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Amazon Kindle Review

June 3, 2011

The latest tech gadget purchase in my house is an Amazon Kindle. My wife is an avid reader of books and to save us from the hassle of purchasing, storing and eventually reselling or disposing of books on a regular cycle; we decided to invest in a WiFi Kindle.

We discounted the 3g version as being unnecessary since we could load it with books using our own wireless network and that the need to have 3g internet access with it would be zero.

One of the benefits we considered is that some eBooks are now cheaper than their bound compatriots. Another attraction was that eBook versions of out of copyright books are available free on the Amazon store, so being able to read classics for free was very definitely a plus.

Set up and first use

Since we bought the kindle using my wife’s Amazon account, it came pre configured to be connected to her account. This means that eBooks purchased through her Amazon account get automatically sent to the kindle, and likewise, any books purchased through the kindle, get billed to her Amazon account.

Connecting the Kindle to our home WiFi network was more awkward than it should have been. This was partly down to the fact that I have mine set to disallow unauthorised devices. So I have to try and connect the Kindle to the wireless network in order for it to appear on my routers list of devices waiting authorisation before I could manually add it to the authorised list. What this meant was that I had to enter my WiFi key once to establish a connection attempt to get the authorisation sorted and then a second time to actually connect once authorised. This wouldn’t normally be a problem except than with the Kindle keyboard being so small and fiddly, the process of entering in a WiFi connection key isn’t swift. Thankfully it doesn’t need to be used very often.

Once set up and configured, the pre installed instruction guides are helpful and concise. The settings are easy to get to.

The Kindle itself has a footprint not too dissimilar to a standard paperback novel. This is a good thing. It is very lightweight and the next page buttons are placed perfectly for comfortable reading. The previous and next page buttons are pair on either side of the device so it matters not which hand you wish to use to handle it. It is possible to accidently press either button when shifting position or placing it down and picking it up. This isn’t a serious problem and is just a case of getting used to handling a Kindle rather than a book and its tendency to self close at any opportunity.

The screen is very clear and easy to read in all kinds of light. I have not experienced any glare or strain during use. It really is very easy to curl up with it and read for hours. The screen does flicker very slightly when the display changes, however this is not at all a nuisance and you very quickly get accustomed to the difference between the Kindle display technology and that which you’re used on other display devices.

Another advantage of the Kindle over a regular book is that you do not constantly have to change the way you hold it depending on what part of the page you are reading.

The Leather Cover and Integrated Light

We ought the £50 leather cover with our Kindle because we wanted some protection for it and we liked the idea that it came with an integrated light for low light reading. The cover is very good quality and the Kindle slots into it with a simple click. Removal from the cover is equally easy, requiring a simple flick sideways of the locking catch, yet the hold is sturdy enough that they won’t separate during normal use.

The integrated LED light is bright enough that the Kindle can be comfortably read in a dark bedroom with all the lights off.

The cover adds significant weight to the package; my guess is that the two combined are more than double the weight of the kindle on its own. This isn’t a significant problem as the package weight more closely resembles that of a paperback, so feels sturdy in the hand. By contrast, its taking the kindle out of the cover and handling it on its own that makes the Kindle feel like little more than holding a few sheets of paper and makes one more delicate with its handling. The cover also adds more bulk on which to grasp, this too is a benefit in my opinion.

Using The Amazon Store

Using the Amazon store really is a breeze. The kindle supports it natively, as would be expected, and browsing titles and selecting them to purchase is intuitive. With the Kindle configured to use our Amazon account, they get delivered and charged immediately, no more waiting for a package to arrive in the post.

The Negatives

There are a few negatives that I have with the Kindle, none would put me off recommending it and none have made me think twice about purchasing it.

The Face

Reading face of the Kindle is slightly sunken into the surrounding frame. This creates a dirt trap which is difficult to clean. Instead the reading face should be flush with the surrounding frame, making a continuous level surface across the entire device.

The Navigation Keys

The square of up / down  / left / right and select navigation keys is too small and poorly placed. The back button below the navigation keys is especially close and its all too often possible to press back when intending to navigate down. The navigation keys need to be increased in size and placed further away from the other buttons.

Auto Table of Contents

The Kindle remembers where you have got to in a book and it also has a feature to allow users to create and set their own bookmarks; both essential features. However, in today’s electronic world Amazon have missed a trick. When an eBook is imported into the device, the Kindle should automatically scan it for headings, easily identified with font changes, and create a table of contents that is visible at the start of the book. This would be a great usability feature.

Meta Data

Electronic formats of music have meta data such as artist and title associated which products such as iTunes use for listing purposes. This should be the same with eBooks. The Kindle lists the books by their original file name, which may sometimes be quite long and have extra information in, other than just the book title. This should be a last resort, books should be listed using their meta data and the user should be able to change the sort order according to their preference.

