I received a Kindle this year as a Chanukah present, courtesy of my delightful fianc´e. Since e-readers had come up on this blog a couple of times, I thought I might provide a first-hand review of the device. Putting some niggling complaints aside, I am happy to say that I am increasingly pleased with it.
It’s not perfect, but at $260 (free shipping with Amazon) I can safely say that many people would find it quite useful.
As evidenced by my previous comments on this blog regarding the Kindle, I was skeptical of e-readers. Although I am a gadget geek by nature, I was turned off by what I saw as the Kindle’s closed, proprietary nature. It didnâ€™t help that Amazon committed a serious gaffe in July of this year by remotely removing copies of 1984 from the devices due to a copyright issue.
Amazon has been fairly contrite about the 1984 “issue,” with CEO Jeff Bezos saying that it was a “stupid mistake” that “will never happen again.” I don’t know if I believe him, but it’s a step in the right direction.
But enough about my misgivings, what about the device? From a purely technical perspective the Kindle performs wonderfully. It’s responsive, intuitive, and generally well-designed. The e-ink screen is enjoyable to read, and the various buttons all seem to make sense to me. I never had to open up any readme files in order to understand its use. Very cool. Also, unlike nook, which seems to be awfully slow at times, the Kindle is almost always quite zippy, and suffers very few software hang-ups.
Oddly enough, the 3G on the Kindle seems to be faster than the 3G on my iPhone, despite the two of them both using the spectacularly dismal AT&T network. It may be because of the lower data needs of the Kindle, but in any case it’s nice. The battery also lasts seemingly forever, assuming you turn off the 3G. I have charged it once since I got it, and the battery isn’t even half drained.
Reading books on the Kindle is a generally pleasant experienceâ€¦ IF you are a front-to-back kind of reader. I am, and it works great for me. However, my fianc´e, who is a bit of a “skipper,” would find it frustrating. If you like to skip around a book, reading notes and forewords as you read the main text, you may not enjoy the e-book experience.
The Kindle is not textbook friendly, nor is nook or any other e-reader. If you are reading textbooks, just don’t bother. Also, no color, so don’t expect to use it to read graphs any time soon.
Buying books on the Kindle couldn’t be easier. You go into the Kindle store on the device itself or on your computer, find the book you want, order it, and the book is sent straight to your Kindle through 3G magicks. Putting free books on the device is as easy as going to Guttenberg on the Kindle or on your computer, and using USB to transfer them over.
Most books come out to about $10 USD a pop, which isnâ€™t bad. Nonetheless, when I amortize the cost of the device over its lifetime, I don’t expect huge savings, which is supposedly a selling point. Oh well. It’s really convenience over money in this case.
Ultimately, the Kindle is best for people who commute and enjoy reading casually. However, I don’t consider it to be a “game changer” or a “paradigm shift” or any of that nonsense. It’s a convenience, and a way to carry large amounts of written text with you in a small and portable package.
I would recommend it to anyone who travels a lot or commutes a lot. If you’re a magazine reader or solely a newspaper reader, don’t bother. It’s really meant to be a book device. In the spirit of the Internet, hereâ€™s my + and â€“ list:
+ Easy to read screen with a fantastic battery life
+ Intuitive controls that donâ€™t get in the way of reading
+ Kindle Store and 3G make it easy to buy books anytime, anywhere
+ Large collection of free books on Guttenberg Press
+ Now with native PDF support
– Still not cheap, and you have to be a really big reader to break even
– Even though Amazon appears contrite, they still possess the ability to destroy your collection with evil wireless powers
– No color
– PDFs read natively, but many are formatted badly for the device
– The most textbook unfriendly format ever devised
Overall, however, I am pleased. I hereby overturn my verdict of “e-readers suck” to “e-readers are nice for a certain segment of the population,” and of those, I believe the Kindle 2 is still the best of the lot. Now, back to my scotch and Too Big to Fail.
Merry Christmas (and a belated Happy Chanukah to you Members of the Tribe), and a Happy New Year!