Last week, I got an Amazon Kindle. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an eBook reader with a cellular connection that allows you to buy books from the device itself. So far, I am really enjoying it.
The Kindle has a screen about the size of a mass market paper back, and the whole thing is smaller than a standard (or shelf-format) paperback. It’s not heavy, and can easily be held and used with one hand while sitting or standing. The layout of the buttons makes it usable in my left or right hand, though it took a bit of practice to learn to pick it up without accidentally turning the page. Laying down, it’s a bit harder to hold it up and turn the pages with just one hand. I usually just reach up and press the button with my other hand (very much like turning pages in a paper book.)
The screen of the Kindle is where it really shines. The resolution is crisp, and it is incredibly easy to read. The text comes out black-on-gray, and very sharp. There is a bit of pixelation at the smallest resolution, but it’s still much better than reading on a small LCD. My preference is settling on the second-smallest text, which is one size lower than the default from the factory. The screen flashes all-black for a moment when changing pages, presumably to reset the electronic ink. It takes less than 1 second to change pages, a very acceptable time.
In fact, the only thing I don’t like better about this screen than a PDA screen is that I can’t use it for a flashlight to avoid tripping over the dog.
Whispernet and wireless delivery
The wireless delivery (and browsing) on the Kindle is fast and easy. It worked very well. It’s not the most vital part of the device for me, but it will be nice if I think of something I want and have no computer nearby. Most of my books are free eBooks that are on my desktop, which leads me to….
The Kindle acts as a standard USB drive when attached to a computer, so it’s compatible with all modern operating systems. To put a compatible eBook, MP3, or pictures on the device you simply copy the files in to the proper directories and when you disconnect the Kindle, it will know they are there.
Open Standards compatibility
Sadly, the only open standards the Kindle supports natively .txt and HTML. However, it supports Mobi, which you can create from PDFs and other formats without cost. One can also get documents converted to the Amazon format for free by sending them as an attachment to an email address unique to your Kindle. You can have it delivered wirelessly for a dime, or returned to you for manual transfer.
I really, really like this device. I started reading eBooks a few years ago after I found the Baen Free Library. The electronic ink is a huge improvement over light-emitting screen types. The screen size is wonderful – and this from someone who thought he never cared about the small PDA screen before. The cover that comes with it makes it very easy to hold on to, and protects the screen nicely. It would also be a great place to clip on a book light, if you need to read at night without bothering a bed- or room-mate. I would like it if it supported more formats, but I am content that I am not locked in completely to Amazon’s format.