My fans are calling. I can avoid it no longer. After all, two, possibly three, people have asked for my review so I must respond. One cannot disappoint the teaming throngs of one’s public, now can one?
So, without further ado, here is my review of the Amazon Kindle 2:
The Amazon Kindle 2 is beautiful and elegant replete with clean white plastic, rounded edges, round buttons, and a brushed aluminum back. It is appealing and approachable. The graphics that are used for screensavers are lovely — black and white drawings of classical authors as well as classical images ranging from architecture to birds. The Kindle 2 is lightweight and comfortable to hold. The e-Ink screen, with it’s 16 shades of gray, is easy to read, handling graphics and text well. I can easily say that I love the look and feel of the Kindle.
From a functional standpoint, I was able to figure out how to read a book within seconds. Everything was quick and easy to understand. The buttons are clearly labeled and make sense. I understand that the Kindle 1 received complaints about the placement and ease of accidently hitting the page navigation buttons. The Kindle 2 has responded to this by making the buttons smaller and a bit stiffer. You must intentionally click them. I appreciate that I can click on either side of the device to get the “next page.” I am still learning about the various options and settings. I haven’t mastered the fine art of bookmarks yet . . . of course, I haven’t looked it up in the documentation either. The Kindle 2 seems really well thought out to me as evidenced by the simple fact that the power cord is the same cord that connects to your computer. Elegant. Simple. Sweet.
As I alluded to a moment ago, I have only delved briefly into the documentation for the Kindle 2. I have downloaded it onto my computer in PDF format and also have it right on the Kindle. At some point, I’ll read through it on the computer, Kindle in hand, and try everything out. But, the few things I have looked up have been easy to find and figure out. As a former documentation writer, I have no complaints about their documentation, which is saying a lot. I’m kinda picky.
Using a Kindle is only half sitting down in a comfortable place and reading your books. If you don’t have books on the Kindle, you will find it boring. So, getting on with getting books. There are two ways to buy books for the Kindle. The first is through the Amazon website on your computer. You go to the site, find the book select the Kindle Edition, and buy it. It will immediately be sent to your Kindle. Fantastic. The other method is to use the Kindle itself to connect with Amazon’s site. Using the menu, you go to Amazon’s Kindle store, search for the book, and buy it. Again, it will download to your Kindle amazingly quickly. Both methods work beautifully. I find the first method to work best for me although I love the option that I could be out and about and suddenly be overcome by a desire to read a new book and download one likety-split. Pretty damn cool.
Getting books onto your Kindle has two paths as well. You can download books using Whispernet, Amazon’s 3G network. You can also download the books to your computer from the Amazon “Manage Your Kindle” page and then connect your Kindle to your computer and transfer them over. This is a very simple process. I envision using this when we are camping. We have often camped where cell phone service is spotty but wireless connectivity is available. The Kindle does not have wifi, unlike the iPhone. I could still use the computer to select and download a book and then connect my Kindle to my computer and voila! Reading while camping!
Another aspect of buying books is cost. If you are an avid used book buyer or haunt your local library, the Kindle is not for you. I, however, have long been an Amazon book buyer. I pay for the Prime service and get free 2-day shipping all year (I buy enough books and other gifts through Amazon at Christmas time that I can justify the rest of the year’s shipping as “free.”). When my children were little, Amazon was my savior. I don’t know about you but when I had two kids under the age of two, going to a bookstore with them was not a treat. It wasn’t a treat for me and it certainly wasn’t a treat for any other patron in the bookstore. So, Amazon became my best friend. I could be an avid reader and not scream at my children in public. Win-win. I love that Amazon offers used books and I have taken advantage of that service in the past. However, I generally buy new books. Kindle books are cheaper than the real world books they replace. Yay for me. I am also finding a great many books for free on the Kindle. First of all, Amazon offers a huge selection of public domain books for free on their site. Secondly, they regularly have promotions for free books on their site. The other source, however, is other ebook vendors that offer free books. You can generally download these books in pdf format. You have two ways to convert these books to Kindle books. The first is through Amazon. Email the pdf file to your “kindle” address and Amazon charges you $0.10 to convert the book to their proprietary .azw format. The other is that Stanza software that I mentioned for the iPhone. It converts books from pdf to .azw as well as .azw to pdf. Yippee! I have tried the former but not yet tried the latter. Still, with 16 books on my Kindle already, I am really happy to have spent about $30 tops for all those.
