Thursday, July 08, 2010

Review Day: Kindle 2

We had talked about getting a Kindle quite often in the past, but the impetus behind our purchase ended up being the price drop to $189, effectively labeling it as a gadget you wouldn't be scared to bring everywhere with you -- one that would be disappointing to lose or break, but not one that would sit at home uselessly in a protective case.

I picked the standard Kindle over the Kindle DX because of better portability -- if I wanted a paper-sized screen, I'd just read on the netbook or the laptop. I stayed within the Amazon family because I'm comfortable and invested in the Amazon framework, and because no one really wants to own a device that can be called "The Nookie Reader".

As you become more familiar with the Kindle, the interface really does fade away until you're just reading another book that happens to be very thin. The size and weight are great for reading at all angles, even standing on your head, and the momentary flash as you turn pages gets much less noticeable after the initial distraction. Navigating WITHIN a book can get tedious sometimes, so I wouldn't want to use the Kindle for books that require lots of flipping back and forth, or jumping to other sections. For a standard novel reading front-to-back, it's perfect. When supporting the Kindle in my left hand, my thumb sometimes accidentally hits the "Next" button (which exists on both sides of the device), but it's infrequent and worth the trade-off of being accessible for left-handers.

The e-ink technology is very easy on the eyes, and I'm able to read it outside in the glare of the triple-degree sun just as easily as I can next to a dim indoor lamp. Readability is also enhanced by multiple font sizes, the ability to rotate the display to a landscape orientation, and a text-to-speech convertor that gets most of the pronunciations right. As you come across words that you don't understand because of your public school backgrounds, you can highlight the word and a definition will instantly pop up at the bottom of the page. Basic hyperlinking to web resources is built in to some books as well.

The Kindle has built in 3G wireless, with no monthly charge, and even comes with a basic web browser that renders some text-based sites like Wikipedia and Lonely Planet. The network is dog-slow though, so I would view this more as an emergency backup than a feature. I haven't had any signal strength problems so far.

The only downside to the Kindle is the Kindle Store. First, electronic books are too expensive, generally hovering around $10 for a book. I really enjoy the convenience of buying a book and having it magically appear on the Kindle, and as a fast reader, I enjoy not having leftover hardcopies of bad books I've wasted money on, but I feel like a price point around 5-8 dollars would be much more inline with the value I'm getting. Because I am a yuppy, the price isn't high enough that I'd stop buying, but seems to be as much of a rip-off as buying a $16 CD with 32 minutes of music on it.

The Kindle Store is also horrible for browsing. First, the 3G network is too slow to browse from the Kindle, so I generally just get on my computer to purchase books. The purchasing framework is fast and easy, but picking out books when you don't really know what you want to read is horrible (a brick bookstore would win here, hands down). The Kindle Store could really benefit from more control over search results (i.e. search by author, filter within results, etc.). For example, if I do a search on an author's name, many of the results aren't even by that author. In other cases, such as drilling down by genre, the "Kindle Free" content increases the noise ratio of the results. I've caught myself spending as much as a half hour looking for a new book before giving up and closing my browser.

Final Grade: A-, Convenient and makes me read more often, despite the Store issues

The Great Bacon Odyssey: One Burger, Ten Strips of Bacon!
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Schoolboy makes Spiderman machine

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