Thursday, May 22, 2008

kindle review

I've had my Kindle for about a month now. And I had a chance to try out its wireless features during a recent trip to Chicago. So, I feel ready to to post a fairly serious review.

I think it's fine for reading. The contrast is good. It's not backlit so you do need to find a light source. And I have noticed some reflection from the screen.

The size is reasonable - about the same as a quality paperback, smaller and lighter than a hardcover.

The navigation - next page, previous page is adequate. The main next page button is on the right. I get ahead of myself sometimes and hit next page before I'm ready. Then I fumble for a moment to get back to the previous page. It's on the left but so is another smaller previous page button. I find the other higher level navigation somewhat clunky. That might be a result of the fact that I don't read directions. But it seems to take several tries to get to the top level navigation.

It works like a charm with audiobooks from Audible. Unfortunately, it won't work as of yet with Overdrive or Netlibrary. But for Audible purchases, the navigation is good and you can listen via a small speaker or headphones. You can also add your own MP3s. But this is apparently intended as background music. You can play MP3s but I haven't been able to figure out how to select an individual track. It seems you just listen to them one after the other.

I LOVE the wireless features. They're what really makes this device work. So, it's a pity that Amazon chose not to make that available to anyone in Montana or Alaska as well as wide swaths of other rural states. I don't know what browser Kindle uses. It's found under Experimental, if that's any indication. I understand it uses a Linux OS. It works fine for largely text-based sites like news sites. I loved being able to scan the headlines on BBC's site. I was also thrilled to be able to use it to (in theory) locate and map restaurants while on the el in Chicago. I say in theory because while I found the restaurant listing, kindle froze before I could map the location. You'd think a techno-geek like me would know never to put faith in technology, especially new untested technology. I had to reset it. Since I often don't have a paper clip on me at such moments, I had to wait to reset it until I got back to the hotel and could do the always popular earring reset. Not something to attempt on a subway for a lot of reasons. Also, due to the browser quirks and limitations I couldn't get into my IMT or mtlib.org emails, but it worked okay with gmail. It also worked with Twitter, but Twitter's so glitchy, I wouldn't use that as a standard.

It's probably a good thing that I can't use the wireless. If I could I'd probably be buying far too much from Amazon. I bought 4 books in the 2+ days I was in Chicago. And I would certainly be subscribing to at least one daily newspaper. It's ridiculously easy to shop the Amazon kindle store and click buy and have your purchase downloaded to you within minutes. For a biblioholic like me, I could really go bonkers. It works okay with computer downloads but it lacks that immediate gratification. I talked about the rather clunky purchase and loading previously. It's workable but makes me less susceptible to that tendency to buy on impulse. I have a feeling that they still would have made money off me had they to pay for roaming for wireless access.

The built in memory is pretty limited in this day and age of terabyte drives. But it's amazing how many print books/magazines you could carry with the 185 MB. I discovered fairly quickly that was not going to go very far with audiobooks, however. So, I bought a 2 GB memory stick and installed it. That helped.

Without the wireless, I really couldn't recommend this for purchase for anyone but the highly geeky must-have-the-latest-gadget type (like yours truly), and/or for those who travel quite a bit outside of the rural west. And I've been pondering it's potential usefulness for libraries. The $399 price tag means it would hurt if it were loaned out and lost or damaged. But possibly more of a concern would be the easy purchase features in most of the country. So, you check it out to a patron who decides that he wants the entire Stephen King collection and clicks buy to charge it to the library account. I'm sure this instant purchase feature could be turned off, at least I hope it could. But it's certainly not in Amazon's interest to do so.

In short, I do like it. I enjoy being able to carry a bunch of books, magazines, audiobooks and music all in one pretty compact package. It's gotten me to subscribe to several magazines again. I stopped because I couldn't keep up with reading, particularly weeklies. I don't feel so bad when the evidence of my backlog is strictly digital. And it's a great conversation starter. Some of my state E-rate colleagues were very intrigued. It also started a great conversation about YA books with the woman sitting next to me on the Chicago-Denver flight. But I'm going to continue to complain about the lack of wireless availability.

1 comment:

Renee McGrath said...

Amazon recently dropped the price to $359