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Summary:

I have been using the Kindle for a few days now and should share my feelings about the reading experience since I can do so with some real usage impressions.  I have settled on reading with the Kindle in the book cover case, even though it […]

Cimg0333I have been using the Kindle for a few days now and should share my feelings about the reading experience since I can do so with some real usage impressions.  I have settled on reading with the Kindle in the book cover case, even though it is not perfect.  I find that because of the plethora of huge buttons around the left and right edges of the Kindle I have to constantly pay attention where I place my hands while using the Kindle.  I stated in my initial impressions that I felt these buttons were so easily accidentally pressed that they are a design flaw and I feel that even more strongly with extended usage.  Even in the cover I have to be consciously aware where I place my hands and that is just not right.  Amazon must make these buttons smaller and farther away from the very edges of the device in future generations.  It can be particularly distracting while reading when I move my hands to make sure I don’t hit a button.  I also find it easy to hit the right edge buttons while the cover is closed which should not be possible.  The whole point is to open the book to the place you left off in the last session and it’s easy to find I have paged forward accidentally while the cover is closed.

I am pleased how light and thin the Kindle is in the hands the more I use it.  It is smaller than the books I am reading and is pretty comfortable to hold for extended lengths of time and enjoy reading books.  I am also impressed with the battery life I am getting which is not a surprise as that is the way an eInk device should be.  I must confess I haven’t tried subscribing to any periodicals or blogs because I think the regular polling over Whispernet over EVDO will shorten that battery life dramatically.  I have already seen several people commenting that their Kindles are lasting less than a day on a charge because the Kindle seems to be polling the Whispernet quite a lot in fringe coverage areas.  This is the danger of having an online reader and hopefully we won’t start seeing many owners making similar complaints.  I am not having this problem thankfully.

When I first started using the Kindle I felt that the button placement would be my main complaint of the design of the device and unfortunately that is not the case.  My main complaint about the Kindle has to do with the contrast of the screen between the page background and the text.  I find the Kindle difficult if not impossible to use in areas that only have medium light.  The text is just too hard to read for any length of time and just shortly after beginning my reading session I get frustrated that I am having to squint too much to read the page.  This happens not in low light areas, the Kindle can’t even be read in those.  No I am finding that without very direct lighting it’s a gamble whether the Kindle will be comfortable to read or not.  These medium light areas have sufficient lighting where regular paper books can be read with no problem so I should be able to read on the Kindle but not comfortably at all.  I think this would be better if the page background on the Kindle was very white and the text much darker than it is as I believe it to be a poor contrast between the two that is responsible for the difficulty.  I realize that an eInk equipped reader cannot be backlit and thus can’t be used in poorly lit areas but these medium lit areas I am referring to should work for any written media, but not the Kindle.  This is something that must be addressed in the 2nd generation Kindle as I feel it is a major problem of the device.  I have read that the original Sony Reader suffered from a similar contrast problem that has been addressed in the second generation Reader that is now available.  If this is true then Amazon should have used the newer technology for the Kindle.

The speed of operation of the Kindle will not set any records but it’s fast enough for happy usage.  I don’t find anything I do to be irritatingly slow, the system is fast enough to provide a decent user experience.  Along those lines I do have a couple of suggestions for Amazon to make the experience better compared to other ebook readers I have used.  First off there needs to be a "Add bookmark" hardware button on the keypad that is easily accessible.  Bookmarks make any reader easier to use and the current method of having to open the menu, scroll down to Add Bookmark is not convenient and interrupts the reading experience which I don’t think is what Amazon wants to happen.  The second suggestion I have is a two-fer.  Drop the goofy "location" addresses that show up everywhere and mean nothing to the user.  Instead at least put the page number and Chapter number at either the top or bottom of every page.  Readers like to know where they are in the book all the time and other than the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the page it’s impossible to get a feel for where you are in the book.

The ebooks shopping experience on the Kindle is very well done and the most solid experience that Amazon delivers.  It is so simple to search for books and buying them couldn’t be easier and kudos to Amazon for making this bullet-proof.  It is amazing to see the depth of the online store and the types of books available for the Kindle and this is where the Kindle experience blows away the competition.

Overall I enjoy reading books on the Kindle, although at this early stage I am not sure I can say it’s my favorite ebook reading solution.  Reading books on the HTC Advantage with eReader is pretty darn awesome and the backlit screen means I can read books in bed without lighting to disturb my Significant Other.  Purchasing ebooks on the Advantage is as simple as on the Kindle too, the online store just isn’t nearly as extensive as Amazon’s.   We’ll have to see if the Kindle replaces the eReader solution after some additional time.  I should point out that the Advantage is far more than an ebook reader and is twice as expensive as the Kindle so you can’t make a direct one-to-one comparison.  I do use the Advantage for ebook reading though so it’s fair for me to compare the two as I am doing.  I have taken some photos of the Kindle side-by-side with the Advantage which you’ll find after the jump.  Both devices are displaying the same ebook.


