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 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.