A Christmas Kindle
My lovely bride, perhaps out of fear that my book collection will push us out of our home, bought me a Kindle for Christmas.
In a fit of self-defense, I had added the Kindle to my Amazon Wish List sometime in November. I say self-defense because our local Barnes & Nobles was rather prominently pushing the Nook, and based on reviews I knew I’d rather have the Kindle.
Plus, I am an Amazon fan. Unabashed. Far more than Apple, whom I am in serious love/hate with. For every great thing Apple does, they do something that annoys.
So Christmas morn, comes the Kindle. Of course, the little slip inside exhorts me to charge it before using, but does any geek do so? I thought not. I just turn it on and away we go!
(As an aside, is there some mystical power imbued into a battery the first time it is charged by ts rightful owner? Is it like Arthur and the Sword in the Stone? If I fail to charge my battery before I use it, must it be forever bereft of its full power?)
Since my wife ordered it, it came registered to her Amazon account. I quickly unregistered it and register it to my account. It is a little disconcerting how easy it is to unregister the device — the small child mischief potential is high. On the other hand, unregistering carries no obvious penalty, so maybe I worry for nothing.
You can read stock reviews of the Kindle elsewhere; the feel of it, the performance of page flipping, the keyboard, all that stuff. I shan’t bore you with those details. For me, with my one-to-three-book-a-day habit, there are only three salient features that matter.
I love my iPhone screen, but for book reading — the Kindle’s screen is far superior. The E-Ink technology is legible and somehow soothing as you read. Changing font sizes is simple. Paging along is easy, easy, easy.
There are some nits. One thing that is neat about the E-Ink display is that it is reflective, so you can read by normal light, even sunlight, with ease. On the other hand, I’ve had the devil’s own time positioning a tiny reading light over it without getting a big reflection glare. So, the reflective screen giveth and and taketh.
This is battery life! Charge it on the weekend, ignore it for the week. Really, really usable. I’d have no trouble packing it sans charger for a weekend trip. Contrast that with my iPhone, whose battery I usually empty by lunch everyday. I swear, part of my brain is constantly calculating the distance to the nearest USB outlet.
Whispernet is Amazon’s built in cellular delivery service. Buy a book, it just shows up on your Kindle in under a minute. Grab a sample and it shows up in seconds. Flick a finished book to the archive and whoosh it is gone. Read as far as Chapter Nine, the switch to your Kindle App on our iPhone, and it opens to Chapter Nine. Simple, yes, but flawlessly executed.
This is smart engineering for the human experience, and even smarter for Amazon’s bottom line. The barrier to buy, or to try, is so low you barely notice (til the bill arrives). It makes the iPhone App Store experience look downright unfriendly. (I say that as someone who has well over ten pages of apps and has never bought one using iTunes. I loathe iTunes, tolerating it only for backups of my phone once a month.)
So, these features combine to make the Kindle a win. Easily worth it for me. But what are the downsides? Well…
I talked about the reflectiveness of the screen as a pro and a con. A friend of mine is excited about reading on the assumed Apple Tablet; I think back lit screens are a lose for long reading sessions. I could be wrong.
The screen size is a definite issue, as fast as I read. The page flip/redraw delay is not long, but the ratio of time spent reading a page to the time spent flipping the page is just barely acceptable. I contemplated upgrading to the DX, but it is too pricey, and possibly too big.
I wish the book search capability was better when you are in the Kindle Store on the Kindle itself; I miss some of the more advanced search capabilities you get on-line. This seems easily fixable by Amazon, so I am hopeful.
The other issue is one I am also hopeful about. The library of books, while growing, misses a bunch of stuff I want. Heavy on general fiction, spotty on the rest. I know it is cost effective for Amazon to deal with larger publishing houses, but I read a lot of stuff from smaller houses and find myself coming up empty on the Kindle. Plus, if Amazon doesn;t have a digital version of the book, it just doesn;t show up in the listings. You don’t even get the courtesy link to tell the publisher you wish for a Kindle edition, like you do on Amazon’s website. Bush league.
For some people Amazon’s DRM is a problem. DRM is a subject I could hold forth on for hours, but I’ll demur here. Suffice to say that Amazon’s DRM strikes me as miles less onerous that Apple’s heavy-handed control over the iPhone ecosystem. And AT&T gets my money every month anyway.
Finally, as a lifelong reader, the purchase of a digital edition of a book is far less satisfying to me than the real thing. This, I believe, is a generational thing. Number One Daughter, now ten, would happily never actually buy a book and is totally happy reading the Kindle. So I think this problem is transitory.
So for me, the Kindle is a win, though far from perfect.