Friday, August 7, 2009

Kindle 2: The Review

Okay, I'm not a reviewer of anything, by any means. Ask me about a movie and I'll say, "I liked it," or "I hated it," or something as succinct. So I'll tell you what I think about my Kindle, but don't expect a lot of details. If you want details, have a look at the reviews on the Amazon.com website.

I bought the Kindle 2, which is the second generation of Amazon.com's electronic book reader. It was designed taking into account a lot of feedback by users of the original Kindle. I didn't own the original, but from reading a couple of the reviews at Amazon.com, the Kindle 2 is a big improvement.

I have to say, being a Star Trek fan, that my Kindle strongly reminds me of Star Trek - The Next Generation. I'm sure they had something like a Kindle in one or two episodes. I like that a lot about my new gadget.

My first thought was that it seems a little heavy, but I guess it's not much heavier than your average Stephen King novel (hardbound, not paperback). It's only 10.2 ounces. I think if I just sat in a comfy chair reading my Kindle, it might start to feel a little heavy. But I've only read it in bed, so far, and what I did was prop a throw-pillow in my lap and rest the Kindle on the pillow. A throw-pillow is generally fatter than a regular pillow, which is why I used it. I rested the Kindle on the pillow, which brought it up to eye level, and didn't have any discomfort issues: weight, neck position, etc. I suspect that reading at a table would be okay, too. Maybe I'll try reading in a chair without anything holding the Kindle up and report back after I've used it for about a month.

Ordering and downloading is a cinch. You can order online from Amazon.com or you can order from your Kindle. I prefer going online, unless there's something specific I'm looking for. If I'm just browsing, the online experience seems more pleasing, probably because it's in color and the layout is different. The Kindle display is black and off-white, which is all you need for reading. There are other places to buy e-books, but I'll let you find them on your own, if you're interested. There has been some news coverage on the subject, and all reports seem to agree that Amazon.com is still the best as well as the cheapest.

If you have "wireless on," your downloads appear in seconds, whether ordered online or on your Kindle. There's just no downside to that! I've noticed the little "3G" symbol on my Kindle whenever I turn wireless on. It will use the 3G network wherever it's available.

I've ordered a couple of books and already finished one. The experience was not much difference than reading a book. The black and off-white display of the Kindle is very much like a book. I wonder if its developers experimented with different contrasts, because I think I'd like the off-white background to be a little whiter. Still, I experienced no discomfort or eye strain while reading. One of the books I ordered was "Audition" by Barbara Walters. I haven't opened it yet, and I've just now begun to wonder whether the photos printed in the paper copy will be in the Kindle copy. I'll check that out and get back to you.

I've also read a couple copies of Newsweek magazine on my Kindle. (Should I give it a name? How about Jimmy Kindle? Sorry, I digress.) I don't think I liked the Kindle magazines very much. I guess I like the photos, illustrations and colors on the printed page. Newspapers are better. I have read a couple copies of the Austin American Statesman (closest paper to home). The paper copies have photos, but the Kindle doesn't appear to provide them. They're not as "important" as the photos in a magazine, though. Just to be somewhat fair, I'm downloading a copy of USA Today, which has more photos, iirc. Just a moment....and voila, pictures! So it's not the Kindle, it's the newspaper. Prices for different newspapers vary. It appears the difference depends on circulation and nationwide readership. Magazine prices vary, too. It's important, I think, to note that there are more than just US newspapers and magazines available. Like to read British tabloids? Or German newspapers? You won't be disappointed.

I expected a long wait before I could use my new Kindle, because I figured it would have to be "fully charged" before I could get started. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out I was wrong. First of all, charging it to "fully charged" only took an hour or two. (Sorry, I wasn't paying close attention.) Second, the Kindle can be used while charging. Plug it into your wall outlet or your computer USB slot - the cord works for both! Amazing! Read, download, whatever while your Kindle is charging in the background.

Battery life is good. You have a choice of "wireless off" or "wireless on." In the wireless on mode your Kindle will search for and download items continually. This uses a lot of power. But you can turn wireless off and the battery will last much longer. Sorry I can't tell you exactly how long. I can only say that it's plenty long for me! So turn wireless off, and only turn it on when you know there's something to download, like your morning paper. It takes less than a minute to download a newspaper. If you travel a lot, I can say that a Kindle, in wireless off mode, would last longer than a flight from New York to L.A. Amazon.com says you can "read for days without recharging." That would be with wireless off, for sure. Wireless off is also necessary if you want to use your Kindle when you're someplace (like in an airplane) where certain electronic signals are forbidden.

Kindle has a sleep mode. I'm not sure it has a lot of value except for the neat pictures displayed while it's sleeping. I don't see much difference in sleep vs. off. If I discover one, I'll let you know.

