Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kindle for PC - Great for Bad Eyes

I promised I'd do an update on the Kindle for PC, and now that I've read a few books with it, it's time to report in.

To re-cap: I don't own a Kindle, although I know a lot of people who have bought them and love them. Several people have told me they've both bought and read more books since getting their Kindle. I've had some experience with e-book readers and realize that although many people find it their optimum choice for reading, they're not for me.

Right eye sees this

My reasons have much more to do with my unusual eye problems than with the readers. I've had seven eye surgeries, you see. And while some of my vision is far better than it was when I was just near-sighted, my vision is just plain distorted. Reading has become a major headache for me-- literally. Oddly, both eyes have learned to compensate for each other, producing something kind of like normal. But you can see I'm happy for any help I can get.

Before e-books I'd almost given up trying to read whole books. Yet I could read on my computer fairly well. But e-readers still elude me. Mostly the light-gray/dark gray contrast is too poor. But I can't adjust them well enough to compensate in font size either. So whenever possible I bought the e-version of any book I wanted to read. I had to really want it badly to read it in paper version.

Left eye sees this

A few weeks ago the Kindle for PCs became available. I already have several brands of PDF and Adobe Digital Edition, and a few others. But I couldn't read books that only came in Kindle, and sometimes they're cheaper. And free is a perfectly acceptable price. So could I read Kindles without a Kindle? Would it be any better than other reading formats? Why not try?

Keep in mind, this is a Beta version. There will likely be more improvements in the future. I have figured out how to transfer books to both my laptop and MSI Wind netbook. Simple: download a copy of Kindle for PC on the Wind. Since I'm using my same email address and password, I'm automatically linked to both computers. I can then pull up anything I have archived-- that's everything I have-- and place it in Home on the W ind. Then wherever I quit reading in any book, that's where it opens up in either computer.

Freaky. It's like Amazon is looking over my shoulder while I read, and can reach right into my computer and do whatever it wants. That, I DON'T like, whether it's true or not.

Similarly, I can upload to theKindle site any document I want to be converted into Kindle format, and then download it. That's more cumbersome than I like, and I definitely don't like that feeling of outside control. I have always been opposed to Amazon controlling my reading habits and book-buying habits. So frankly I'm glad I haven't tied myself to Kindle, especially with a big handful of money. Since I don't want Kindle having any access to my personal documents, or books and stuff I buy elsewhere, I can still use other PDF type programs to read them. Or keep them in Word or WordPerfect.

To date, I've read two full length books and a short story. At first I couldn't see any real difference, other than the flexibility my laptop gives me. And I was irritated by having no page numbers because, being a writer, I just naturally analyze and study every book I read. But I hadn't noticed the adjustments (remember, I don't see peripheral stuff well). But I discovered I could not only adjust the font, but the page size. I need a narrower page because it's hard to follow straight lines, and I'd get to the end of a line, but lose where the next line began. With the Kindle for PC, I could narrow the page to a readable width, but still keep a nice size, readable font size. If I needed to, I could enlarge the font to letters as big as a fingernail, but still keep the pages themselves small. True, fewer words per page, but in some readers, any attempt to do this meant getting some lines with only a few words, and sometimes some repeated lines on the next page. Not Kindle- it's got great continuity. Score 2 for Kindle.

But I can't seem to drop down one line at a time, and the arrow keys or other page turners seem to work only for full pages. I got used to it, learning to only use the down arrow at the bottom of the page. But there could be a way to go line by line and I just haven't found it.

While I'd like to have page numbers, I can see that would be hard, if I have fully adjustable page and font size. What I have instead is a percentage of the book. So if it says I've read 70%, I know I'm probably around page 140 to 160. I can get used to this too.

For the same reason, I don't think it supports graphics well yet. With the page flexibility, graphics could end up all chopped up. That means Kindle for PC will be limited mostly to fiction books without illustrations until this works better. That's a shame. And while I can certainly see color illustrations on my laptop, if Kindle can't read colors, will I be able to see them? I don't know. Maybe that will change in later versions.

