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Thoughts on the Amazon Kindle

Prelude

I love reading – I love fiction, I love technical literature, I love newspapers and magazines. I’m also a bit of old fashioned – I love the feel and smell of paper, I love the ability to feel the pages. So it took me quite some time to convince myself to buy one of the fabled Amazon Kindle e-book reading devices. People often ask me what I think about it and would I recommend them to buy one so I decided to write down my thoughts here.

The things I love about the Kindle

Typography

The typography of the fiction books on the Kindle is simply amazing – the fonts and the typesetting are close to perfect. The only thing that is a bit off is the justification of some lines but this happens very rarely. Most of the paper books I’ve recently bought have so terrible typography that they simply appal me.

Quality of images

This one really surprised me – the images and photos look very good on the Kindle(unless they are very big and have to be scaled down).

Navigation

The navigation is outstanding – I think the idea to double the buttons for forward/backward page was a brilliant one. The ability to skip chapters and to easily navigate the table of contents is fairly handy as well. Unfortunately not all mobi books are created with an useful table of contents, but this is not a problem of the Kindle itself.

Built-in dictionary

Although my knowledge of English is considered quite considerable I’m no native speaker and when I read fancy books from time to time I encounter words I do not know. Having the built-in dictionary I can just move the cursor to the word in question and I see its meaning inline. This is so very cool!

Weight & size

The Kindle is smaller and lighter than most paperbacks. And you can carry literary hundreds of books on your kindle.

Battery life

Without the wireless the battery lasts for about a month…

Amazon Kindle store

It’s so easy to find and buy the books you want. You have the option to buy something from the website and it will be automatically sent to your Kindle or you can find and buy books from the Kindle itself if you’re connected to the Internet.

Free 3G

The Amazon Kindle store is always at hand.

The official lighted leather cover

The cover is made of leather and makes the Kindle appearance quite similar to that of a real book. It also features LED light powered by the Kindle itself with which you can easily read even in the darkest places. Unfortunately it’s very expensive – it costs half as much as the Kindle…

E-ink screen

Looks like a real book, immune to sunlight, great contrast.

Collections

You can organise your books into collections on various criteria.

Ebooks are generally cheaper

This is not true for all books(at least not yet). At least you save the shipping expenses(if you have any).

Highlights and sharing

You can see passages other people highlighted as interesting and add highlights and notes yourself. You can also tweet passages and stuff like that. The Kindle is social…

The things I don’t like

PDF support

It’s so horrible I can barely describe it. Basically PDF are unreadable and everyone that tell you otherwise is lying to you. The Kindle DX is large enough to accommodate PDF I guess, but not the normal Kindle.

Formatting is terrible in technical books

If you read a lot of books with diagrams, tables, source code, etc the Kindle is not for you(or at least not for that task). Everything is scrambled and confusing. Basically this and the previous item made me buy an iPad 2 for reading PDFs and technical books.

The web browser is mostly useless

The Kindle has an experimental web browser, which is mostly useless mainly due to the inherent limitation of the e-ink screen(such a enormous refresh rate).

Real page numbers

The ability to cross reference paper pages with ebook pages was added in a recent firmware update, but I haven’t seen any books that have those page markers.

Keyboard

Mostly useless, probably a future version with some touchscreen display would drop it. It just takes up valuable place.

Screen is not touch sensitive

In the first day I owned the devices I often tried to turn pages by swiping the screen. I’m quite fond of touch screen interfaces and one of those can make the Kindle even smaller.

Magazines and newspapers are crippled

Because the publishers have to pay some fee to amazon based on the traffic they generate with their magazines/newspapers the Kindle version are generally stripped down from a lot of images and other content.

No easy way to lend/borrow books

Currently we have services like lendle.me, but they have a very limited library. Soon the Kindle will have built-in lending support and this will improve the situation immensely.

Epilogue

Basically the Kindle is the greatest thing after hot water for people that read a lot of fiction books. Everyone else should consider buying a tablet.