By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 9:10 am
[UPDATE: I tried again, and Kindle for PC is now downloading all my books swiftly and reliably. Not sure why it wasn’t before…]
I’ve been playing with Amazon.com’s new Kindle for PC application over the past 24 hours, and while the idea of having access to my Kindle books on my PC remains mighty appealing, the software as it stands in beta form is a bare-bones disappointment.
I mentioned yesterday that the Windows app was refusing to let me download books I’d already purchased. As of this morning it’s still choking about a third of the time. But I’ve been able to get access to part of my library.
And here’s a book in the process of being read:
Kindle for PC does indeed let you read Kindle books; it also syncs your location from other places you’ve been reading (such as your Kindle or iPhone) and shows you highlights and notes you’ve made on a Kindle.
The thing is, a Windows PC is the most powerful device to gain access to Kindle content so far, and this beta version of Kindle for PC does very little to make use of all that power. You can’t search. You can’t highlight or make new notes. You can’t buy books within the software–it sends you over to Amazon.com in your browser.
Windows PCs have tons of pixels and millions of colors, but the books I’ve read so far don’t make much use of them to make pictures look better. Here’s a page from a book that was originally in color: The tiny spot illustration still is, but the photos are now in black and white, and you can’t zoom ’em.
All in all, it’s a considerably more rudimentary e-reading experience than what you get with Barnes & Noble’s PC software, which does highlighting and notes, lets you search, and has a two-page display mode. Come to think of it, Kindle for the PC is nearly identical in features to the iPhone app. But the end result feels more spartan–for one thing, wouldn’t you be more likely to want to take copious notes on a laptop with a comfy keyboard than on an iPhone?
The Kindle software has a “Future Improvements” link that takes you to a page where Amazon says it’s considering implementing search, highlighting, notes, and better image handling. I hope it does. Actually, I wonder why it didn’t wait to release this app until it had some or all of those items. (Maybe it wanted to get something out before Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader shows up later this month.)
One thing I’m still not clear on about Amazon’s attitude towards the Kindle: Does it see the iPhone, Windows, and coming-soon Mac versions as full-blown versions of Kindle, or as conveniences for folks who own a Kindle e-reader and do most of their reading on it? I’d love to think that the software versions might not only catch up with the hardware, but surpass it…