Monday, October 19, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2 Review

I think the biggest selling point for the Kindle 2 for consumers in Montana is we finally get wireless and the opportunity for instant gratification. Once you set it up with your account, you can buy books and magazines with one-click and have them downloaded instantly to your device. If you subscribe to a newspaper or magazine, the Kindle will be updated automatically with the latest issue whenever you turn on wireless access. For libraries, this is probably not as big a deal because we would shut off the one touch ordering.

Another fun feature I’ve recently taken advantage of was the clipping. I’ve always highlighted passages and made notes. But I just discovered that the highlighted passages are copied to a My Clippings text file that can be retrieved via computer from the Documents folder on the Kindle. You can clip an entire article or a section of an article or just a few words or sentences. I gave a talk yesterday on ethical eating and it was really handy to be able to integrate passages from some of the books I’d read on Kindle. Once again this is probably of more use to an individual consumer than to a library. I imagine libraries would want to make sure that the clippings file was emptied after each use for privacy considerations.

Some features that are useful to everyone:
  • The variable text sizes – you can make any book or periodical large text by clicking on the Aa button.
  • Text to speech – most items can be translated into computer-generated speech again by clicking on the Aa button and selecting Text to Speech. This was rather controversial when it first came out. Some publishers objected and their works will not have this feature enabled.
  • Dictionary – you can get a definition for many words by simply moving the cursor near and up comes a definition at the bottom
  • The search function can be very useful. Say you’re trying to find the chapter that talked about Sally Smith. Just type it in search and you’ll go right to it.
  • You can use it to listen to music and some audiobooks (unfortunately, not OverDrive).

Some negatives:
  • Navigation can be clunky. It’s not easy to go back to previous sections unless you have them bookmarked. You’ll often have to go back to the table of contents, find the chapter and click through to the page you want.
  • Maps and charts can be difficult to read and use.
  • It’s expensive - as of today $259 for US version.
  • It uses its own proprietary e-book format.
  • Formatting is often lost. I recently read a book that used a lot sidebar material. It was randomly inserted into the text.
  • It’s clunky to transfer your own or PDF files. You need conversion software. charges $0.10 to translate a document and email it to your device.
And probably the biggest drawback for libraries considering purchasing Kindles to lend to their patrons for e-book use is that is still unclear about whether or not library use is permissable under the user agreement.