Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kindle Love

Over the last several months a few of my friends have asked me about the Kindle I purchased in December. A recent inquiry made me think it would be best expressed in a blog post so I could just point people to one source.

I have the standard size 2nd generation Kindle (available world-wide now), not the DX, and I really like it. The dimensions of the Kindle are 8" tall by 5.3" wide by 0.36" thick, and weighs in just over 10 ounces. The screen is 4.75" tall by 3.5 wide. While the larger DX would be easier on the eyes, I could not really justify the additional cost. I purchased a protective cover to so I don't worry about the screen getting scratched when I carry it in my computer backpack.

The Kindle is easy to read. The technical books I read are normally a more than one-inch thick and are heavy to hold up as you are reading in bed. The Kindle is light and not difficult to hold at all. The electronic ink screen is crisp and very easy on the eyes, and is snappy to the touch as you are paging through the book you are reading.

I love the fact that I can be talking with someone about some good, must have book and literally buy it and have it in minutes. I have several books I have purchased, several more I got for *free*, and I have loaded all the Hentzenwerke PDFs (technical FoxPro books), and created PDFs of the Southwest Fox 2009 conference white papers to load. Books purchased from Amazon are installed automatically if you are connected to the 3G network. Loading other books is done by connecting the Kindle to PC via USB, and like a USB memory device it becomes a drive you copy files to. You also can create subfolders and all the books show on the menu. I wish it would follow subfolders on the menu though so it would seem less cluttered. For instance, I currently have seven pages of books to page through to find book I want to read. It does sort them in different ways to make finding books easier. I personally like last book read at the top of the list. It also starts with the last book you are reading opened on the page you were reading. The Kindle works like I want it to work. Not many enhancement requests.

One thing I was concerned about with respect to an e-book is the ability to dog-ear a page. The Kindle allows you to make bookmarks and write annotations. I find this useful when I am doing research for a conference session or article I am writing and want to have something to reference a researched note. The Kindle comes with a keyboard that is easier to use than a phone keyboard, but definitely not as easy as a computer keyboard.

I have used the native Internet browser to check something on the Internet and it works fine. It is not as fast or as easy to use as FireFox, Chrome or IE on my computer, but if I am away from the computer it serves the purpose to look something up and is bigger than the screen on my phone. I have even read and posted Twitter tweets on it.

You can try the Kindle without purchasing one. You can get the Kindle for PC app for you computer, and there are Kindle apps for the iPhone and BlackBerry phones with rumors that Android is not far behind. Amazon has free books you can download and read on those platforms. While it is not the same exact form factor it does show you how nice it is to have e-books. And the different apps all synchronize together so as you change devices the book opens with the ability to start where you left off on the other device. At first I thought this might not be useful as I really spend enough time in front of the computer and rarely open the Kindle for PC app. But the Blackberry version rocks when I have a few minutes where I am waiting for a customer or friend and I did not bring my Kindle.

In general I think the device is easy to use, easy on the eyes, and compact. I do think it is over priced in general and if they want masses to have them they should price it at $99 to $129. But considering there are no monthly connection charges to the 3G network I understand the $259 pricing model. And for me it is worth every penny.

I have not played with the text to speech yet, but it would be a great way to read while driving. I am pretty sure it is limited to Amazon Kindle format books though, not PDF files you have loaded.

The pros definitely outweigh the cons for me.

  1. Fewer new printed books means saving the planet and shelf space and storage.
  2. Easy to carry anywhere, lighter backpack when traveling (up to 1500 books at one time)
  3. Books e-books are normally cheaper (9.99 in most cases), but you do have to watch for the flip where they are more expensive
  4. Delivered in minutes via the AT&T 3G
  5. Kindle for PC and Kindle for BlackBerry allow me to read even when I don't have Kindle. All three synchronize to the last page read for the book on any machine.
  6. Good battery life, I only have to charge it once every couple of weeks if I turn off the 3G connection. Naturally the more you use it the more you have to charge it, and the battery will drain significantly faster if you leave the 3G on.
  1. Cannot lend people books like I can with the paper versions (hoping for a future Amazon policy change)
  2. Slight fear someday the electronic media is going to go away and I don't have recourse on the electronic books lost.
  3. If you are outside of the AT&T 3G you are not going to get the books in minutes. (Got a map for that?!?)
  4. Your existing library only gets loaded if you have an e-book
  5. Older e-books like the ones from Hentzenwerke are not in the Amazon Kindle format so you get PDF rendering. Amazon Kindle format streams pages of text, where PDFs render the entire page on the small screen. PDFs are not as easy to read unless you go to landscape mode and see half the page at a time.
  6. There is no defined standard between e-book manufacturers.
  7. Not every book is available on the Kindle.
I do like how Amazon allows me to inform the publisher/author that I want their book in the Kindle format.

How did I pick the Kindle over the Barnes and Nobel nook? Couple of reasons: first, the Kindle is already 2nd generation while the nook was just rolled out and sold out of their first run when I made the purchase. I was not interested in investing into a platform while the company was learning how to make it all work. Second, I do a lot more purchases from Amazon than B&N so it makes sense. I have nothing against the nook and have several friends who purchased and love it. Another advantage of the nook is Barnes and Nobel policy that allows people to share books, which I think is ultimately better than Amazon's hard nose "no" approach. You also can try out a nook in the brick and mortar stores.

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