Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kindle 3 Impressions

My wife has an Amazon Kindle 3.  It has changed her reading habits for the better -- she's reading a lot more than she used to -- so it works for her:  does it work for me?

Let me get the negative stuff out of the way first:  I've read two books on it now, and it doesn't seem as convenient to me as a paper book.  Partly the inconvenience is that my wife and I use different font sizes, so I need to switch to mine and back to hers each time I read (I am borrowing her Kindle, after all).  The screen occasionally has a glare problem when I'm reading with my back to a window with the sun shining over my shoulder.  The 5-way controller is too easy to click in the wrong direction.  I'm getting better at it.

I wish it had a dynamically calculated page number based on your selected font size.  A percentage and location code is always shown, but call me old-fashioned, I still think in terms of pages, not percentages.  Really, I'd like to have some idea how far it is to the end of the chapter.  Of course I could just page forward till I find it, but it's too easy to get lost on an e-book on the Kindle, and I don't mean that in a good way.  If you think you're moving back, but you move forward instead, it can be a daunting task to get back to where you were.  That probably doesn't really make a lot of sense until it happens to you....

I hope it never does.

There are a host of other user interface annoyances, but I'm not going to go into them here, because even though I can pick nits like you wouldn't believe (with anything -- it's part of my training as an engineer), I like the Kindle.

The device is the right size, the right shape, the right weight, and even the right texture.  It stays in your hand(s) well.  The screen (my biggest concern, originally) really is readable:  I never experienced eye-strain from using it.  Searching for a word or ordering a new book may be a little iffy with the keyboard and 5-way controller, but the reading experience is wonderful.  And face it;  reading is what you'll be doing with your Kindle most of the time.  I appreciate that the Kindle is not one of those "oh, and you can read books on it too!" devices like the iPad.

One odd thing I noticed when reading on the Kindle was that I didn't move my hands much.  The Hunger Games was an exciting read and the device is light compared to a paper book.  But that meant that my hands stayed in one position for a long time, which is not good for arthritic joints.  I'll have to train myself to move my hands a bit to replace the movement I get with a paper book from turning the pages and shifting from left page to right page.

The page forward and page backward buttons fall "to finger" readily.  One issue that both my wife and I found, was that we expected the left-side button to move us back through the book, and the right-side button to move us ahead.  Actually, the large buttons on either side move us forward, and the smaller ones move us back:  simple, yes, but we still mess it up as often as not.  See above comment about getting lost....  The paging buttons allow one-handed and left-handed operation.  Battery life is excellent.

I like the Kindle, but I still prefer my paper books.  As time passes and e-readers get progressively better, I don't doubt I'll buy one.
But not everyone should get an e-reader.

Like my 84 year old mother.  I love her, but we're talking about a woman who sometimes can't get her fan to work without my help.  Yes, her fan.  Don't even ask about her VCR, television, cordless phone, alarm clock, photo frame, answering machine, microwave oven, etc.  When she mentioned that one of my brothers was going to buy her a Kindle for Christmas I thought, "well, there goes whatever free time I might have had."  She'd heard about e-readers, but had never actually seen one in action.  My wife and I had her try to use my wife's Kindle, and Mom very quickly realized she wanted no part of it.  One of the striking things for me was realizing she had absolutely no idea what a cursor was.

The reasons my mother would have liked a Kindle (if she could have handled using one):  it's light -- heavy books tire her out, and she could have increased the font size for easier reading.  At her age, however, with her complete computer illiteracy, it just wouldn't work.

For everybody else -- have at it!


  1. I'm late. Which relates to your most recent post, but I had to comment on the Kindle. I have a DX. I got the bigger model, which although heavier, I like very much. I have the font enlarged. To order books I go onto Amazon and click 2 buttons. That's right, I said, "TWO." And my book shows up on my Kindle immediately...assuming I've remembered to turn ont he Internet connection...which I keep off to conserve battery. I've copied a PDF document onto it which was very helpful. I have 6 books on it, and have only read one of them. Since I read it, I've read several paperback books, still my preference. But a lot of my friends are having e-books published so I wanted to be able to read them.

  2. My wife wanted the regular size so she could fit it in her purse, which thrills me to no end -- I love to see her reading.

    I know what you mean about the internet connection: we keep the wifi off to conserve the battery, and it's easily forgotten when she goes to buy another book. That's an easy trade-off though when looking at other e-readers that have 10 hour battery life.

    I've read 3 books now on her Kindle, and I'm making automatic accommodation for what I used to think of as minor annoyances. I rarely get lost anymore (thank goodness) by an errant button press, for instance. I love the (her) Kindle.