(courtesy of Amazon.com)
Just a few short weeks ago Amazon announced the Kindle was coming to PCs, and today it landed! Windows-only for now, with Mac OS X support promised “shortly”, Kindle for PC represents Amazon’s first attempt to strike back against Barnes and Noble’s eBook expansion. Does it succeed? I’ve been playing with it all day, read on for my review and thoughts!
There’s no way to discuss Kindle for PC without comparing it to Barnes and Noble’s eReader for PC. Having said that, I am going to first run through the Kindle application on its own, and then discuss where it stands against Barnes and Noble.
My first thought upon opening the program was “unpolished”. It’s nice enough, but there are no settings. There is no way to expand your view of a book beyond the rectangular centered view. You can view notes and annotations, but you cannot add new ones. The only features while reading a book are Add Bookmark, Sync to Furthest Page Read, Change Fonts, and View Notes and Annotations. It is very, very bare bones.
Luckily for Amazon, the one feature that works very well is Whispersync. I tested it on a book I started on my Kindle, then continued reading on my iPhone. As soon as I installed the Kindle PC app and downloaded the book to my PC it immediately took me to the last page I was on in my iPhone. When I re-opened the book on my iPhone, it adjusted to the pages I had reached on my PC seamlessly.
Navigation was also very easy. I tested it on a laptop, so I just used the arrow keys; Amazon says the scroll wheel of a mouse can also be used for navigation. Likewise, downloading books from my library was very quick and smooth.
Here is where the comparison to the Barnes and Noble eReader comes in, because that is where the Kindle for PC app starts to look bad. B&N’s eReader application has the advantage of long roots going back to eReader and Fictionwise, so the feature set has had more time to develop. Even so, the differences are stark.
Opening a book on the Barnes and Noble application launched a new window, unlike the Kindle app which remains self-contained. This means you can have multiple books open simultaneously on B&N’s app, but only one book at a time with the Kindle one. Once a book is opened, you have a vast array of choices: full screen or partial screen, one page or two per view, auto scroll, search, highlight, and annotation abilities, etc. Almost anything you would want to do with a regular book, you can do with the eReader application.
The one advantage Amazon’s application has over Barnes and Noble is syncing. As far as I can tell, there is no way to sync B&N’s eReader for PC with eReader for the iPhone. Hopefully this functionality will come in a future update in time for the nook, but for now, it is the one major advantage Amazon has over B&N.
If you are a die-hard Kindle user, the PC app will certainly help you catch up here and there on your reading. The smooth Whispersync integration makes it easy to jump right into a book. Sadly, once you get it open it is less than perfect. Generally speaking, it isn’t the easiest thing to read a book on your PC, but when you do, you want it to be a pleasant and easy experience. Amazon’s Kindle app gets some of that right, but with so many features left out, it’s hard to see using it for any length of time. It feels very rushed, like a “me too!” application to compete with Barnes and Noble’s ecosystem. If their goal is to truly compete, so far they are off to a poor start.
What I Like: Whispersync worked perfectly; Downloads were quick
What Needs Improvement: No customizable views or ways to expand the amount of text on the screen; No way to annotate or highlight passages; No fullscreen mode; No separate window for an opened book, so only one book is open at a time
Download Kindle for PC for free here.
Download Barnes and Noble for PC for free here.