Like many readers, I own an Amazon Kindle. What you may not know is that when it comes to learning and studying books, product manuals, or PDFs, I often use the free desktop version – “Kindle App for PC.” There is a comparable version for the Mac.
The primary reason is that the Kindle app for the PC is much easier to highlight and annotate content. I can also see my notes and highlights neatly organized on the side. This is called the Notebook. The Notebook makes an ideal study and book review tool. And I can still sync content with my other Kindle devices.
And in some cases, there are technical books with code snippets that I wish to copy and use elsewhere. For example, I might get a Humble Bundle book offer and download the ebooks to the Kindle Desktop. Many high-school and college students use the same software to study fiction works, too.
Benefits of the Free Kindle Desktop
You might be wondering what’s wrong with the Kindle you or I bought? The answer is nothing. They work very well in most scenarios. However, I think the Kindle App for the PC offers better features when learning the material.
In some cases, the desktop version provides features your physical device might not have. Here are some examples:
Multiple Kindle Versions
Before I go into details, I need to elaborate on the different Kindle versions. There are 3 broad classes.
These are the traditional stand-alone E-readers that you can hold, like a book from Amazon. Another distinction is that you pay for these hardware devices. They come in a range of sizes, prices, and features. Typically, these devices have a screen that is 6”-7” wide. Their draw is portability.
Cloud Based E-reader
This version runs in your web browser. I find this version the least useful. It offers a limited set of features, but you can access your books and notes if you’re at another computer.
Free Kindle Apps
This set of Kindles is software-based and free. Amazon calls them “Free Reading Apps.” There are also different versions based on operating systems (OS). Within this category, you have versions for phones, tablets, and desktops.
It’s the desktop version I’ll be using for this article.
How to Download Kindle for PC
The obvious place to start is the Amazon Kindle Download page for your country. For example, in the US, the URL is https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp. Or, you can use the green button above.
You can download the software from other non-Amazon sites, but I can’t think of any benefits. In fact, by using a non-Amazon site, you might be getting an older or modified version. Please don’t take the risk.
Once on the URL, you should see a graphic with various Kindle displays. Directly underneath, you’ll see the button to get the desktop versions. These include Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac.
- Click the Download button to start your transfer.
- After the download completes, open the installer file.
Kindle Desktop Layout
After downloading the software, you’ll need to connect it to your Amazon account. You should see a list of your Kindle books under the Library heading if you have any.
In my case, I’ve also set up Collections to group similar books. You might think of Collections like folders. My programming collection includes Kindle books I bought on Amazon as well as some PDF files.
When you open the book on the desktop, you have 3 main areas that show side-by-side.
- Table of Contents [A]
- Book content [B]
- Notes and Highlights (Notebook) [C]
This layout is customizable. For example, I can hide the Table of Contents, Notes & Highlights, or both.
Another nice feature is I can resize the book content area  either by grabbing an edge or using a Page width slider option within the app.
This is particularly useful if you want to highlight a section that spans to the next page. By resizing the area, you can quickly highlight the relevant section. To this day, I still struggle with highlighting text on my Kindle device that flows to the next page.
Side by Side Content
One benefit to the wider screen is that I can show both the notes and book content side-by-side. I prefer seeing both because the Kindle tends to scrunch your highlights and you can lose important formatting.
Different Highlighting Options
On my first Kindle, I was limited to one color for highlights. With the newer devices and the desktop, you can apply different colors. This can be useful if you want to categorize your highlights such as one color for definitions, quotes, questions, etc.
Presently, there are 4 different colors that can be assigned. You can filter by these colors. However, you can’t change a highlight’s color. Instead, you need to remove the highlight and apply the different color.
You can also prioritize highlights by applying a star. You can use both color and stars together.
Another way to view highlights is via crowd-sourcing. Amazon also lets you see popular highlights from a book. You can view these either by location or by count. Clicking on the highlight will take you to passage.
You can see how many people highlighted the text from both the notebook and the page.
I find this feature useful when first starting a book. It helps me gauge what other people thought important or useful.
Working with PDF files
The desktop Kindle version also handles PDF files. Most often, these files are geared towards wider screens. While you can view these files in your web browser, the desktop is a better user experience.
Like normal Kindle books, you can adjust the viewing area. Instead of using the sizing handles or Display panel, you can use the toolbar Zoom level feature.
Another difference is based on how the author constructed the PDF document. Whereas most Kindle books have a Table of Contents, PDFs may not. Some do have them, but they aren’t active, so if you click a link, you can’t jump to the appropriate section. In the example below, the author did add the table of contents.
Perhaps, the biggest difference is your PDF highlights don’t sync to your Kindle account. You can easily export them as an HTML file, but they will not appear at https://read.amazon.com/kp/notebook or your other devices. This is a nice feature that shows your highlights and notes in a wider format using your web browser.
I should mention there are some items, the desktop versions don’t offer, which may impact your behavior. One difference is this Kindle version doesn’t have a clippings.txt file. This is a special file some versions have for exporting your notes and highlights. You can export your notes as an HTML file, but there are no links.
Lastly, if you really like green highlights, you’re out of luck as the desktop version doesn’t have it.
On balance, I find Kindle for PC to be a great tool for studying material, whether it be a course assignment or a PDF manual. It’s easier to read and review material primarily because of the larger screen.