What’s the best PC for the Amazon Kindle PC software?

Posted on 23 October 2009 by

Ebooks are a big, complex topic and it seems to me that the whole ebook industry is so splintered that it may never get itself together. I have no idea how many ebook formats there are out there but there are enough to create a problem for anyone thinking about trying out electronic books. The hardware choice is wide too. Devices range from simple PDF readers to devices that contain cellular data modems and come with online access to an electronic bookshop controlled by the device manufacturer.

I have a suspicion that there are a lot of Ebook types out there that have had enough of chasing formats and suppliers and want total flexibility to choose their content from multiple sources in whatever format they want. Both free and paid-for.

A ultra mobile PC might not be the simple consumer choice but it does bring flexibility.  A PC is the common denominator of hardware choices and an ultra mobile PC brings that flexibility right into the hand. Users can view PDFs, Mobipocket books, E-pub books, HTML books, images, web-based content and soon, hundreds of thousands of Amazon Kindle books.

Amazon’s announcement of ‘Kindle for PC’ lit a little candle in my heart because I’ve long  believed that electronic reading is one of the great use-cases for small UMPCs and MIDs. The problem is that even Amazon seem to have forgotten about our ‘tweener’ devices. No-one wants a 1KG, 800×480 device with a fan and a 2hr battery for $1000 just to read an book do they? Of course not.

Open your eyes Amazon. In your inventory lies a treasure-trove of next-generation UMPCs that are less than half the price, half the weight and last at least twice as long as those Origami devices of 2006 and 2007. I’m talking about the Intel Menlow-based UMPCs that have been keeping the ultra-mobile PC wheels turning for the last year. Some of these devices are just perfect for the Kindle software so I thought I’d take a closer look to see what would be the best ‘KUMPC’ device out there.

kindleumpc

First things first though, we need to address the issue of E-ink. UMPCs don’t have it. What they do have is a backlight and in some cases that backlight fits in perfectly. I’ve been e-reading (admittedly it’s mostly browser-based) for the last three years on a ultra mobile PC and I recon that I can go a two-hour stretch without my eyes feeling tired (about the same as with a real book!)  I’ve been known to do four-hour stretches too but that’s not the norm for me and usually means I’ve been distracted by a tweet or email. (Sidenote: Switch off wifi, 3g, bluetooth and every other program when reading. It’s impossible to read with twetdeck, email, IM, skype or anything else running in the background.)

Requirements

E-Ink screen technology aside (hit the back button if you’re an E-ink fan!) here are the other main features of an ebook reader.

  • Weight. An ebook reader needs to be as light as possible. One-handed use starts at sub-700gm in my opinion but gets comfortable at around 500gm. Anything under 300gm is ideal.
  • Dimensions. Book sized! Book reading is a one-handed affair and the dimensions need to match. There are exceptions to this. Comics are often represented as bitmaps and are often better on larger screens. A one-page-per-screen non-reflowing PDF also requires a larger screen.
  • Battery life. The more the merrier. 4hrs is the absolute minimum in my opinion but ‘days not hours’ is the real key.
  • Wireless connectivity. The Amazon Kindle makes great use of wireless cellular data but I would argue that most are happy if they can transfer books while at home. Wifi would be the base requirement.
  • Price. Obviously price needs to be low. It seems that $200 is the current entry point for a dedicated reader.
  • Storage. Storage requirements are minimal. 1GB of storage is a huge amount of space for electronic books. 4GB would be a luxury.
  • Controls. Touchscreens provide the most flexible form of control but dedicated page-turn buttons can be an advantage.
  • Easy-on / Simple to use. ‘Warm’ switch-on time has to be in the sub-10-second range. A cold boot should take no more than it does on a mobile phone. 30 seconds max. Standby is a must-have.
  • Format support. The more formats you support, the better it is. Simple!
  • Ease-of-access to content. Having access to free books is fine but an online store of commercial offerings is a must-have in todays e-reader world. The Kindle proves it.

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Categorized | News

  • New article: What's the best PC for the Amazon Kindle PC software? http://cli.gs/531N0

  • New article: What's the best PC for the Amazon Kindle PC software? http://cli.gs/531N0 (via @chippy)

  • What's the best PC for the Amazon Kindle PC software? | UMPCPortal …: Ebooks are a big, complex topic and.. http://bit.ly/Ke7Ww

  • @chippy FYI My Kindle Honey Do (http://cli.gs/EzgUX) discusses your recent article http://bit.ly/OyKMJ

  • Steve

    I think the Archos 9 is looking like a great Kindle computer. At $500 US it is twice the cost of the Kindle but you get a pull pc that is still relatively small and light. Now if only it had multi touch…