You can change the text size with the Kindle. That's great for us old farts. And it's very easy to do. The downside is that, the bigger the text, the more page turns you'll be doing. In fact, I wonder about people who read real fast - whether the Kindle will be too slow for them. The page turns quickly, but compared to a paper book, there is less of the "page" visible at once. For example, with a book you generally have two full pages exposed each time you turn the page. With the Kindle you have a portion of one page. The portion size depends on the text size.

((Just remembered there is another version of the Kindle available, the Kindle DX, which has a larger display area. It costs more, but if you're a speed reader it's probably a good idea to get that one.))

Navigation is simple, too. There are "next page" buttons on both sides, a "previous page" button on the left side. The "home" button is on the right above the next page button. There's also a "menu" and "back" button on the lower right, and a tiny little joy stick for navigation. I think they call it a "5-way controller." It's cute. I'm not going to go into what all the buttons do. They're somewhat self-explanatory, of course.

I like the dictionary feature a lot. Usually, if I come across I word I don't know while I'm reading I just ignore it, unless it seems important for the story. With the Kindle all I have to do is move a cursor (using the joy stick) to the first letter of the word and a definition appears. Usually. I did find something that wasn't in the dictionary, but I don't remember what it was. The dictionary used is the Oxford American Dictionary.

Book availability is good. Not great. Yesterday I wanted to download a copy of "The Time Traveler's Wife," which is not available in the Kindle version. Because of the price difference, I will buy Kindle books that I wouldn't normally buy in a paper version. This means that there will be books that I won't be able to read/download when I want to, like "The Time Traveler's Wife."

You can also try an experimental function of the Kindle 2: sending PDF files to your Kindle. I've already tried it and it seems to function adequately. Especially for an "experimental" function. Some of the pages don't space right, but they're still readable. Illustrations didn't transfer, which is fine for what I sent. Oh, your Kindle is assigned an e-mail address. You e-mail yourself a PDF file, Amazon.com "translates" it, and puts it in your download queue. You can also e-mail text files and a few others formats. Amazon.com charged me 15 cents to translate and transmit the PDF file.

Other Experimental Functions:
•Basic Web browsing. Best for .mobi-type sites with text and simple layouts. I haven't played with it much, yet.
•MP3 Player. Really. Kindle says "if you like to listen to music while you read" you can load music into your Kindle and listen, or you can download podcasts. (More about the speakers in a minute.)
•Text-to-Speech. Kindle will read aloud to you if you like.

There are two tiny speakers in the back of the Kindle. And they don't get very loud. But you can also plug in a headphone, which works much better. There is a volume control on the right side of the Kindle. You can change the text voice to male or female. I just had it read the beginning of The Bible, and the punctuation was terrible. I had it read a bit of the "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" novel and it seemed fine. I'm trying to get it to do that again right now and having trouble. Not good.

Accessories: I bought the cheap leather cover for $29.99. I'd have bought a nicer one except that the ones I saw while shopping were much higher priced than the one I bought. I saw some today, though, that are cheaper and more colorful. Buy a cover! Protect your Kindle! I also bought the Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 clip on book light for $19.99. You can find cheaper book lights, but this one holds on well and doesn't jiggle, like some book lights do. So if you're looking for a book light, I recommend this one. I read in bed so I don't have a light right over my head. I've tried a few different book lights, and I've even tried one of those things that's an LED light on an elastic headband (which worked okay but fell apart too soon).

That's about all the detail I have uncovered, so far. Overall I really like the Kindle. First of all, it will get me to start reading again. Second, as someone else mentioned to me, it should pay for itself over time. The more you read, the faster the payoff. I highly recommend it. If you're into stars, then I'd have to give it 4-3/4 stars out of five.

If you still have doubts, there are a lot of details and reviews on the Kindle homepage. To get to the homepage, you can click here: Kindle

And if you plan to buy a Kindle, please use that link, too. It will earn me some money! There's also a link on the right side of this page.

4 comments:

Rev. CMOT TMPV said...

Damn. For someone who said she didn't have much to write, you wrote a lot. I'm going to consider this as a Xmas gift to myself if such a purchase is in the cards.

Thanks for writing so much. It really helped me decide.

OldDave said...

I don't know the reason (and I'm not a Kindle owner) but a friend who does own one said they had heard sleep more was preferable to turning the thing off and on. This could be folklore.

Suzie-Q said...

Yeah, I realized once I was done that I'd said a lot more than I thought I was going to say, obviously.

Suzie-Q said...

The only difference between "sleep" and "off" on the new Kindle 2 is the time you hold the switch to the right. A couple of seconds = sleep. About 7-10 seconds = off. Perhaps it was different with the original Kindle.