Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My New Kindle eBook Reader

I just got an Amazon Kindle (the 6" global). Again I'm amazed by the speed of delivery these days. I ordered Friday afternoon and it was delivered Monday morning. (Despite an email that said delivery would be delayed by "extreme" weather.)

Several people have asked why I didn't wait for the Apple iPad. Of course I want an iPad. I love my iPhone and I'd love a similar device with a bigger screen. But ...
  • The iPad is supposed to have 10 hours battery life - that's great for a laptop, not so good for an eBook reader. The Kindle, with it's E Ink display will last a couple of weeks. That's critical for travel, especially off the beaten path and away from power (e.g. trekking).
  • The iPad isn't available yet, and it's unclear when it will be available in Canada. I could be waiting forever if I keep waiting for the next great thing (I've been waiting a while for the Kindle).
  • As far as I can tell, Amazon has the best selection of books. That's what stopped me from buying the Sony eBook reader, which was available sooner in Canada, and in some ways is nicer than the Kindle. Apple hasn't been saying much about their books  - how much selection they'll have and what they'll have in Canada.
I'm a committed reader. In the past I've bought tons of books. Now I have a basement full of literally 1000's of books, most of which I'll never look at again, but which I still have a hard time parting with. My office at work has stacks of books everywhere. And most computer books are out of date and worthless after a year or two. I have nowhere to put more books!

On top of that, it doesn't seem environmentally friendly to be consuming all those trees and all the resources that go into converting them to physical books.

I've been trying to use the library more, but it's frustrating. Their software sucks. (They just upgraded to a new system and it sucks almost as bad as the old system.) They don't get new books very quickly. They don't get most computer books at all. And you never know when you'll get a book you reserve. It might be tomorrow, it might be next year. And it's no good for books you might want to refer back to. I'll continue to use the library, but mostly for fiction and general non-fiction where I don't care too much when I read it.

Sony has an interesting feature where you can borrow eBooks from your library, but only certain libraries support this (not ours) and there are various limitations. Sony also lets you lend your books to other people with Sony readers - I would really like this feature.

Kindle positives:
  • nice display, very easy to read, good for reading outside in bright light
  • small, light-weight
  • great battery life
  • ability to buy books right on the device (don't need to download to your computer and then sync like the Sony)
  • ability to create bookmarks and add notes
  • ability to read free content in pdf or mobi format
  • much more convenient to carry around the Kindle rather than a bunch of books
  • free 3G wireless (cell phone) access (but only to buy books from Amazon)
Kindle negatives:
  • no back-light (Shelley loves being able to read on her iPod Touch at night)
  • slow display - ok for turning pages, but not so good for user interface
  • no touch screen (I'm so used to my iPhone I keep trying to tap links on the Kindle)
  • no wifi
  • no Wikipedia access in Canada
  • no web browsing in Canada
  • no pictures in magazines in Canada
  • no color (black and white display)
  • limited memory and no way to expand it (e.g. for an offline copy of Wikipedia)
  • you have to buy books from amazon.com (US), but my wish-list and gift cards are on amazon.ca (Canada)
  • too easy to buy books ;-)
How "green" is a Kindle? That's a tough question that depends on a lot of factors. Manufacturing the Kindle isn't green. And it's another device that will likely be out of date and discarded within a few years. But if I avoid buying several hundred books a year, that's a fair saving. Of course, the library is the greenest option, but not a very functional one.

I debated whether to buy the small or large (DX) Kindle. The large one would be a lot better for reading PDF's that you can't reformat, but I went with the smaller one for ease of carrying.

It's too bad there isn't a better display that combines the battery life and readability of E Ink with the color and speed of a laptop display. The One Laptop Per Child computer had an interesting display with a low power black and white mode (like E Ink) but also a color mode. But no one else seems to be pursuing this kind of display.

The other big negative to all this is that the books you buy are tied to a specific device/company. If I buy books for my Kindle I can't switch to the Sony reader and vice versa. This is mostly because of the DRM copy protection. Imagine if music was tied to a specific player instead of being able to play your mp3's anywhere. (However, Amazon has software that lets you access your Kindle books from your PC, Mac, iPhone, or iPod Touch.)

1 comment:

Jen said...

So did you use your Christmas gift certificate for that? I guess from now on we'll have to make sure they come from amazon.com!