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I’ve just test-driven a beta of Kindle for PC software (download here). It’s very promising, but not nearly as usable for me as Mobipocket, which lets me tweak things just so.

imageYou can’t get a double-page view in KFPC, for instance, which would have been nice on my 25-inch monitor. And while you can choose from ten type sizes and very the width of the text, you cannot change the font style. The serif font in the screen shot is fine. But isn’t there more to life?

Furthermore, speaking of limitations, you can’t adjust the color of the font or background.

I’m not even sure if you can add notes with the new app, not just read them (anyone know of a way?), although you can definitely see and insert bookmarks. And I know it’s in beta, because I don’t see a word-find function yet, just such GoTo capabilities as one based on page numbers.

The good news, not evident to me when I first tested the software and wrote an earlier version of this review, is that, yes, you can download nonAmazon books through Kindle for PC from sites like Feedbooks. Firefox, Internet Explorer or other popular browsers will give you that format as an option.

“The books are then stored in the My Kindle Content folder in My Documents in unaltered .mobi or .prc format,” says GJN, who has tried the feature, as have I now.

“One can also move .mobi or .prc books to the My Kindle Content folder and they show up in your library. I like it much more now. If it could read .pdf file (haven’t tried that yet) and vary fonts, I’d be happy with it. By the way, it counts as one of the six Kindles you can have registered to your account.”

Also on the positive side, the installation went smoothly on both my desktop and Acer Aspire One netbook, and all of my three dozen books in Kindle format showed up without fuss (an aside: because of DRM and Amazon’s proprietary format, I have mostly freebies in my Kindle collection).  In fact, “no fuss” is the program’s main virtue. Amazon cares more about about simplicity than customizability.

Interestingly, the software asks whether you want the program to “Automatically install updates when they are available without asking me.” Hmm. Updates of the app or of the books—or both?

One nice feature is that you can sort the displayed books by “Most recent,” “Title” and “Author.” Also, I like the ability to see and make notes with a desktop—much easier to do than on a Kindle. Plus, it’s nice to be able to advance a page with a roll of the mouse. Sony, how many times have I written that the e-book reader in eBook Library should have the mouse-roll feature? Amazon got it. You guys remain stubborn. Damn! It’s so bleepin’ obvious.

The Kindle software also lets you move ahead a page or back through the use of PgUp/PgDown or arrow keys, or you can advance a page by pressing the space bar, so laptop users without mice are in luck.

Regardless of the Amazon app’s positives, I’ll still be wary of all things Kindle due to the proprietary format and DRM. If you’re interested in building a library of books from large publishers, then you’d be better off with the Sony Reader or the B&N Nook—at least if plans work out and Sony and B&N and Adobe can execute a common DRM scheme for ePub books. Even then, if you really value permanence, stick to paper books or the nonDRMed variety.

System requirements for Kindle for PC:

  • “A PC with a 500MHz Intel or AMD processor or faster
  • At least 128MB of RAM
  • Screen resolution of 800×600 or greater
  • Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, or Windows Vista or Windows 7
  • 100MB of available disk space”

    Detail: I’m surprised that Amazon didn’t truly build its store into the app itself—to make it easier to shop for books; instead the program calls up your browser and tells it where to go. That said, the  Kindle for PC menu includes an option to go to a Web page to “Buy a Kindle.” What a feature! Amazon wouldn’t be Amazon without it.

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