I am enamored with the adjustable text size. 1 button convenience to the menu, use the joystick to move the size up or down and voila. If I forget my glasses, I can still read comfortably — try that with a paperback. To explain my next main love of the Kindle 2, I need to share the thought process that went into getting a Kindle 2. First of all, I wanted one. But, I tend to be practical. I also want an iPhone. My husband has an iPhone so I borrowed his and read a book on it using the remarkable Stanza software. It was lovely except for two things. The obvious thing is that the screen is so bloody small. Increasing the font size on an iPhone means you do an awful lot of sweeping across the screen to see the next “page.” The other thing is a fantastic feature of the iPhone that was bloody annoying for the way I read. An iPhone knows which way you are holding it. If you hold it normally, the screen displays in “portrait” mode. If you turn it sideways, it displays in “landscape” mode. Normally, this is a lovely thing. But, I read in bed most of the time. I will start out reading sitting up and end up reclining and reading lieing down. The iPhone made this impossible. It would switch the landscape mode when I’d lie down and all the text would then be facing the wrong way for me to read it. One of my favorite features on the Kindle 2 is that it doesn’t have this “feature.” I can read in bed without frustration. (But, don’t get me wrong . . . I still want an iPhone!)
Cost is a huge factor in considering whether or not to get a Kindle. Kindle’s are costy — $360 plus shipping (thank you, Amazon Prime!). However, Kindle books are cheaper than new copies in real world editions (most best sellers are $9.99 with some books being more and older books being less) and the connection to the Whispernet is included for free. It will take me awhile to pay for the Kindle through the savings, however. And, honestly, I don’t have the time or energy to keep track of my costs that way to justify how long it took me to pay for the Kindle. Still, I know that it will, eventually, pay for itself. So, that’s a good thing.
There are three features I haven’t tried out yet on the Kindle. The first is that I can subscribe to newspapers and magazines on the Kindle. I am not much of a newspaper reader and magazines are still very much a kinesthetic pleasure for me — big, glossy pages, lovely images, and the smell of perfume in the pages. I just don’t see the appeal of reading such things on the Kindle. Similarly, I am not interested in cruising the web and reading blogs on my Kindle. Just doesn’t appeal to me right now. Lastly, it has the ability to play mp3s. As I have an iPod (a 5 year old pink Mini that is still going strong, thank you), I can’t see the appeal.
There as been a certain amount of controversy about an experimental feature on the new Kindle. This Kindle has the ability to convert text to speech. It can read a passage aloud to you. The Author’s Guild, led by Roy Blount, Jr, has said that this feature will deprive author’s of their audio book profits. All I can say is that, while I admire Mr Blount’s work on the hilarious radio show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, he’s nuts. I could see listening to a short passage on the Kindle but the computer voice with it’s lack of fluency and flat affect would be torture to listen to for a long period of time. And, I’m talking as a person who listens to 4th graders read aloud as a living — poor reading skills is something I can tolerate but it isn’t an activity I’d seek out for pleasure, thank you very much. I have listened to audio books and frankly, hearing the author or an actor read the book outloud is a whole other experience and one that I’d be quite willing to pay for, thank you. I hope that The Author’s Guild is shut down in their efforts to sue Amazon for this feature. It is absurd on every level. Furthermore, if the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature allows even one disabled person to read books more easily, then the point is moot, in my opinion. Done deal, door closed, shuddup about it already.
I am disappointed that Amazon removed the card reader slot on the Kindle 2. Using cards to store books would make sense to me. However, it is ammeliorated by the fact that, unlike say Apple and iTunes, Amazon lets me download copies of books again if I lost them, have a hard drive failure or some other catastrophy. Own computers long enough and you know that having your iPod fail on the same day that your hard drive crashes is not beyond the realm of possibility. I like that Amazon makes it easy for me to recover from that fact.
Another feature that is gone from the Kindle 2 is the replaceable battery. I can’t understand this one at all. One selling point of the Kindle is it’s long battery life and porability. Since I use a laptop that must be plugged in all the time now, I understand that batteries can and do fail. Lose the ability to read anywhere, anytime regardless of access to power, and the Kindle becomes somewhat useless to me, even though I do 90% of my reading in bed where I do, in fact, have ready access to electricity.
Overall, I find that I am enthralled by the reading experience of the Kindle 2. I look forward to always having a book with me wherever and whenever I am. After less than a week of reading myself to sleep at night (!), I am already comfortable with the experience of reading on a Kindle and barely conscious that it is different from a real book. I am happy to have it and looking forward to doing more reading since I will have a selection of books with me all the time now.