  • Steve

    Isn’t amazing how many Steves we have here! . . .
    I have tried several times to get used to reading magazines and books on a electronic device. I have found Kindle to be my fav for books but I just cannot get used to reading color mags on any UMPC, tablet, etc.
    I guess that is mainly because I carry out nearly all of my book/mag reading in bed and, apart from the Kindle, I have not found anything that suits me.
    I am waiting for the ‘new’ tablets to come out.
    Th CrunchPad look like it might be great but with so much hype followed by so much silence, I am not sure we will ever see this device.
    I am looking for a light, touch device about the size of a foolscap sheet of paper. Certainly not miniature but certainly portable.
    I have written about my idea tablet at: http://nanosnotes.blogspot.com/2009/10/whats-in-tablet.html for anyone interested.
    PS. Great article, Chippy!

  • johnkzin

    If I were a Windows person, I’d probably go for Acer’s new convetible table (1420p or something like that). Under $1000, convertible tablet, good hardware options, HDMI _and_ VGA out, 12″ screen (slightly larger than I want, but could work). That’s probably what I’d pick for running the Amazon software.

    Though … I’d rather have that device, in a 10″ screen size, with dual-booting Android and Ubuntu … and Amazon software for Android and/or Ubuntu. Or maybe Android and Maemo.

    • johnkzin

      OH,and, if Apple would put out a 10″ tablet that runs real Mac OS X … Amazon confirmed (over on engadget) that they’re working on this same software for the Mac.

      So … yeah, Amazon e-reader for Android, Ubuntu, Maemo, and/or OS X … on a 10″ tablet. That’s what I’d want.

  • Absolutely NoOne

    What about the oqo? It had an active digitizer, sure, and they were expensive, but now that oqo’s out of business those things go for dirt cheap on e-bay!

    • ssagg

      I have an Oqo 02 and really love it but I think an Everun (the original one) would be better
      The Oqo is too expensive and the rotation needs the screen to be opened.
      Also the wacom pen while very good for most actions are a little odd while reading

  • alslayer

    Great article. I have looked and wanted every one of these devices. I used to have a Samsung q1 1st gen and I loved it. I am having a difficult time deciding what I want to replace it with. I will use it mostly for reading.

  • anon

    I recently received my 5″ ebook reader with an E Ink screen. With a 200 dpi resolution (600×800) and 160 gram weight it is just excellent for displaying reflowable text and grey-scale images that aren’t too big. It is not usable for all PDF material without somehow preparing them beforehand and operation can be slow sometimes, but due to its bistable screen and specialized low-power hardware I expect it will need its second charge sometime *next month* instead of topping it up daily!

    I have read some books on my desktop PC before, but not on my netbook. It just hasn’t got the right form factor and weight for ubiquitous usage. Pocketability and longevity is the key for me. Of the devices mentioned here, the Viliv S5 could be a contender, but the Archos 5 seems to be even better. For now though, I’ll be using my sub-200 euro E Ink reader that nearly eliminates the usual worry of battery life!

    • johnkzin

      Which brand of ebook did you get?

      • anon

        It is the Bebook Mini sold by the Dutch company Endless Ideas BV; it is a clone of Hanlin eReader V5 (made by Jinke). Americans and Canadians can also find it under the name EZ Reader Pocket PRO, sold by Astak.

  • Don Lloyd

    With text size and pdf capability primary concerns, I waited for the Kindle DX, and found that its pdf capability, along with its keyboard, were abysmal. In fact it would have been better without the pdf capability, since its presence prevented the pdf file conversion service from functioning. It did work very well for best-seller fiction, however, where you can buy, download, read and discard quickly.

    While it’s possible that a dedicated ebook reader could handle pdf files well, there is little incentive to worry much about pdf at the design stage.

    It seems to be much better to start with a superior Windows pdf reader program, such as Foxit for Windows, and run it on the kind of machine you mention above. I have a Viliv X70, and it works well.

    One plus of this approach is that the Foxit reader program can be preferenced for different text/background color combinations. Both white text on a blue background and yellow text on a black background are simply gorgeous.

    Regards, Don

  • @nakaori Read my other article about the Kindle PC software. It talks about requirements. http://bit.ly/2mu8ig

  • Oettinger

    Couple of weeks ago i stepped on my beloved Dell Axim X30i – which i jused for ebook reading only.
    People dont believe me, but it was great reading on this little device – and i dont wanna go back to “hardware” books.

    Right now i am looking (or waiting) for a new device:
    5″ oder 7″, lightweight, gps, 3g, 64gb ssd – for a price around the archos 5.
    Android oder Windows (CE) doesnt matter.

    It will be used mainly as an ebook reader and as an umpc when i am on the way.

    I know i am dreaming when you look at my dreamprice right know, but i want to wait until early 2010 – hope there will be a proper device available.

    Regards

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