Nested Folders

The Kindle allows the creation of folders for the storing of books. This is a brilliant idea as it saves having to page through a long list of books to find the one you want. However, Amazon have not gone far enough. It is not possible to create nested folders. For example, our Kindle, well its actually my wife’s, has a folder for me to place my eBooks into it. I have imported two sets of Sci-Fi books into my folder and would rather have each of them in their own folder, they each consist of about 30 books. Rather than have these two extra folders at the root level, I want them inside my own folder so that my wife does not have to scroll past them. All my books should be under my folder. Because the Kindle does not support nested folders, this is impossible, so the two sets of books must coexist in a single folder.

When I add more books to my folder, they will have to mix it up among the others there, when what I really want to do is move the two sets of Sci-Fi books into their own sub folders.

Summary

If you read a lot and are not especially attached to having lots of physical books around, then an Amazon Kindle really is a very decent alternative. Despite my list of things that need to be improved, I consider the Kindle a very good device that I wholeheartedly recommend.

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From → Reviews, Technology

2 Comments
  1. Señor El Once permalink

    Dear Mr. Limey,

    A decent review of Amazon Kindle from a technology perspective.

    Technically speaking, I have only three complaints with my 3 year old Kindle: (1) Doesn’t render color graphics. (2) It cannot be used as a textbook replacement, because it is designed for linear navigation. Reference material that requires indices, table of contents, and search easily accessible to allow fast non-linear access can be a pain to get to and use. Of course, some of this is dependent upon the diligence of the author to put such marks in, with most of the “free” or “low-cost” books being the worst at such secondary navigation. (3) Everything is in the Kindle format or you have to go through some online conversion/download process to get non-Amazon content.

    Maybe I have a fourth technical complaint regarding battery life and the fear of what a drop might do. Although you might have hundreds of books at your disposal, it doesn’t do you much good if your battery goes out (on a plane) without access to an outlet or if it falls off the handlebars of your favorite stationary bicycle at the fitness club and stops functioning. BTW, you can’t read a Kindle on take-off’s and landing’s.

    My bigger complaint has to do with content and overshadows the technical ones by several orders of magnitude.

    Yes, Mr. Limey, I know you are going to laugh when I lament that I just can’t seem to get all of my good conspiracy theory content for my Kindle, like Dr. Judy Wood’s textbook “Where Did the Towers Go?”, which by the way I highly recommend to any serious 9/11 researcher.

    Let’s set this niche content aside for a moment and talk about other content.

    The US has significant numbers of non-English speaking people, with Spanish being one of the main non-English languages. Amazon made a big deal about having a device for Germany. Electronic content being so cheap to store and distribute even overseas, a rational person would naturally assume that Amazon negotiated & amassed a great array of German content for the German market and that they are doing something to tap into this huge population of Spanish speakers right within the US borders. But, NOO-oooo.

    Back in the day when I was an exchange student in Germany, I devoured all sorts of “simple” novels to help perfect my language skills. For example, I read as many James Bond books or Star Wars books as I could find. When it came time to work on my Spanish, I aimed at Harry Potter. The electronic versions of such books ought to be cheaper and easier to come by than the hard-covers, which are printed, stored, and distributed from overseas. But, NOO-oooo!

    If I want classic German books whose copyright has expired, like Thomas Mann and Goethe, I can get them cheap or free (albeit often with the aforementioned issues with lack of navigational things, like a hyperlinked table of contents). But if I wanted to read some great modern German literature that flies from the shelves of German bookstores today, nichts, nada, zilch.

    And in all of this time, it hasn’t improved much either. Yes, I used to get the Saturday “Frankfurter Allgemeine”, but I really wanted “Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung” and “Die Zeit” and “Fokus”, none of which are available periodicals.

    I bought the Kindle thinking that I could appease my thirst for knowledge and brushing up on language skills — like reading conspiracy theories in German or Spanish. On all fronts, it comes up short.

    Content is King, but Amazon misses major markets and major secondary markets within major markets.

    If a person is a non-English speaker and wants to practice English, then the Kindle is great. The other way around? You need to visit bookstores and see what hit-and-miss content they have in that language.

    Between this and the learned fear of an absolute reliance on technology (and the ease with which it can be stolen, crash, die), is why I still have books.

    • limey permalink

      All very fair points. Especially regarding the linear nature of the Kindle reading experience. I would not use it as a store of reference books, I think that would annoy me too much.

      the only things that I can suggest as an extra is that there is a PC application (Caliber?) that can take RSS feeds and convert them and sync them for reading on a Kindle. It can do the same with eBooks in various formats too so that your books are kept on your PC rather than only in your Kindle.

      I wonder if it could also do translation. Or if not, maybe there is an application that can. Though I would imagine that reading a book that’s been machine translated might be too painful to actually attempt.

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