Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with Kindle

Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with some of the best software available on the internet.

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I’ve been an eBook advocate since 2002 when I began reading books with Microsoft Reader. It was one of the best main streamed options at the time, AND it worked well with PocketPC’s, which, in my opinion were the best kind of PDA on the market at the time. (Truth be told, I was never fond of PalmOS or Blackberries, the other two major mobile choices at the time).

Amazon is the king of eBooks, and has been since the modern smartphone came into being after the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. Their Kindle hardware was revolutionary Their Kindle software available for any number of smartphones as well as your Windows PC or Mac allows you to read your eBooks where and when you want; and the software, is a total must have.

Kindle is a free application that lets you read Kindle eBooks on your Windows PC or on you Mac. Kindle offers most of the features you would find on a Kindle, Kindle DX, or other Kindle applications for computers and mobile devices. The best thing about it is that it allows you to automatically save and sync your last read page and all of your annotations across all your Kindle devices and hardware. You can also browse Amazon’s huge eBook library and purchase as well as download and read thousands of books from the Kindle Store.

The software interface is customizable. You can change font sizes and adjust the number of words that appear on each line. You can also change the number of columns that appear on a single page. If you’re reading a book for school or some other academic project, you’ll be pleased to know that you can add and view notes and highlights in your books. You’ll also be able to sync your annotations to all your Kindle apps and devices. You can even view Kindle Print Replica books, which are exact replicas of physical textbooks.

Amazon’s Kindle app is, in my opinion, the best eBook reading app available today. It is powered by the Kindle Store, which has the biggest library of eBooks on the internet. The software is device agnostic, meaning you can put the software on just about any computing device you have – PC, Mac, iDevice, Android, Windows Phone, etc. – and it will sync your progress across all devices. The only issue I have with the app is that its not easy to put non-Kindle eBooks in the app. It will work with ePub, but you might have to convert older eBooks to ePub (or other compatible format), and that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

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Kindle Fire – on the track to become the second most-sold tablet of 2011

Years have passed since Amazon made the first step off the Internet into the real world and introduced its first ever eBook reader, the Kindle – back in November 2007. Since then, Amazon released several devices for this platform, such as the Kindle line and a Kindle DX line with larger screen. However, none of these devices have strayed away from the original model too much, in fact they all feature e-Ink displays. Flash forward to today, Amazon has just launched its first full-color, touch-screen device – Kindle Fire – to offer a great means of entertainment for those who enjoy ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media, or to purchase from Amazon hassle-free.

First and foremost let’s talk about the operating system and the user interface. Amazon’s Kindle Fire technically runs a customized version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, however, it is not the user-customizable home screens you might expect on a Android-powered devices. Instead, the main interface is very simplistic and offers a virtual bookshelf that has two specific places for your content. The upper level is a sweepable list (a carousel) which shows the most recently used items such as your virtual books, magazines, videos, music, websites and apps all together.

The second place – the favorites bar – it is a user-configurable list of shortcuts of the items (app, websites, books, etc.) that you use the most – for quick access. By default, the Kindle Fire has four shortcut buttons pre-installed: the Amazon Store, Pulse (news reading application), and browser shortcuts to IMDb and Facebook. You can rearrange these shortcuts, delete them or add new items – the list grows downward as you add more items.

Along the top of your home-screen, there is a list of content shortcuts which offer a quick jump into Amazon’s store to browse and purchase new apps, movies, music, books, and magazines. If you’re looking to lock and unlock screen rotation, adjust volume, change display brightness, access Wi-Fi settings, syncing, and controlling the playback of music (if a song is currently playing), you can simply tap the gear-like icon in the upper-right corner.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire was designed to be very easy to use and to reach as many consumers as possible. Its operations are very simple and natural, however, taps sometimes don’t register and there is no progress bar to let you know that the device actually registered your action. This is quite annoying, especially when you’re typing. Hopefully, this will be fixed with future software updates. Many other functions like playing games or playback videos are fluid, but you will often encounter stutters while opening or closing certain apps while everything takes a moment to react. Not long, but long enough to notice it.

Hardware-wise, the tablet is powered by a 1 gigahertz dual-core processor and it has has 512 megabytes of RAM – quite a bit, if you ask me. The 1024 x 600 resolution display is bright and colorful, a pleasure to read and play, and the device size makes it easier to carry around. In fact, it fits in big pockets. About the features used on other tablets as a standard these days, the Kindle Fire doesn’t have a few of these. To be more accurate, there is no camera, microphone, bluetooth, 3G or GPS. So, all those who were planning to use the tablet for Skype talks, car navigation, or to take pictures and videos – consider buying some other tablet.

The good:

  • Integration with the (outstanding) Amazon ecosystem of ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media.
  • Good quality, re-purposed plastic tablet with good quality display that is bright and colorful.
  • The feel of the tablet is pretty nice and the rubber back makes it easy to grip.
  • Easy to carry around considering that it fits in big pockets.
  • Battery life runs for about seven to eight hours.

The bad:

  • No Camera, Microphone, Bluetooth or GPS.
  • Not “open” as you may expect from an Android powered tablet, neither customizable.
  • Taps sometimes don’t register so you have to re-tap.
  • The power button is on the bottom, making it easy to turn off the tablet accidentally.
  • There are often stutters while opening or closing certain apps.
  • No hardware volume controls; you have to use a software slider.
  • Only 8 GB of storage space included on the Fire and there is no SD card slot to expand that storage.