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  1. I’m still convinced that the Kindle is an overpriced and over-hyped POS. I really don’t see the need to pay double the price of a Sony eReader just so I can be locked into Amazon’s DRM’d books.

    Add to this the fact that the Kindle has a slightly inferior screen to the Sony and for me it’s an easy choice as to which device I would purchase. They both use the newest Vizplex screens but for some reason Amazon chose to go with a 4 grayscale screen compared to Sony’s 8. Fundamentally, both devices are made to read books and therefore the screen is the most important aspect. So why? Why ‘o why wouldn’t they go with the best screen available on the Kindle? Especially since it’s double the price of the Sony? Plus the user interface of the Kindle is just pure garbage. The Sony is so elegant in comparison.

    Kindle’s whispernet feature really is not a compelling feature for me. I really don’t like DRM. This means that even though I own a Sony Reader I rarely purchase books through the Connect store. Which would probably mean I would rarely if ever buy a book through the Amazon store if I had a Kindle. Instead I usually purchase books from booksonboard.com. I try to purchase the books in the Microsoft Lit format. Yes, this format has DRM also, but it has been cracked. I know this isn’t technically legal to do, but I consider it fair use to be able to use my purchased books in whichever device I choose.

    Also, I don’t find magazine or newspaper reading very compelling on the 6 inch screen of the Kindle/Sony. Magazines were designed for A4 size pages and Newspapers for even larger page sizes. The 6 inch screen just doesn’t cut it. If I want to read a magazine I’d much rather use Zinio on a tablet PC. It’s much closer to an actual magazine reading experience.

    About the only positive thing I can say about the Kindle is Amazon’s commitment to provide new best sellers for $10. This has had a great affect on the marketplace. A lot of the sellers of ebooks have been forced to match Amazon’s prices. Booksonboard has written a letter to its customers stating that they would follow Amazon’s pricing scheme. This to me is awesome. Finally, ebooks are selling at the correct price point. Why have to drive all the way to a brick and mortar store and pay $20+ for a new book when you can sit comfortably at home and get that new best seller for $10!!! Twice the convenience at half the price. Thanks Amazon for at least getting ebook pricing correct.

    Anyways, sorry for the rant, but I’m sick of all the hype the Kindle has gotten when it’s a pretty weak device from a reading aspect. Sure, it’s got all the bells and whistles, but at the end of the day it’s ultimately a reading device. And unfortunately the reading experience on the Kindle falls short of the Sony.

    P.S.
    When the lighting gets poor I find it’s a lot easier to read my books when I increase the text size. Maybe this will work for you too.

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  2. What’s the big deal with the Kindle??
    I have two Palms… One was under $95 and the other was $300 ( but has wifi ). Not only have I been reading books on them for a few years now but they have more options for use than the Kindles and fit in your pocket! Also the books are cheaper, battery life is plenty long on the Palm units too.
    I just don’t get the big deal.
    TM
    PS Or just buy a UMPC like the Q1b for $700.
    At least you have more than a book reader.

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  3. The big deal with the Kindle is that it is actually consumer friendly and easy to use. Unpack, turn on and start reading.

    To get to the point where a Pocket PC is a good (great!) reading device, you have to install software, find books, import books, activate the reader in some cases, etc.

    The first can be done by Joe Average, who just wants to read – the second can still be done with relative ease, but only if you are quite PDA literate – and you’ll still face more hassles every day in aquiring, copying and in general messing about with the reading material.

    The Kindle isn’t for me, but one has to be able to step back from ones own viewpoint and see it from another point of view to see that it is a very interesting device for people who like to read, but aren’t paper fetischists – they just want to read and have quick and easy access to books. The other features are just added extras, which may or may not be useful.

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  4. >>>I try to purchase the books in the Microsoft Lit format. Yes, this format has DRM also, but it has been cracked. I know this isn’t technically legal to do, but I consider it fair use to be able to use my purchased books in whichever device I choose.

    Ah! Thanks for that idea. I was right to grab Amber last night!

    And for those of you who might have been on the fence about ebook readers, see my comment at teleread about how far ebook prices have fallen and why e now makes sense to transition to:

    http://www.teleread.org/blog/2007/11/23/best-seller-price-wars-on-the-e-front-amazon-kindle-store-vs-sony-connect-fictionwise-and-booksonboard/#comment-636728

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  5. James – two quick points. You can bookmark any page at the top of the screen with a quick scroll-and-click on the dog-ear icon at the top of the screen. In the Kindle Guide, they explain the “goofy” location address – as you reformat the screen with different sizes, the page numbering changes. I’m not saying it’s particularly useful information but I do understand the technical issue.

