Tag Archives: kindle

More on Kindle

I received a lot of feedback after “I first wrote about the Kindle”:http://www.manton.org/2007/11/kindle.html, so here’s an update. I admit I’m still trying to understand the device; it has not immediately fallen into a spot in my routine the way the iPod and iPhone did.

“Dan Benjamin”:http://www.hivelogic.com/ pointed out that it’s wrong to compare the Kindle and iPhone because they are two completely separate kinds of devices, and that’s true. But the fact remains that Amazon could have partnered with AT&T and required a monthly fee for connectivity. Instead they chose to eat that cost to provide a seamless user experience.

“Willie Abrams”:http://willie.tumblr.com/ bought a Kindle and then returned it, unhappy with both the contrast on the device and the slow page turns. As I pointed out in my original post, the page turns are annoying, but they won’t ruin the device for most people.

“Andy Ihnatko”:http://ihnatko.com/ wrote glowingly about the Kindle and spoke at length on MacBreak Weekly about the free wireless and adequate web browser. Personally I have found the web browser to be extremely poor and the slow refresh inappropriate for modern, interactive sites. I didn’t even realize it came with a browser when I ordered it, though, so I consider it a nice bonus.

When I left town to take a week and a half holiday road trip with my family, I decided to leave the Kindle at home. After all, I already had my MacBook, iPhone, Nintendo DS, and a hardback book that would easily fill the week. The Kindle is small but it would just be wasted clutter in my backpack.

This turned out to be a mistake. For one, I had spotty Edge coverage in middle-of-nowhere West Texas, and it would have been an interesting experiment to see how the Kindle’s EVDO faired in other cities. But more importantly, while checking blogs someone recommended a book that I was interested in. I clicked through to Amazon and noticed that it was available in Kindle format. It would have been the perfect opportunity to buy it and start reading right away.

That is what the Kindle brings to the table. The hardware design is not an improvement over the Sony Reader (the Kindle’s keyboard remains a definite mistake), but the integration with Amazon and the convenient downloads from anywhere are both well implemented. I think Amazon has a history of tinkering in public view (home page design, shipping experiments), and the Kindle is no exception. They’re no doubt already working on version 2.


All we do at “VitalSource”:http://www.vitalsource.com/ is e-books, from working with publishers on converting their content to our format, to managing the delivery of digital files and building the web-based infrastructure to support it, and finally to designing and coding the Mac and Windows applications for reading and annotating books. My “Kindle”:http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA arrived on Tuesday, the day after it was released, and here are my initial thoughts after using it over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Out-of-box experience. Amazon really nailed the first-use experience. The Kindle came in a nice box and was pre-configured with my Amazon account. No syncing or setup necessary; you can start reading books immediately.

Screen. If you haven’t seen an e-ink device — actually held one in your hands, like the Sony Reader — don’t bother “reviewing” it. The iPhone screen is beautiful and I would love to have a small Mac tablet, something even a little bigger than the Kindle, but for reading books, nothing beats e-ink. It’s in a whole different class, and this is one of the areas where the Kindle shines. (It says a lot that the first FAQ item in the Kindle manual is about how the screen “flicker” when flipping pages is normal, though. It’s a little distracting but not a show-stopper.)

Connectivity. Amazon has been innovating with free shipping for years, so in a way it’s perfectly consistent to also offer free wireless connectivity. As a long-time Apple fan, I’m a little disappointed that Amazon is the one innovating with service plans, while Apple is stuck in the past with service contracts and high monthly fees with silly text message caps. I pay about $80/month for the privilege of using my iPhone; with the Kindle, I pay only for purchased content.

Purchasing. You can buy books from Amazon on your computer or from the Kindle itself, and I’ve tried both. My first purchase was using Safari on my Mac, and less than a minute later the book “magically” appeared on my Kindle. Again, no cables or sync necessary; the Kindle notices a book purchase and downloads it wirelessly.

Hardware. It couldn’t all be good news, could it? The button design is where the Kindle just falls on its face, and it’s bad news for both major areas of the device: the keyboard and the page navigation buttons. I just don’t see how they justified taking up so much room for the keyboard, because in truth you almost never need to use it. For the page buttons, try handing someone a Kindle for the first time and the first thing they do is accidentally hit next or previous page. It takes a while to train yourself on the best way to hold the Kindle.

There are other things I could say — about DRM (unavoidable) or emailing documents to the device (clever) or the book cover (clunky) — but I want to keep this short. Despite it’s flaws, the Kindle is a good device, and it goes beyond being the first usable e-book reader to offer seamless purchasing and book delivery from Amazon’s large selection. It’s not as polished a 1.0 as the iPhone release was, but it’s a solid offering and more innovative in some ways. I’m looking forward to both reading books on it as a user and experimenting with ways to get other content on the device as a developer.