Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Kindle Review-pros and cons after a month of use

So, I've had my Kindle 3G for about a month now, and I'd love to say that Amazon provided it for review.  No such luck, I bought this myself as a treat.  It's different than I expected, and hopefully I can share some observations that may help if you're looking for an e-reader.

Get an Ipad.  Seriously!  The only objections or things I don't like about the Kindle could be avoided with an Ipad, not another e-reader.  As an e-reader, having used two, this Kindle is pretty great, but I wish it could do more.

The surprises:  the instant Whispernet download thing is pretty cool.  It says under a minute but I find myself timing things and often it's seven seconds or less and it's on the Kindle, with no cables, conversions, or link to a computer.  Very cool.  I downloaded several of the Open Letter Press titles that were on sale from Amazon, and was pleased.  I also got several free classic texts available in the Kindle store (PD Wodehouse, Tolstoy, etc).  There's no problem with not having something to read. 

A big perk is that reading PDF files is a breeze.  That matters because it was the primary reason I bought the Kindle-I wanted to be able to read ARC's rec'd in PDF form without my laptop (which drives me nuts).  These are different in terms of downloading-you simply send the documents to yourself at the free email Kindle address that you are provided with when you get the Kindle.  It is sent via Whispernet and is ready for viewing immediately.  That's the only time you need a computer with it.

not my Kindle, but shows how M-edge cover fits,
and it folds back to allow single-hand page-turns

I was most impressed with reading newspapers and magazines on it, more so than even books.  I still love the feel of a print book, especially that if I drop one in the tub or spill coffee on it, it's not a huge financial loss.  And I thought the wide-format of a newspaper would make reading it on the Kindle a bore.  Actually, it's so much more convenient. The articles are sorted by title, making it easy to scroll through sections and read what you want.  Also, the access to worldwide newspapers in multiple languages is sort of fun when the Ambien has yet to kick in.

As far as reading an actual book on it, it's okay.  I am a fast reader so that page turn button, which is supposedly improved on this latest generation, still seems too slow.  The print itself is adjustable, which is nice, and the way you hold the Kindle (oriented to right or left hands) makes it possible to hold it in one hand and change the pages with that same hand (leaving the other free for snacking!).  It's comfortable to hold and is very light.  Also, you can view it in portrait or landscape mode to maximize screen area.

It's not backlit, which many people complain about.  I don't see the fuss-a book light at night is just fine.  Backlighting just hurts my eyes anyway.  Better yet, there's no glare, so reading outside is clear while working on my laptop outside is next to impossible.  It's not in color, but none of my books are either (except photos)...not even an issue for me. BUT, if I wanted my kid to read a book on it, color would be nice (see Ipad statement above).

this is the cover I bought, comes with a fabric
envelope as well for travel
The battery life is great, even though I leave the wi-fi 3g on all the time.  With it on, it delivers my subscriptions automatically and they are ready for viewing immediately.  By the way, subscriptions to magazines and papers is cheap...I am paying $2.99 a month for New Yorker-much less than the print issue and hopefully saving a few trees.

So, the cons.....strangely enough, turning it off is really hard.  It's easy to set it to sleep (where you have a bunch of screensavers rotate), but not all the way off.  I wish it were simpler to do that and I would like to select one of the screensavers instead of the rotation.  It would be nice to be able to customize it a bit as well (other than buying after market accessories)-but since it's not in color, it's not a big deal. The font on the pages seems boring and the list style of much of the options is dull-thumbnails would be better.  A touch screen would even surpass that.

The web browser is experimental, and it's crap.  Nearly impossible to view a webpage well, but I remind myself that I didn't buy it to surf the Internet.  I think email would be nice, but again, it's an e-reader. 

One of the biggest annoyances is if you need to type in a name or term-the QWERTY keypad is tiny and awkward, and there's no number line (that involves extra buttons), which is totally unacceptable in terms of convenience.  Also, the main menu button, a 4-way switch with center select is, at times, hard to accurately press.

There's the ability to select certain passages to save as clippings-but why not be able to highlight them in a pale grey background or something?  Going to the clippings file is a pain-it would be nice to scroll backward and see some sort of change in grey scale or font to signify your selected areas.  It's difficult to sort the clippings as well, at least with PDF files, because the first few lines refer back, not to the selected text, but to the document name.  Hard to explain but basically a pain.

Another negative is the price of accessories.  I bought a cheapie cover first but it was sort of insulting to the Kindle.  I ended up getting a New Yorker cover by M-Edge, which is very well designed and looks great (although a pocket would be nice).  The assumption that cover designers seem to make is that you'll never need to take notes with an e-reader, so few have pockets.  The price for the cover was pretty outrageous, as are 'skins' and booklights for it.  I'm pleased with the cover itself but it was just under 25% of the price of the Kindle which seems a bit much.  Some covers (Kate Spade and Cole Haan) run about $100 each...yikes.

So, why the Ipad?  I think it would be cool to streamline my calendar, contacts, and email with the e-reader, and be able to have games for the kid to play when we're stuck at the doctor.  The Ipad is the only real option for that, as would be another laptop, which just seems silly.  For convenience for reading on the go, this is great...but it could be so much more.  The idea of carrying a PDA and a Kindle and a digital camera and a paper notebook seems excessive, yet putting them all together usually lessens the qualities of one of the components.

One last remark on the proprietary use of Kindle books as opposed to others---yep, you have to purchase Kindle titles only (so no Googlebooks or Nook books).  Some people get really upset about this, but one guy online pointed out that his razor and cartridges have the same issue-those aren't interchangeable either.  I don't fault Amazon on this end.  Xboxes don't play Playstation games. Some things can be converted (EPUB to Calibre, for example) for use on the Kindle.  I don't see it as a big issue or artistic limitation.


  1. I find myself the unexpected owner of a kindle, just like yours. I have had it for just over one week, and so far like it a lot. As you mentioned, the browser is useless, but as a reader I really like it, particularly the lack of glare, that makes reading easy on the eyes. The whispernet delivery of material is awesome, very quick, and I can order on my computer or on the kindle itself, both have worked nicely. I have used it in three countries so far (lot of travelling) and it picked up wireless signal in all. I haven't yet used some of the features you have, like reading PDFs or periodicals, so cannot comment. I like that I can use it to play sudoku and word games, which I enjoy very much. Even my daughter was entertained with curious george books on it, despite the black and white display.

  2. Thanks for this - very comprehensive and useful, as I start to research eReaders. I'd love to get an iPad, but am leaning towards the nook color, just 'cause it's a lot cheaper, is supposedly the best for e-reading, and still has a few apps and a browser. Kindle seems to have too many detractors.

  3. I have an iPad and a e-reader (Sony, not Kindle) and I find that I use them for different purposes. The iPad does a whole lot more, no doubt about it. It, it's an awkward size to hold one-handed on a subway - and it would be a great target for a grab-and-run. My Sony reader is the perfect size to carry with me anywhere. It's more like having a book than a really expensive electronic toy. Still, the toy is really cool...