hands on with kindle for mac

March 19, 2010

Four months after releasing Kindle for PC, Amazon dropped a Kindle Reader for Mac this week. I installed it last night and played with it for about five minutes. That’s all it took to learn what it could do.

When Kindle for iPhone was released, I was pleased. It doesn’t replace my Kindle, but it’s a nice complement to it. I often read on it late at night when I want the backlit screen, or when I’m waiting somewhere for a few minutes. The whispersync feature means I can always pick up where ever I was reading on my Kindle. And the iPhone app returns the favor next time I’m back on the Kindle.

Kindle for Mac is, at best, a limited version of Kindle for iPhone. It is a reader for your Kindle books, and that’s all. I will keep it installed. I suppose there might be a time or two when I have my MacBook open and will want to read a few quick pages. It is simple and usable, but it has no visual wow factor. And I’m disappointed at how little this app does. Here are the features that should be included, but aren’t:

  • Search – There is no way to search the current book you are reading or your library as a whole.
  • Notes and highlighting – This is a core feature on the Kindle, and even the Kindle for iPhone that I use all the time. It wasn’t until this became available on the iPhone version that I really started using it.
  • Typography – You can change the size, but not the typestyle. And as Gruber describes, font rendering is readable, but “smudgy”.
  • Columns – There is no way to split the text into easily readable
    columns to stretch across the screen. You get one window, and the text flow however wide you have it. This is a core function of Stanza, the ereader app that Amazon bought last year.
  • Full screen – Almost ten years ago, I bought a Microsoft Reader book from Amazon with fullscreen reading. How is this not a built in feature from the go for Kindle? At least there is an app like Think to assist with this.

I don’t develop software, and I don’t have any idea what was involved in the backend of getting Kindle books onto a computer. But I’m surprised how little attention was paid to making a great user experience on the front end. I will assume more features are on the way, but if this is fourth months of effort, I won’t be expecting them anytime soon.

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