Kindle for Mac: A Simple Way to Catch Up on Your Reading

Kindle for Mac brings your entire Kindle library to your Mac desktop. While the book purists may cringe at the idea of reading a book on your computer, having such quick and easy access to all your books (and their full text) is certainly convenient.

If you’ve ever had a free moment between tasks and regretted leaving your book or Kindle at home, Kindle for Mac solves that problem.

Look and Feel

Kindle for Mac Welcome Screen

Kindle for Mac Welcome Screen

There is not too much to the Kindle for Mac application. Upon first opening the application, the main window simply displays “Kindle for Mac” with two helpful arrows pointing out how to access your library and shop for more books.

Before accessing your library, you must register the application with your Amazon account. Once registered, your books are loaded in the “Archive.” Each book cover is displayed in full color, with the title, author and current progress listed beneath each.

The library view is a nice way of visually displaying your collection, as if sitting on a shelf in your house. Unfortunately, the books are laid against a simple dark gray background. A little bit of visual flair, a la Delicious Library or iBooks, would have gone a long way here.

The toolbar separates your library into books you are currently reading/currently downloaded to your Mac (“Home”) and books you’ve already read/have yet to download to your Mac (“Archived Items”).

You have the option of sorting your books by title, author or most recently viewed. Double-clicking a book cover will open the book to your last-read page, synced via Amazon’s Whispersync technology.

Functionality

Kindle for Mac's Home Screen

Kindle for Mac's Home Screen

Kindle for Mac offers the same functionality you’ve come to expect from your Kindle eReader and Kindle applications. Your books are initially listed in the application’s “Archived Items.”

Opening a book downloads the book to your computer, and moves it to the “Home” area. A “Refresh” button in the toolbar allows you to manually sync your account, if needed.

Reading Books

Main Book Interface with Display Options

Main Book Interface with Display Options

While in an actual book, you have the option of adjusting the font size, the number of words per line (page width), the brightness, and the color mode (white, black or sepia). You can set the view to single-pane or (the more book-like) double-pane.

There is a “Search” box in the upper-right-corner of the application, akin to the Safari Search box. With the Search box, you can quickly and easily search the entire book for a word or phrase.

A right-hand sidebar opens with the search results, and clicking on a particular result will take you to the selected page with the query highlighted on the page. A red bar sits in-between the search results, indicating where you were within the book. This is certainly a nice touch – allowing you to easily go back to your original page with a single click.

Easily Highlight and Add Notes to Your Book.

Easily Highlight and Add Notes to Your Book.

Bookmarking is also easy. A “+” (plus) icon sits in the toolbar, allowing you to easily bookmark the current page. A blue bookmark in the upper-right-hand corner of the page is added (or removed).

Selecting a word or phrase with your mouse brings up a context menu that allows you to “Highlight” or “Highlight and Add a Note.” The first option surrounds the text in a yellow highlight, the latter adds a highlight and opens the right-hand sidebar with a text box to enter your notes. You can view a list of all your notes and highlights by clicking the sidebar button in the toolbar.

Bookmark Your Current Location

Bookmark Your Current Location

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a built-in dictionary. This isn’t a huge deal as the Mac OS X Dictionary (or a Google search) are just a few clicks away, but it would still be nice to have the option when selecting a word.

Full-Screen Reading

Full-Screen Interface

Full-Screen Interface

You can read distraction-free by clicking the “Full Screen” option. If you’ve ever used the full-screen option in Preview, or even Safari’s new Reader function, the Kindle for Mac’s full-screen view will feel familiar – which is a good thing.

Your current page is displayed full-screen (the width dependent upon your display options), with translucent controls along the bottom to sync your account, adjust your display options, toggle your notes and bookmarks and search the text.

When the mouse is still, the controls disappear. Scrolling up and down will progress you through the pages, and an arrow to the left and right of each page also allows you to click through to the next page.

Buying Books

You can easily shop for more Kindle books by clicking the “Shop in Kindle Store” button in the upper-right-hand corner of the application, while in the library view. Clicking the button kicks you out to your default web browser and loads Amazon’s store front for Kindle eBooks.

This delivers the same seamless Amazon shopping experience you’ve come to expect. When you purchase a book, you have the option of pushing it to the Kindle for Mac application or any of your other registered Kindle devices. Click the “Refresh” (or “Sync”) button within the application to have it appear in your library.

It would be nice if the shopping experience was built-in and tailored to the desktop experience, but the Mac App Store does not allow for in-app purchases, so this may not be up to Amazon. Amazon also clearly has a lot invested in their online shopping experience and it may not simply be worth it to them to add the dedicated functionality to the application.

Conclusion

Search the Text

Search the Text

Kindle for Mac is a fairly bare-bones application, but it is a piece of software designed to replace your physical books and thus the main purpose of the application is to present the written word to you. A reading application should not be full of distracting superfluous features, and, with that in mind, the minimalism of Kindle for Mac is perfect.

I would have liked to have seen the library presented with a bit more flair, but ultimately you aren’t going to spend hours perusing the aisles of your digital library. A built-in dictionary would be a welcome addition to the application.

I don’t suspect many people will read entire books on Kindle for Mac, but it is great that Amazon continues to offer access to your eBook library on such a myriad of devices.

Unfortunately, the application does not allow you to import eBooks outside of the Kindle ecosystem, such as ePub files. Lack of ePub support feels like a big missing feature of Kindle but that’s more a criticism of the entire Kindle platform than the application itself.

Overall, Kindle for Mac presents the text of your books nicely and gets out of the way when it needs to.


Summary

Amazon provides access to your Kindle library of eBooks on your Mac desktop. The application provides the features you've come to expect from a Kindle application within a minimal interface.

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  • Darren Ambrose

    I love this application. I was tempted to move over to digital reading with the iBook app but the books I wanted just weren’t available and any that were are just to expensive. Great alternative.

  • http://takethebox.tumblr.com Manny Baez

    Actually I’ve found that you can import .mobi files into the library of the Kindle App by double clicking the file. I’ve imported my whole library :)

  • http://www.appsbidder.com ola

    Nice to come across your site. Its a shame that most of the book you really need are not always on the Kindle. My sister bought me one last Christmas, its a pretty nifty tool, but needs more resources. Interesting article have you guys heard about htttp://www.appsbidder.com? you can sell your apps wholesale for any platform, check it out

  • http://www.christinekling.com Christine Kling

    By pointing out what is so good about the Kindle for Mac app, you inadvertently highlight something that is wrong with the iBook app. Every Mac or even PC user can get iTunes on his or her laptop or desktop. But you cannot get iBooks unless you have a mobile device. I don’t understand Apple’s reasoning on that count. The net result is that they will never get as large a market share of the book business as Kindle and therefore will never be able to offer as many titles. That pushes many of us who own mobile devices to choose the Kindle app (Mac, iPhone and iPad) for our ebooks because the application doesn’t limit us to a single platform.

  • Huy

    As of sometime before March 3, 2011, Kindle for Mac does have a built-in dictionary.
    Just upgrade your app to the latest. Right now the current version is 1.4.0.

    According to the help, you can even purchase new dictionaries from the store.
    But I can’t see how to Change Primary Dictionary, as on the standalone Kindle 3.

  • Offer

    I’m trying to figure out something. I have 2 devices currently registered with Amazon for the Kindle ebooks. If I purchase and download to my Mac, can I also then read the same book on my registered iPad?? Or must I purchase a second copy? How does this work?

    Thanks for any guidance here.

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