    Having used both the Sony Reader and the Kindle, all I can say in response to your very commenter above is that the Sony’s software is, as usual, miserable. It’s a pain to use, Windows-only, and their store provides a much smaller selection of titles. IMO, neither device is anywhere near perfect yet but Kindle’s out-of-box user experience and suitability for non-technical users is head and shoulders better than Sony’s.

    And, having been a long-time Palm PDA user and a big eReader fan (and customer) for many years, you simply cannot compare reading on a PDA (or phone) and on a dedicated book reader. They provide completely different experiences and appeal to very different users (beyond hopeless gadget freaks like us who want one of everything).

    FWIW, I’m enjoying the heck out of my Kindle. I’ve loaded it up with a bunch of free books from manybooks.net, converted PDFs from my own collection with expected results (good, not great and exactly the same or better than what I get from the Sony), and a few purchased titles from the Kindle store. I’ve taken it with me everywhere I’ve gone this week and demo’ed it oa bunch of people. All are very impressed with it and most wanted one for themselves.

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  6. I am really trying to get into the average Joe’s head as cr0ft suggested, but i fail to see them actually going for eBooks being it the low interest in reading, the phobia of technology, or inability to pay $400 (or $400 for a device with limited capabilities). I don’t have the numbers in hand, but reading is correlated with socioeconomic status and with technological literacy.

    Although it is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, i still think that if you are about to spend $400 on a gadget, it makes more sense to buy a laptop from the OLPC project and this way also contribute another one to a kid in developing country. This in my view is an appropriate answer to the Kindle-hype (which is purely marketing based)

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  7. Marc, thanks for the tip about the bookmark. I still think a dedicated add bookmark button is the way to go. I agree with you and have said before that the Kindle along with the Amazon system is much better to get the mainstream consumer involved in the ebook movement and that’s a very good thing. However, I’ll disagree with you that you can’t compare the ebook experience of PDAs with dedicated readers if you already have a PDA. There’s a fair comparison if you already have a PDA and it’s OK to point that out. I am enjoying reading on the Kindle, I just want Amazon to address these obvious problems to make it better.

    I do believe that the Kindle can be a great holiday gift for family members who are otherwise unfamiliar with technology items.

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  8. >>>the Sony’s software is, as usual, miserable. It’s a pain to use, Windows-only, and their store provides a much smaller selection of titles. IMO, neither device is anywhere near perfect yet but Kindle’s out-of-box user experience and suitability for non-technical users is head and shoulders better than Sony’s.

    Yes, amazon got that right. And, yes, Sony is not the place to go for either shopping or desktop software!

    >>>FWIW, I’m enjoying the heck out of my Kindle. I’ve loaded it up with a bunch of free books from manybooks.net, converted PDFs from my own collection with expected results (good, not great and exactly the same or better than what I get from the Sony), and a few purchased titles from the Kindle store. I’ve taken it with me everywhere I’ve gone this week and demo’ed it oa bunch of people. All are very impressed with it and most wanted one for themselves.

    What reactions did you get from showing your Sony Reader back when?! I still favor the Reader.

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  9. James: Another button dedicated to bookmarking is a good idea – not arguing that. On the PDA thing, show an eBook on a PDA and on the Kindle (or Sony Reader for that matter) to any “normal” consumer and they’ll pick the dedicated device every time. As I said (and as you know all too well), I’ve been reading on PDAs for years. In the words of Bush the Elder: “Not going to do it (anymore). Wouldn’t be prudent.” Not with my aging eyes!

    Mike: People love the look of the Sony – they have always made very pretty hardware. But when they use it, things start breaking down a bit. And when I explain how the whole system works, I lose a lot of them. “Too complicated” is the usual reaction. Keep in mind that these are the aforementioned “normal” people and not geeks and gadget freaks.

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  10. Actually, a modern VGA PDA will have a screen that looks fantastic, and with built-in lighting at that. You can also set (if you pick your reader software well) font size so big that even downright elderly readers should be able to enjoy it.

    And when I refered to an average user I meant an average but intelligent and educated user who simply isn’t a downright geek. There are quite a few people out there who enjoy reading and would welcome the insant gratification of downloading books but don’t enjoy fiddling with gadgets, and a single-purpose device that doesn’t require a lot of messing around with cables, connections, software installations etc has an obvious niche compared to a PDA or Tablet.

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