I bought a Kindle a few weeks ago and, following on from my earlier post about why I was getting one, here’s what I now think of it.
Amazon are obviously very keen to make the Kindle as green as possible. They send your Kindle in an easy to open brown cardboard box and inside the box it is cushioned by more cardboard, the whole lot being fully recyclable. There’s no polystyrene or plastic, not even one of those wire and plastic ties around the power cable. I’m by no means an eco warrior but I was pleased about this (and Amazon’s simple packaging policy in general).
After the packaging the first thing you will notice is how small and light the Kindle is. If you chopped an iPad in half and then make it half as think you’re on about the right track size-wise. Weight-wise, and completely unscientifically, it weighs slightly less and my iPhone 3GS. The flip-side of this is that the plastic case does feel slightly cheap and flimsy. It’s also very smooth and therefore quite slippery. I have both my iPhone and iPad encased in neoprene covers and my initial thoughts were to get a similar cover for the Kindle too. However it is the sort of device you feel you could hold up for extended periods and is a major reason why this is a much more realistic eBook reading device than the iPad.
When my daughter saw the Kindle she immediately asked if she could peel the plastic film of the screen. Unfortunately, not only had I already done this but it mirrored my experienced because rather than peeling off a thin film sheet with various startup and setup notes written on it I’d actually peeled off a plain piece of film, the notes being displayed on the screen. And that’s the startling thing, the text displayed by the device really does look like proper printed text. Electronic paper does actually live up to its name.
Electronic paper is really amazing stuff. If you’ve never really experienced it (and I hadn’t beyond having a quick play with a Sony device over two years ago) then be prepared for a three-step reaction. The first is that the text looks amazing and it really does look like printed text. Then you experience the slow screen update when you change a page. This seems terrible after being used to a device like an iPad where everything is pretty much instantaneous. Then you realise that the screen updates are suck a small part of the overall experience and you’ll really not worry about it. The slow screen refreshes are a result of how the screen itself works. Essentially you can think of the screen as being made up of thousands of tiny balls. One side is painted black, the other white. The balls are rotated to show their black or white sides depending upon what needs to be shown. Unlike a screen on a device like an iPhone or a television the screen on a device like a Kindle is not constantly updating tens of times per second. It refreshes when the content changes, i.e. you turn a page, and then it remains static. This is why the screen really looks like a printed page, it’s static and not constantly refreshing. This also means that because the battery is not constantly being used to redraw the screen the battery life is astounding.
So the text looks amazing and the device is light enough to hold for extended periods so what are the down-sides? Well as I mentioned above, I find a naked Kindle a bit slippery. I’m also still finding it slightly uncomfortable to hold and I still want to hold it sideways in both hands, like a traditional paper book.
Unfortunately the Kindle does not support a landscape mode so this simply isn’t possible. Happily this is possible, see the comments at the end of this article for details.
Other than the small form-factor issues however I am completely in love with my Kindle. I’ve now bought several reference title for it and enjoy the ability to have them on my Kindle, iMac, MacBook Air and iPad (Apple really need to release an iBook reader for OS X) and I’ve also bought a few novels having realised that this really is viable way for me to read, despite my pre-purchase concerns. I now find myself tutting when I come across a book I want in the Amazon store which doesn’t have a Kindle edition.
I see the Kindle as being a different class of device to my iPad in the same way that I see my iPad being different to a paper book. The Kindle could, and very possibly will, replace paper book purchases for me whenever possible whilst the iPad never would. For me they can live side-by-side in harmony and there is a clear differentiation in scope for them.