Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kindle and ebooks

I was planning to buy an ebook reader for a while. I mean it is 2010 and if we don't have flying cars at least everyone should have a robot and not read from dead trees.

It took me a while because I wasn't able to decide on a brand and when I decided on Amazon I couldn't decide on which Kindle to get. My girlfriend took the decision off me by giving me a Kindle 3G+Wifi for my birthday. So here is a quick review.

Once you open the packaging you already notice the difference to any other display device you have ever used. The screen already shows something, even though the device is switched off. In this case it shows the instructions to switch it on and plug it in. Whenever the device is switched off it displays a random picture.

The Kindle is about the size of a normal paperback novel, it is not too heavy and it is very easy to hold with one hand. The large "turn page"-button on both sides of the screen allow reading without moving your hands.

With the the 3G or Wifi you can access the Amazon store, which allows you to buy books or directly download one of the many free books from Amazon. Once you try this you might notice one of the disadvantages: a lot of books are not available for European buyers, this even includes some of the free books. The free books seem mostly be from project gutenberg, so I don't understand the reasoning for this. You can just download them from there. A lot of paper books, especially older ones are not available at all.

So first thing I bought The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy obviously. But I know that one already, so I also bought The Last Run: A Queen & Country Novel, which is a kind of James Bond story with a British female agent and the last art of a series which I already followed.
The book cost me $18.74, and there is already the first problem, I think it is too much. It does cost less for US customers and the hardcover is only $17.16. Now everyone is saying that it isn't the paper that is making the price, but something is clearly wrong here. With an Amazon ebook I am also loosing my right to lend the book to other people or to sell it again once I read it, there should be some compensation for this.
The reading experience on the other hand was very nice. I also had the feeling that I read quicker on the reader compared to a paper book, maybe because of the smaller page size or the quicker page turns. This is was the Kindle is made for, reading novels is a very nice experience.

Now the bad stuff: reading pdfs or technical books on the 6" Kindle is not nice, it is just too small. The lack of colour is also a problem for these and comics.
The organization of books on the Kindle sucks, there should be a view with the book covers (which are also not always provided by the books), the collection system is also rubbish.
Navigation is also clumsy, a touch screen would be the obvious solution but this adds weight, size, reduces battery live and quality of the display. But even without touch this could be a lot smoother.
And finally: how can Amazon with one of the best, if not the best on-line shop produce a shop on the kindle that is so useless. Unless you are not near a computer it is always easier to switch on your desktop and do the shopping on amazon.com and then send it to the Kindle. Heck, even if you are not around a computer it might be faster to take a cab to the next internet cafe and do the shopping there.

To summarize: I am happy with the device for the reading I use it for. I am also glad that I don't have carry around kilos of books the next time I read the Hitchhiker, Red/Green/Blue Mars or Lord of the Rings again. And the project gutenberg is finally useful to me too, with lots of classics and older books like the Origin of Species available for free.

And in the future I will get another ereader for PDFs, technical books and comics. But only if available with a colour display in the same quality as the Kindle

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