Bottom line, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a decently designed tablet at a unbeatable price ($199) that is awesome for those who enjoy ebooks, magazines, newspapers and media, from a particular ecosystem…Amazon. However, if you’re looking to get a complete satisfying tablet experience, you should search further for a tablet which is smooth, open, and it has a build-in Camera – to video chat, take photos and film your fun moments; Microphone – to talk to your friends via Skype, ooVoo, etc.; Bluetooth – to connect your headset; GPS – to get directions and maybe HDMI – to play games or view your media on external screens.

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Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #2

In the Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #1 article we’ve been talking about why Ecosystems and mobile devices.  The big question that many of you are probably asking is, “ok… so what’s the big deal?  Why do I care about this? What differences does it make if my gadget of choice is part of any kind of an ecosystem?” It’s a good question.  And actually, it’s something that I know many pundits and marketing mavens have been tossing around. Most people, the pundits and mavens included, don’t completely get it.

Let’s break it all down…

Why an Ecosystem Matters at All
Mobile devices that do nothing more than PIM and Sync Services are equivalent to PDA’s of unconnected times past (think back to 2002-2005 and Compaq/HP’s iPAQ line of personal organizers) or are equivalent to one of RIM’s various Blackberries.  While that may not be too bad in some people’s eyes, think about the issues that are currently plaguing RIM, connectivity and outdated architecture aside.

As you may recall, we briefly touched on an ecosystem containing the following:

  1. PIM,
  2. Sync Services
  3. Purchasing Options & Methods for
  • Multimedia Content

– Music,
– Movies,
– TV Shows, etc.

  • Apps
  • eBooks
  • Pictures
  • etc.,

While the PIM and Sync Services are common to all mobile devices today, let’s consider the Apple model again, as we examine the above list.  What’s common to everything in that list..?  Simply put – iTunes.

iTunes manages the PIM data and sync services. It provides a purchasing and organization method for all consumer content. Apple also provides tools to help developers create content and register it with iTunes so it can be sold. This ecosystem is so simple to work with many developers can top 6-figure revenue marks in under 12 months, given the right product subject matter and type. This “no-brainer” product development model saw many developers leaving other, well established SDK’s for iOS development over the past few years.

But that’s been Apple’s model – build the complete solution, for consumers as well as developers – make it easy for them to live within the defined boundaries [of the ecosystem] and they will come. As I mentioned before, this is where the real money is, not in the hardware. Compatible hardware is simply enables the sale of consumer content.

What Amazon Did
Amazon did something similar, but they are trying to emulate, to an extent, what Apple has created by plugging the holes Google left in the ecosystem they created.  Google has the PIM and Sync Services; but doesn’t really have a trusted way to sell consumer content.  Amazon has had a way to sell music for years.  They have recently created a way to sell Android Apps. They’ve recently created a way to provide streaming movies and TV shows (via Amazon Prime). Their Kindle software provides a way to read and purchase eBooks.

I’ve been saying this for years – Amazon should concentrate on the sale of consumer content, not on selling hardware – to make their mark.  They actually did better than that, as the Kindle Fire is now poised to take the number 2 sales spot in the tablet market, but NOT because of the hardware. The Kindle Fire may take that spot due to the hardware sales, but it’s got the sales because of the kinds of content it supports, and what users can do with the device.

What Google Didn’t Do
Google may have a flagship phone in the Galaxy Nexus, but Samsung controls it; and they haven’t really enabled the new OS to do anything more than any other Android smartphone. Google doesn’t want to provide any type of specific experience, or control how you experience Android. They’ve built openness into the platform and have only recently chosen to address some of the holes with updates to Google Books, Google Music, etc.

What they haven’t done, though, is truly created the framework of the ecosystem for all of the OEM’s making and selling hardware. As such, there are a number of different launchers, like TouchWiz from Samsung and SenseUI from HTC. There are a number of different Android builds built into a number of different formats from tablets to smartphones to e-readers. The level of fragmentation that they have allowed by permitting OEM’s to choose from 5 different OS revisions (Éclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich) and their acknowledgement of their lack of revision control is staggering. By permitting 5 different OS revisions to be actively used at the same time, creates a great deal of variation and compatibility issues with applications in the Android Market.

While they may have the lion share of the handheld market, Google’s Android is floundering, struggling for direction. It needs Google to step up and define that direction in order to bring solidity and stability to the platform. If they truly want to beat Apple at their own game, this is what they need to do. Period.

Come back next time, and we’ll try to figure out where the heck Microsoft is in all of this.

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Kindle Fire and Touch will not hit the European market

Several sources already confirmed that the new tablets from Amazon will not come soon to UK or other European market. The Android based Kindle Fire and the touch-screen e-book reader are not available on Amazon UK and that’s due to the fact that both products were not distributed on the European markets.

The cause of this delay is Amazon’s Kindle Fire Silk browser present in the latest tablets, which rises serious security concerns. It seems that this browser is collecting all your Internet history in order to obtain faster access to web-site pages. It may sound weird, but in order to be the fastest tablet browser, Fire Silk is showing a copy of any accessed web-site which is saved in the cloud. This is doable thanks to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which is used as a Web proxy. Anytime you are stationed on a page, Amazon has to keep the connection between your device and EC2 open, making it obvious how easy your activity can be tracked.

The European data protection laws doesn’t accept this security breaches making it impossible for Amazon to sell these products abroad. Although it was meant from the beginning to use an European data center, the officials still think that data can be vulnerable to US law.

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