Thursday, 12 November 2009
Kindle for Windows: Now you can read "The Practical Nomad" on your PC
If you've been wanting to read The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World on your PC, now you can -- if, and only if, your PC is running Windows. Amazon.com has released a beta version of Kindle for PC software that you can download for free, and use to read e-books you buy from the Kindle store or, with some awkward conversion, other e-books.
It's beta software, but initial accounts suggest that it's functional and has all the features of -- albeit no more than -- the standalone Kindle e-book readers. You can now read any books you've already bought for your Kindle on your Windows PC, and vice versa, but you do not need a Kindle to buy and read "Kindle Editions" on your Windows PC. That means you can now use any device that runs Windows as a reader for Kindle format e-books.
There's an interesting discussion among some of my fellow travellers (including travel writers) about carrying guideboks in electronic form in an e-book reader. I've tried it myself in the past with PDF's on a Psion Revo Plus, but I'd be interested in readers' more recent experiences with e-guidebooks or e-books in general.
As noted by my friend Erin Van Rheenen [currently on the road with a Kindle in Costa Rica] in that discussion, the Kindle isn't necessarily the best available hardware for e-book reading, but more books (especially recent novels and current editions of most travel guidebooks) are available in Kindle Editions than in any other e-book format. I don't like that but it's not my choice.
The PC's that would be most suitable as e-book readers are the smallest "netbooks", most of which run Linux. Even when they can also run Windows, Linux is generally a better operating system choice for a computer you will take with you travelling. Most computers in cybercafes have Windows-specific viruses that infect any flash drives you use with them, and promiscuous sharing of camera memory cards or USB flash drives between your netbook or laptop and computers in cybercafes is almost certain to leave a Windows laptop infected with viruses.
There are several million Asus EEE-PC's running Xandros Debian Linux in the wild, and there are many other Linux devices -- inlcuding some really interesting smaller and cheaper ones -- that could be used as e-book readers. So a key question, as long as Kindle Editions are sold in a proprietary format readable only on Kindle devices or with Kindle software, is when a Linux version of the Kindle for PC software will be released (especially one that usable under Ubuntu and/or for the default EEE-PC version of Xandros, the two most common Linux distributions for netbooks and laptops), or whether Kindle for PC will run in Linux with "wine".
Amazon has announced that they are working on a "Kindle for Mac" app, but have been silent to date about "Kindle for Linux". Kindle for PC in Linux with wine ("Wine Is Not an Emulator") is another story: Some bugs are already apparent, but the initial reports seem promising, and from past experience with wine development the current status suggests that there's a good chance that workarounds for most if not all essential functionality will be devised before too long. Kindle for PC installed but wouldn't launch for me on Ubuntu 8.04, but installed, launched, and allowed me to sign in on an Asus EEE-PC with wine on the default Xandros Linux.
Wine isn't good enough for you? Don't want to wait? Want to read your Kindle Editions on a device with a completely different OS? (Come to think of it, a Psion 5MX would make a great e-book reader.) I'm sure there are many hackers who feel the same way. And a Windows PC is a more widely available and easier to hack platform than a Kindle. Once content is displayed on screen by a Windows app, it's available to any standard screen-capture utility.
Now that Kindle for PC has been released, it's only a matter of time -- probably measured in weeks or at most a few months -- before someone releases a "Kindle-ripping" app that "reads" a Kindle e-book using the Kindle for PC app, captures the pages from the screen as images, and saves them as a PDF (or text or HTML) file that can be read on any device. The absence of a Kindle for Linux app gives a compelling motive for Linux users to develop such an app, as the only way to read their legally purchased copies of Kindle Edition e-books on their Linux devices.
I anticipate, of course, the same disputes about the legality of these Kindle ripping apps as surrounded the first apps developed to play legally-purchased DVD's on Linux computers.
Just for fun, I'm starting a pool, with a prize: I'll send a free, autographed copy of the latest printed hardcopy edition of "The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" (I don't have any copies of the Kindle Edition to give away) to the person who comes closest to predicting, in a comment posted below, the date when the first working Kindle ripping app capable of generating a PDF, text, or HTML file from a Kindle file is publicly released. If you hear any news about the development or release of such an app, please post that here as well. In case of a tie, I'll pick a winner by lot; in case of disputes, my decision is final.Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 12 November 2009, 15:54 ( 3:54 PM)