Kindle

Did I mention I got a Kindle a week or so ago?

I was pretty pleased with the Kindle when it first arrived. But there are just too many little irks…

  • Given the resolution of images the Kindle is capable of displaying, the text fonts are pretty lousy.
  • Paging is a bit of a pain – it seems like they have a low-level driver issue which they have worked around by wiping/drawing the page a couple of times: they black the page out, wipe it, draw the new page, black it out, wipe it and draw it again. And the E-Ink they use isn’t fast, so it winds up taking a chunk of time doing this. Some pages, even just text pages in a kindle ebook, can take what feels like an eternity – a second or longer – switching to the next page.
  • Paging is even more of a pain if you want to skip ahead a few pages, because it’s gonna draw/undraw/draw/undraw each page on the way.
  • The discrete buttons make the display really beg to be touch screen. Every time I go a day or two without using the Kindle, it takes me a few moments to remember how the buttons work. And I keep wanting to use the buttons on the right hand side of the kindle, which means I’m forever leaving the ebook I’m reading.
  • Some kind of physical slider would probably have been better for moving between pages, something more akin to moving pages in a book.
  • Ok – so books don’t have back lighting. But this is an electronic device. It’s annoying that if I want to read with my kindle, I have to turn on a light =/
  • Keypad. I just kind find anything I like about it. Prime device-holding space is taken up with an unpleasant series of nasty little “nipple” buttons.

The keypad… There are so many better ways it could have been done. It could have been a fold-under bottom cover for the device; it could have been an addon. It could have been a small touch-screen display panel capable of showing color/high-quality versions of images when required.

When your Kindle arrives, it has the typical little protective sheet of clear-plastic over the display. This appears to have the “quick instruction” guide on it. But when you remove the plastic, the instructions are still there. Then you realize: This is E-Ink (in which I think the “E” stands for “etch-a-sketch” :). When you power the Kindle off, the display clears and is replaced with some pretty graphical image or a portrait of some famous author.

By comparison, the quality of the text displays is really awful. I wind up putting the Kindle into Mr Magoo font. This is perhaps partly because the text is soft-black on dark-gray. Maybe I’m spoiled by years of truetype fonts on LCD displays, but text rendering on the Kindle really sucks. I’m reminded of old dot matrix printers, or “draft” quality from early laser printers.

Importing documents from your computer – text files or whatever – is reasonably easy, but somewhat unpredictable in terms of how it will display. And it’s a bit of a bummer when you go from a crisp clear LCD monitor displaying the text in a gorgeous sans-serif, anti-aliased font, to whatever crime it is that Kindle’s display commits against calligraphy.

It can display PDF files, but you will be punished; be prepared to rotate the display to landscape mode. So far – every PDF I’ve loaded has looked like some kind of Victorian etching.

The Kindle seems to choose default settings for PDFs that would probably make the text small on a 19in monitor. Alas, my Kindle has a display just under 1/3 of that size.

If I hadn’t just bought the Kindle, honestly: I’d get an iPad.

3 Comments

My iPad agrees with you!

I work in a bookshop in the UK. Due to issues with the complexity of 3G phone networks here, the Kindle is way behind the Sony Reader, which we sell and have done very well with. Many discussions at work have centered on the supposed readability of electronic readers and the alleged “fact” that book readers won’t read from a a screen unless it looks like a printed page.

I think it’s twaddle. The huge majority of people above a certain age aren’t going to want to read from a screen AT ALL. A huge majority of people below a certain range are going to grow up expecting a single screen device to do EVERYTHING. The only ones that actually care about eInk and screens that mimic paper are a little orphan bubble in the middle.

The reality is that in ten years, maybe five, everyone who cares will be reading, gaming, communicating and social networking from a single mobile device. And it won’t be a Kindle.

I think the single-device future is a bit dystopian. I think it’s more likely we will see the emergence of some technology that empowers display devices and acts as a transportable processing unit/storage, but that people will actually have different displays for different content/activities.

What I do like about the Kindle is its size and weight. It is comfortable to hold for reading for long periods of time. What’s wrong with it is the same problem that a book has in terms of readability – i.e. the requirement of a light source. Also, the proportion of display area to overall area. Maybe I just dislike the keyboard area a lot, or having a keyboard on a reading device. I’m not sure.

I just read a book called “Containment” on it. And despite my grumblings about the lack of a light source (I suppose you could plug a USB pen light into it?) slobbing on the couch in the mid-day Texas sun and not staring at a glowing panel had its own comforts.

I actually think that even upcoming generations will enjoy the escapism of an unlit display; something that seems to extrude the virtual into our reality. And I’ll give eInk that: it’s not link staring at yet-another electronic display :)

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