November 13, 2009

MS Reader vs. Kindle for PC

The Kindle for PC is designed as an desktop interface for the Kindle device, so when it comes to displaying PRC and MOBI files for non-Kindle owners, it is definitely NOT user friendly. However, I found after installing it that it had reassigned the PRC and MOBI file associations from the MobiPocket Reader, so double-clicking opened them in the Kindle.

Kindle for PC is a really a stripped-down MobiPocket Reader with a cleaner look and the DRM stuff. The interface is so minimalistic as to be fairly pointless, except, I suppose, in order to demo for non-Kindle users the look and feel of the physical device. This is a "1.0 Beta" with emphasis on the "0" and the "Beta." There isn't even a find function.

Kindle for PC, like MobiPocket, renders everything in the same font. As a test, I set an <H1> tag to sans-serif using an inline style. The style displays in MobiPocket but is ignored by Kindle for PC. It implements a KISS strategy to the max.

For the time being, unless you need the DRM, I'd stick with the MobiPocket Reader. (And if you are using Kindle for PC to preview a file you intend to upload to the Amazon DTP, like the MobiPocket Reader, set the horizontal width of the window to the minimum size.)

Recompiling the LIT for The Path of Dreams reminded me that while the orphaned Microsoft Reader (last updated in 2005) lacks the bells and whistles of the Mobipocket Reader (the "find" function is particularly clumsy), and its neglected compiler is still stuck on version 2.0, it remains the most visually "elegant" of the desktop ebook readers.

One of its neatest features--that other readers are inexplicably yet to implement--is built-in hyphenation. This allows the MS Reader to avoid the gaping white spaces produced by full justification and appear more "book-like." I think that even a simple algorithm-based hyphenation system (as opposed to dictionary-based) would be preferable to none.

The Microsoft Reader (X)HTML is more CSS-friendly than MobiPocket and is less reliant on proprietary tags. The compiler could easily be modified to crank out ePub. With a little investment, Microsoft could produce a cross-platform ePub platform that could turn every Windows Mobile product into a universal ebook device based on open standards.

Microsoft might be thinking along those lines, as it recently updated the Reader for Windows Mobile (not the desktop version). Moreover, the announcement of a partnership between Tokyo-based publishing giant Shueisha and Microsoft to distribute emanga on mobile phones suggests Microsoft is taking the platform and the market seriously this time.

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