Kindling

Amazon Kindle

Not for Burning

Mother has recently given in[1] to acquiring an eBook reader. After some thought[2], we settled on the Amazon Kindle 3G.

Due to some odd mail and post requirement, it was delivered to my work address this past Wednesday. This has given me the opportunity to “play” with it over the past few days.

Comparisons and First Impressions

The Kindle is a well-rounded eReader that fits well into the Amazon eco-system. It offers functionality beyond a glorified text file reader with low power consumption. While it misses some features of the Sony (and Apple) equivalent, I would argue that touchscreens, gestures and page turning animations are superfluous to the reading experience.

Features that I look for in gadgets revolve around usability, not gimmicks. Fast page turns, page linkage (c.f. hyperlinks), serendipity[3].

To Amazon’s credit, they have developed one of the fastest page turns for an eReader. When you get to the end of the page, press the button and start reading the next. Do you remember, when back at school being taught to read aloud? I still start to subconsciously reach for the corner whenever my eyes stray to the halfway mark of the right-hand page.
With older generation eReaders, I found myself “turning the page” one or two lines before I reached the end of the page, just like the dead-tree variant. Frustrating if you flipped to early and missed the last word and have to flip back, and triple the wait.

The Amazon proprietary format[4] offers pretty much the same capabilities as other (perhaps more open) formats, with maybe a little bit of extra complexity for conversions. What I do like is the support for layouts and intra-book links. It also is aware of the hardware controls available to the user.
A good example that exploits the feature set are newspaper subscriptions. The format allows authors to present a Home/Contents Page, page turning cycles between the index of available headlines, and the 5-point navigation buttons lets you select an article to read. When reading an article, page turns act as expected, but now the navigation buttons allow article jumping, cursor movement (for notes and annotations) and returning to the Home Page. Feature exploitation success. It isn’t usual to read news feeds linearly, the kindle doesn’t force you to.

My final comment concerns the difference between the WiFi and 3G versions. For a little bit extra at purchase time, you get free access to the internet when on the road. As one expects with an eInk interface this is limited to HTML, Javascript and Cookies, no Java or Flash.
While this means that you can’t play tower defence games, or angry birds[5], the experimental webkit browser does make blogs on the go, and wordy websites (slashdot, wordpress, blogger, tumblr?) free and accessible.

Kindle Packaging

Amazon: world leaders in packaging

Epilogue

The Kindle is not the most open/free[6] device out there. The Sony variants can handle many more formats[7], it offers PDF reflow, and recent versions have touch screens.
However, I believe that the kindle is the better product, if anything just because of a few points in particular.
1/. Reading works.
2/. Getting data onto it is easy. 3rd party tools can be used for file conversions.
3/. With 3G, there’s an alternative, low-bitrate connection to the internet. For free.

[1] with a little bit of persuasion
[2] and present circumstance, and a discount
[3] Serendipity – “When you find things you weren’t looking for because finding what you are looking for is so damned difficult.” Erin McKean
[4] Well, all ebook formats are proprietary really.
[5] May I suggest the cheaper HP TouchPad Tablet?
[6] as in speech
[7] A work-around is to convert between formats with Calibre

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s