Kindle A Cross-Platform Handcuff Experince

Source: Microsoft

Source: Harper’s


As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’m a big Kindle fan.  I don’t own a Kindle device as I prefer to read on my iMac, iPad, and Google Chromebook, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should buy a Kindle Fire HD.  This post is a comparison of the Kindle reading experience across Mac, iPad, and Chromebook.  While highlights and annotations ARE SHARED across platforms, the fidelity of Kindle across these platforms is degrading over time.  

Best Kindle Platform to Read With: iPad

Of the three platforms I use, the iPad’s Kindle reader is head and shoulders better.  Here is a snapshot of the highlighting tool in Kindle for iPad.  Note the multiple colors to choose from.

Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

Here are the annotation options on the Kindle for Mac software (version 1.10.5 (40381) freshly installed before I wrote this post.  

Source: A Kindle for Mac - A First Rate Madness page 78

Here is the annotation option on the Google Chromebook using Amazon Cloud Reader: 

Source: A Kindle Cloud Reader on Chromebook - A First Rate Madness page 78

Kindle iPad ≠ Kindle Mac ≠ Kindle Cloud Reader … So what? 

When I discovered the multi-color highlighting in Kindle for iPad, I thought to myself about how DICE (Deep Indulgent Complete and Elegant) Kindle’s software has become.  For example, here is a highlight that I created the first time I read A First Rate Madness:

Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

 And here is an updated highlight that allowed me to separate the ideas I was pointing to in the passage: 

 Source: A Kindle for iPad - A First Rate Madness page 78

The ability to more finely highlight for a bookworm like me, is a big deal.  As a professor, I’m looking forward to the day that Amazon will allow me to share my highlights with my students (and whomever else wants to see them) in a branded by me, way.  

However …

When I look at this same passage on Mac or Chromebook, the passage is one large blob of highlight.  So, … I’m now shifting my reading largely to my iPad, just so I can highlight in a more nuanced way.  And, I’m beginning to worry about whether … 

  • Amazon will preserve the integrity of my highlights into the future. 
  • I will be able to see my nuanced highlights on Mac and Chromebook, and if so, when.
  • I need to buy a Kindle Fire HD in order to avoid an adulterated Kindle reading experience. 
  • Google (resistance is futile, we will all be assimilated) will allow me to port my Amazon books to their reader with my highlights.
  • There will be an App for Kindle that will allow me to export my Kindle book highlights to a neutral format where I can re-apply my highlights to new formats of books that do not yet exist.   

Kindle as a GTD tool is incomplete.  I wish I could:

  • connect my highlighted passages to projects that the passages can support. Like I take my 3×5 cards with ideas on them and drop them into manila project folders.  It would be cool if I could print highlighted passages on 3×5 cards, so that I could move ideas from bits to atoms. 
  • link highlighted passages across Kindle books. 
  • have multiple Kindle books open on a single device, the digital equivalent of the bookworm on the ladder above.
  • dynamically link passages in Kindle books with web links (pictures, movies, slideshares, etc.)    

Finishing Up: 

Kindle is amazing, I’m sitting in my office surrounded by about 5,000 books.   So many books, that the thought of moving them actively repels me from the job market.  My computers running Kindle on the other hand, each have 215 books in them.  And, none of the devices carrying these books weigh any more than when I purchased them.  


Source: Google Nexus 4 in my office

So, every format of content, has pluses and minuses.  But the lack of fidelity in Kindle software across hardware platforms, gives me pause about whether Kindle is really earning our patronage as the book of the future.  

The biggest bugaboo of Kindle across platforms is that text-to-speech is not available unless you are reading on a Kindle hardware device. I had previously written off ever having text-to-speech thinking that Amazon is trying to force users to buy their devices.  But when you compare Kindle software on non-Amazon hardware, it becomes clear that text-to-speech isn’t the only Kindle experience adulteration.  

Any RestartGTD readers who have a color Kindle device, if you could compare the highlighting colors between Kindle device and MS Windows Kindle, it would be good to know if my experience is isolated, or is a signal to a more widespread adulteration.  

bill meade 

8 thoughts on “Kindle A Cross-Platform Handcuff Experince

  1. Hi, Bill

    The Kindle has been one of the most sought-after e-book reader. It’s amazing how thousands of books can be stored in one compact device. Users seem to enjoy the notes and highlights feature too, especially now that amazon has made multi-color highlights available.

    An iOS app that will be released on November 2013 will offer amazing features that will make it convenient for Kindle users to access their Kindle notes and highlights. Snippefy ( will store all notes in highlights under one place and will allow users to integrate them to social media sites, Evernote, Dropbox and email.

    Do check it out if you can and I hope you will find this resource helpful.

    Thank you

  2. thank you for writing about this. I just jumped into researching on my ipad with kindle on account of the multiple highlighting, but having it silo’d on the one device is infuriating. Finding someone else out there in research-land who cares about this has allowed me to vent :).

  3. Bill, I love the work you are doing here as I would like to be able to bounce between my Macbook Air and ipad Kindle with highlights intact and with multiple color, I am not as fancy as your with the highlighting but I do like to use a different color for each chapter and I don’t even know why, but when it goes away when I look at it on the computer I get let down…

    Is there a way to port my kindle books to iBooks?

      • dtucker,

        I have not found a legally un-impeachable way to port from kindle to ibooks. I like where Google is going and all. I’ve just started using a Google LG Nexus 4 phone on t-mobile’s $30 a month plan (unlimited internet and texting, but only 100 talk minutes per month). *Note* to restartgtd readers, text or email me, don’t call! :-)

        As I’m 213 kindle books into converting my 5000 volume library to electronic format, I’m not eager to re-buy kindle books either. I find myself thinking of Jeff Bezos as Bill Gates 2.0 who has me by the golden transactions costs handcuffs. So, I think we are stuck with Kindle.


  4. I struggled with the same problem. I decided to switch to iBooks for reading. The way of highlighting in the iBooks app is far superior that what Kindle has to offer. Also in terms of sharing possibillities. I played with Kindle Fire but was not impressed.

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