First thoughts on a Kindle

I used to read a lot. My mother recounts that as a child, she would take me and a book shopping, park me on a couch in the department store with my book, and return after shopping to find me exactly as she left me with the exception of some turned pages. My earliest loves were fantasy (Tolkien of course, but also David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist and Anne McCaffery among others), although i also read science fiction. After a long swing though horror in my late teens / early twenties (Steven King and Clive Barker figure prominently here), i really settled into mostly reading science fiction (Iain M. Banks, Greg Bear, Greg Egan and Peter F. Hamilton among others).

I drifted away from reading somewhat in the last decade – busy with work, homemaking, and later a baby / toddler / preschooler. I still consumed my favourite (Banks) greedily, but was reading less new fiction. First podcasts, and then twitter filled my commute time where once i’d’ve read. More than this, i just lost track of making the time to read.

For my birthday, the wonderful @ms_miff gave me a kindle – the 6″ 3G+WiFi version. This was in consultation – i’d realised i wanted to read more again, and had started buying / borrowing / rediscovering some books, as well as trying reading on my iPhone screen, which i found hard on the eyes. I decided on a small, fit for purpose e-reader rather than the obvious tablet.

Why ?

That’s hard to answer. So, instead, i’ll say what i think of the kindle after reading my first full e-book on it. Some of this I expected to be true, and answers the why, and some may be helpful if you’re asking the same question. And some will just be post-hoc justification.

Firstly, the screen is amazing. If you’ve not looked at an e-ink reader, do so before thinking you want to read off a backlit screen. When i unwrapped it on my birthday morning, i saw the screen had a lovely greyscale design on it. I promptly tried to remove the overlay – assuming it was one of those “stuck on for shipping” stickers. It wasn’t – it was the screen showing a static image. As i understand it, the resolution isn’t that much greater than a 3G/3GS era iPhone, but the high contrast reflective screen makes it look immensely better. The refresh is odd at first (a kind of inverted video flash), but it’s fast enough (at least on the newest model) that it doesn’t interfere with reading (at my speed anyway).

The small size still fits enough text to make reading pleasant (it’s a bit like a smallish paperback) even at the slightly enlarged font size i use. It’s light enough to carry one handed easily, which means i can read it while walking – my morning commute often involves a 30-40 minute walk. It also means it can be always in my bag, which assists in having it when i have a spare moment to read. This last point is actually critical to displacing the iPhone as my time sink of choice. I’m not sure how a larger kindle, or tablet, would fare here. Battery life also matters on this point – i’ve had the kindle for a week now and read a book, and it’s used about one third of the first battery charge. This means its always ready to go when i have spare moments to dive into a book, without me needing to remember to charge it daily.

I’ve not yet got a case – i stick it in a $1.10 Australia Post Pb2 padded bag for protection in my backpack. It fits nicely in this, but this does go to one of my concerns – i’m not really sure how hardy it is, and obviously don’t want to find out through catastrophic failure! Ergonomically, it’s hard to “grab”. It’s nice to hold when you’re reading, but when you’re trying to fish it out of a bag or grasp it while shouldering a back pack, its not clear where you can apply pressure. I’ve taken to grabbing it by the keyboard.

Which brings me to my only negative – the keyboard. In a post iPhone world, i thought i would want a touchscreen. I don’t miss that at all – the page turn buttons work fine, and on the rare occasion i use the joypad to navigate a menu it’s not a big deal. I actually try to avoid touching the screen so i don’t have to clean it – i want to read off it after all! No, the keyboard is a negative because, for my usage, the device doesn’t need one. i’d rather have more screen, or a smaller device. So far, i have used it twice – to enter my amazon credentials and my home WiFi key. I’d happily have done both of these via a USB connection. I don’t search for books on it, i do that on a PC and wishlist them, at which point they’re only a few clicks away on the kindle. Or, i expect, i’ll buy amazon recommendations – again, a few clicks away. Maybe i’ll change my tune on this, but for now, it’s the only minus i’ve found in the kindle experience. In an ideal world, my WiFi capable iPhone could act as a keyboard for the Kindle, but that’s a level of integration that is, unfortunately, probably a pipe dream.

In summary, after one book, i love it. I bought a book i’d never heard of via links from a favourite author and checking half a dozen reviews. The book was in my hands a few minutes later, and i read it over the next week. I’ve now queued nine items on my wishlist, and look forward to reading them the same way. Reading on the kindle is, in almost all respects, at least as, if not more, pleasant than reading a physical book. It’s smaller and lighter than most paperbacks, the screen is like paper, but resizable for my below average eyesight. I can carry it everywhere and read when i please. It’s not as robust or cheap as paper – but you can’t have everything.

On a final note, i received a second kindle related birthday present – a kindle book from my oldest friend. This was a real “welcome to the future moment” – while chatting with him online, an email arrived, and a few clicks later my present arrived on my kindle. I’ve yet to start that book, but, in fact, i’m going to go start it now …

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3 Responses to “First thoughts on a Kindle”

  1. shauna825 Says:

    I did the same thing when I pulled mine out of the box, I tried to take the “sticker” off. Only to find, of course, that it was the screen. I was thankful that I didn’t get too into trying to remove it! I also love my kindle, I read so much more now!

    If you check out this link: http://www.ereaderiq.com/ and sign up for e-mail updates, they will send you an e-mail every time a new free book is available. I’ve actually read some pretty good free ones, and if you don’t like it you can discard it and lose nothing!

  2. Kindle considered - Oxford Blog Says:

    […] friend has acquired a Kindle, joining early adopter Sean. I've also noticed Kindle books (and hardware) cropping up in […]

  3. Danny Says:

    Will be interested to hear how much you end up using it. I’ve just reconsidered the Kindle.

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