I do like the way the bookmark functions. I just set it. Then when I re-open Kindle, it takes me right to where I left off automatically. You wouldn't think this would be a problem, but it is with some e-readers, which at the least require several steps, or don't work at all half the time.

The main advantage for Kindle is, they make book buying very easy. Go to Kindle directly from the software, or go directly to Amazon on the web. Find the book I want, click. My account is charged. Click, it downloads directly to Kindle for PC.

Does it save me money? Well, both e-books I've read were cheaper than the paper book and cheaper than the same e-book on Fictionwise. But I also bought two books I haven't yet read on Fictionwise that were cheaper than the Kindle variety. I'm fine with either a PDF or Kindle reader, but now I have more shopping power because I can go either way.

Ease of reading? Well, much better for me, at least. I can adjust the brightness of my laptop screen to best suit my eyes. And font and page size are easier to adjust and maintain on Kindle for PC. I have one reader format that is very easy to accidentally re-set, and also to lose the page I'm on. Who needs that?

I also like that there is a Table of Contents for the chapters, which includes the first line of each chapter. Generally I can tell if I've read that line before, if I forgot what page I was on and didn't bookmark. It's also useful when going back after finishing the book if there's something particular I want to check. If I were still doing book reviews, this would be helpful.

Headaches? None so far. But the paper book I also read this week knocked me out of the entire next day. I've long since decided a backlit screen reduces the effect of double vision for some reason, and that's probably the most straining part of my vision. Sometimes I can work at my laptop for fourteen hours and not really have problems. Now I've got that benefit for reading books too.

I hope.

My way of reading isn't for everyone. A lot of people think the new Kindle for PC doesn't have a purpose-- why not just get a Kindle and read on it? Other than a few hundred dollars, that is. And a lot of people find reading on an e-reader less straining on the eyes than working or reading on a computer. And they point out the battery life of my mini-laptop is nowhere near the life of an e-reader. Also my mini-laptop with its spare battery weighs as much as three Kindles. But I'd be taking the mini with me anyway, and it gives me more battery life than I can use per day as it is. And for me, the comfort in reading is worth the drawbacks, which I find minuscule.

I'd say, if you have eye strain problems, or find yourself frowning when you're reading, you might want to go one step further than your optometrist. Check out how you're reading. Can you make your eyes happier? If so, you'll make yourself happier too.

So Kindle for PC gets a mostly huge thumbs up from me. I suspect I'll be using it a lot. Where to get it?

Or if you lose the URL, just go to or search the web for Kindle for PC. It's easy!


  1. Thanks for this post. I'm fascinated with all the ebook/reader options and possibilities but don't want to weed through the marketing hype. I've read a few ebooks on my laptop and it was fine. Actually, it was more pleasurable than reading a paperback which was a surprise. I'll never want to read a book on my phone but I am watching as technologies develop. :)

    I loved The Mudlark the first time and I could get the paper copy off the shelf in my office but I'm into new things so I may just read it on-line. LOL!


  2. Thanks, Terri! And thanks for being a fan! There's an advantage with this version of Mudlark- and that's the wacky illustrations which only now and then have more than a hint of connection with the story. I can't do that with a real published version.

    Yes, the advance of technology is really fascinating. But I think ebook readers still have a lot of improving in their future. I just read an article today that indicates the old standby reason for not reading ebooks, "I can't read on a computer screen", is losing favor as more and more people become accustomed to being at thir computers for long periods of time. And computer screens are vastly improved from the old eye-strainers of even a few years ago.

  3. Having The Mudlark posted is great. A friend of mine read it last night and promoted it on her blog today.

    I also think e-readers have a long way to go but until then, computer screens are pretty nice now and the ereader apps are free. People are spending lots of time in social networks and watching movies on their laptops so being able to click on a book to read instead, won't be far off now. Especially with pretty graphics included. :)


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