyright classics are now available as free ebooks. And then there are all the free Smashwords publications. Well the good news is that, as well as Kindle, there are several other decent e-readers for the PC.
Not quite as polished as Kindle for PC, but still effective, is the Adobe Digital Editions reader. This will read any book released in an EPUB or PDF format. (Officially, EPUB is supposed to be the standard format for ebooks: there’s a movement to encourage all publishers and e-readers to use the same format, so that books once acquired can be read on any e-reader.)
Try it out with any of the Rapscallion releases. Go to Smashwords and download the EPUB version. Save the file in the Downloads folder on your computer. Then open up Digital Editions, click on the Books icon at the far left of the screen, and then on Library -> Add item to library. Find the EPUB file in your Downloads folder. For comparison, you might also want to grab a second Smashwords publication, but this time download a PDF version. This will open directly on your computer, but save it into your Downloads folder, and then copy it into your Digital Editions library just as before. Then open up your books and experiment with the controls.
What I don’t like so much in Digital Editions is the heavy black background around the text, which I find distracting. Also I’d like to be able to adjust the page margins in the EPUB files so that the text is not so close to the edge of the page. But I prefer the EPUB to the PDF version because it offers more flexibility with font size, and also scrolling down a page is more precise – it’s exactly one page at a time. I’m not sure whether I prefer the vertical scrolling of pages, which is what I’m used to on the computer, or Kindle’s horizontal left and right scrolling, which resembles a printed book.
Like Kindle, the Adobe reader, allows you to set bookmarks, automatically remembers the last page you read, and has a Find tool, so you can search for a word or phrase. But it differs from Kindle in two important ways. First Adobe offers a Print capability – which somehow seems to defeat the purpose. And it misses a feature that I think is an essential: there’s no capability for note-taking.
That’s my experience, but there are other free e-readers for the computer too. Perhaps you’d like to tell us about another you’ve tried. What’s your favorite way to read an ebook?
Download page: Kindle for PC
Kindle Boards – mix with Kindle readers and writers.
Download page: Adobe Digital Editions