Read Kindle E-Books without Buying a Kindle

Last Updated Nov 10, 2009 1:37 PM EST

So you like the idea of reading e-books on the run, but you don't want to drop $259 on a Kindle and carry yet another gadget.

No problem. Now you can read Kindle e-books on your PC. The beta version of Amazon's Kindle software, which we told you about last month, is available for download. It's free -- you pay only for the books.

As with the Kindle itself, Kindle for PC lets you purchase, download, and read a gazillion books from the Kindle Store. You also have the option of downloading the first chapter of any book free of charge -- a great perk.

Here's the rundown of what else you can do with the software:

  • Access your library of previously purchased Kindle books
  • Read books in full color, including cookbooks, travel books, and textbooks
  • Choose from more than 10 different font sizes and adjust words per line
  • Add and automatically synchronize bookmarks and last page read
  • View notes and highlights marked on Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, and iPod touch
  • Zoom in and out of text with a pinch of the fingers (Windows 7 users only)
  • Turn pages with a finger swipe (available in a future release for Windows 7 users)

Needless to say, a PC running the Kindle software can do a lot more than an actual Kindle. However, while the beta delivers on its promises, there's room for improvement.

For one thing, there's no option to rotate the screen image so you can get a portrait-style view. Laptop users might not care, but that seems like a logical option for netbooks. (Fortunately, a free utility like EeeRotate fills the gap.)

And speaking of netbooks, there's not even a full-screen view: You're stuck with the software's toolbar, which consumes valuable screen estate. I found books unnecessarily cramped on my 10-inch MSI Wind U115.

Personally, I continue to be a fan of reading Kindle books on my iPhone. But Kindle for PC (currently available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7 -- a Mac version is coming soon) is a big step in the right direction. It's a great solution for anyone who wants to read e-books without buying an e-book reader.

(Tip: Most books costs $9.99, but there are plenty of freebies to get you started -- including the business-leadership book Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands. Check the Kindle Bestsellers list for more.)
  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

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