I have been considering getting an e-book reader for a while now. Primarily because I travel a lot, the thought of being able to have a device where I can download all my business school cases, books and a newspaper subscription to carry around with me was extremely alluring.
So after the Apple iPad announcement, I decided to take the plunge and order the Amazon Kindle 2. A few of the reasons as to a) Why I decided to wait for the iPad announcement before committing b) Why the Kindle ( as opposed to the Barnes and Noble Nook or even the Apple iPad)
I waited for the Apple iPad announcement because to me the Apple iPad was going to be geared towards serious reading as well as consumption of media. Before the announcement, I wasn’t entirely certain how Apple was going to accomplish that given the technical limitations and divergence of the kinds of displays needed to accomplish each of those tasks satisfactorily – reading on a backlit screen – aka a traditional LCD screen – for long periods of time has the dual disadvantages of being straining to the eyes as well as consuming the device battery at an accelerated rate due to the fact that it has to be backlit. On the other hand, for effective media consumption and web browsing, current e-Ink screens were wholly inadequate – current e-Ink technology only allows for grayscale screens and the refresh rates don’t allow for effective web-browsing or multimedia consumption.
So, while I wasn’t sure how Apple was going to pull this one off – I was hoping for Steve Jobs “pulling the rabbit out of the hat moment”. And understandably, it didn’t happen. What we got was an outsized iPhone wholly unsuitable for typing on (no palm rests, oversized iPhone keyboard), too heavy for holding as a book for extended periods of time, LCD screen (which to me defeats the purpose of buying a third device – apart from my laptop and my phone – if I have to still read on an LCD screen), relatively sparse battery life (10 hours is commendable, just not for reading – I don’t want to have yet another device that I have to charge every night) and a $30.00 charge / month for ATT’s 3G coverage (which frankly, I abhor). Hence the Apple iPad was out.
At that point, I decided that my choices came down to the Amazon Kindle 2 or Barnes and Noble Nook.
So why the Kindle. First off, I love the Amazon storefront. The ability to get most books, newspapers and magazines that I enjoy to consume – was far greater with Amazon than Barnes and Noble. Then again, the Nook had Wifi and 3G ( the Kindle 2 does not have Wifi but has 3G). However Barnes and Noble uses ATT’s network and Amazon’s Whispernet uses Sprint’s 3G network (which as I have opined frequently on this forum is far superior to ATT’s network – asinine TV commercials notwithstanding). Secondly, while I liked the Nook’s color touch screen, I wanted an e-reader primarily for reading purposes – and to me (and this is my personal opinion), a color bar at the bottom of the screen was distracting to me. I want to get lost in my e-reader as I would in a book and to me – the Kindle was just more appropriate for my choices. (And the Kindle had the added advantage of a better battery life). And hence, after much deliberation, I became a Kindle man!
I have had the Amazon Kindle 2 for about a week now. I decided to hold off on writing a review because I firmly believe that any review should not be “first impressions” of a device (as most professionally written reviews are) but should be impressions based on real world use.
So here are my impressions. (Again, to re-iterate, these constitute my usage impressions – I don’t mean any disrespect to folks who love the Apple iPad or the Nook – to each person his/her own – I am writing this from a standpoint of an avid reader and what the Amazon Kindle 2 experience has been)
Long story short, I am sold. I am absolutely in love with my Kindle. To the extent that I rarely feel for any gadget. (The last time I felt such a rush was when I got my iPod Touch). Every time I use the Kindle, I wonder how did I live without the device for so long. And that’s funny, considering that I thought of myself as a fairly “classical reader” – I love the smell of new books, I love to look at my bookshelf with my much loved tomes and all the associated memories with them.
Back to the Kindle – my usage patterns. I have 1 novel, 1 business book, about 20 Business Cases (Harvard and Columbia cases), subscriptions to the New York Times, Hindustan Times (a New Delhi based newspaper) and The Economist. I wake up to the newspapers being delivered to my Kindle every morning, I get a copy of the Economist every week delivered – no matter where I am – and consequently, I consume a lot more than I used to. And I absolutely love the convenience and not being tied to the New York / New Jersey area to get a copy of the newspapers. There is a lot of forums on the web that talks about how there is only one image per story ( for the New York Times) and how some readers don’t get the feel of reading a “real” paper while reading on the Kindle – and I think they are fair points. To me however, the fact that I can read one article at a time makes me focus much better to the article on hand (as opposed to flipping around in a physical newspaper), the print quality on the e-Ink screen seems clearer to me and most importantly, I don’t kill a bunch of trees due to my obsession with current affairs.
The refresh rates (going from one page to another) still has a little lag – however, trust me – one gets used to it much more easily than initially envisioned. Before I got my Kindle, I was really concerned about the momentary flash on the e-Ink screen when moving from one page to another – however, its a non-issue now. The convenience of having all my reading material in one place far outweighs these small issues.
The device itself is of a perfect size and weight to hold for long periods of time. I read extensively on my weekly plane rides across the country and I find myself having no issues holding the Kindle in front of me like a book for 4-5 hours.
Amazon Whispersync (using Sprint’s 3G technology) is solid (though I do switch it off during the day to save battery life). And the device does feel very solidly built.
The browser is experimental at best. Its definitely not suited for web browsing ( and I haven’t done a lot of browsing on the device to comment) but my initial impressions was that I haven’t missed much. The text-to-speech function is ok at best – the voice is mechanical – which takes away some of the joys of having a book read to you. And I haven’t tried the Kindle as a music player so I cant comment.
Overall, I am glad I got the Kindle. A lot of you might feel differently (especially if you are not as voracious a reader) – then the iPad might be the right device for you. But I think that given I wanted a gadget to just read on, this was the best device I could get for my needs.
Postscript: I forgot to mention about the excellent document conversion service that Amazon offers to convert native PDF, Word and a number of other file types into a Kindle Document (.azw) – that offers all the additional features associated with a native Kindle Document format (font resizing, notations, dictionary, text-to-speech etc). The service can be used for free (by emailing documents to your firstname.lastname@example.org and having the converted documents emailed back to you for transfer into the Kindle via USB) or for a small nominal fee transferred wirelessly back to your Kindle (email documents to email@example.com). I never thought I would use this service before I bought my Kindle but I find myself using it all the time for getting my business school and work documents to my beloved Kindle.