Monday, November 22, 2010

Kindle V3 Extended Impressions

The Reading Room of the British Museum
I've had the Kindle V3 for a couple of weeks now.  I've read two short novels, browsed some technical books and made a dent in the recently released Mark Twain Autobiography.  I've also spent some time using a couple of Kindle applications.  At this point I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the strengths and limitations of this device.

Nothing is perfect, particularly when it is aimed at a very specific use/niche.  The Kindle is not a games machine.  It is not a great PDF viewer.  It is not a direct competitor to the Apple IPad.

I have almost no experience with other EBook readers, so I won't be doing any comparisons to Amazon's competition in that space.

The Good
The Kindle is great for reading novels.  The ability to adjust the font size, line spacing and switch between portrait and landscape makes it easy to find a comfortable configuration for casual reading.  The screen looks great in sunlight and works fine in most artificial lighting situations.

The battery life is great, even if I don't make it a habit to go around for days without plugging in my electronic toys.  With the wireless on and occasional use of the integrated light that came with my protective Kindle case I've gone several days and been nowhere near exhausting the battery.

Syncing of data (book positions for instance) works well between the various Kindle readers I use.  These consist of my Droid X, PC & Kindle.  When I open a book I've been reading elsewhere I am prompted if I want to seek to the furthest position I've read, assuming that position is different from the last time I accessed the book from that device.

Another nice feature is the ability to email PDF's and E-Books to your Kindle device.  It costs a little money, but may be worth it depending.  If you don't want to pay and are willing to wait for delivery until your device is connected to Wireless you can simply send the document to


In regards to applications, the Minesweeper application is free, and pretty much what you'd expect if you've played the one that comes with Windows.  It's a pretty good demo of what is possible with the Kindle.  the slow refresh rate on the screen and relatively meager processing power means that developers are fairly limited in what they can do so I don't expect to see a huge number of applications for the Kindle.

If you're willing to pay money Scrabble is pretty good with "Play against the computer" and "Play and pass" modes along with several variants on the standard rules of the game.  I recommend it.

The Bad
The Kindle is very poorly suited for books that use multiple fonts and odd spacings.  It's really optimized for simple text documents and does poorly in situations where the source material is complex and full of graphics. Kindle editions of technical books are OK, but not great.  The quality of the experience will depend on how detailed the graphics are.  While the PDF viewer has the ability to scale, the EBook reader does not so far as I can tell.  For small simple figures/graphics this works OK.  As you get into more complicated images it becomes a real problem as it is impossible to actually see any detail on the Kindle's small screen.  I don't know if things are improved on the DX version of the Kindle.  I hope so but am doubtful. It looks like images in the Kindle format are of a fixed size.  What you see is all you get.  If this isn't true than I question why after three generations of this thing Amazon hasn't added the ability to scale in the EBook reader.  Actually given how these books look on the PC Kindle Application I'm fairly sure images are of fixed size and resolution.

Reading the Twain autobiography has been confusing and difficult at times as well.  This book is really a scholarly collection of various Twin writings that in total tell the story of his life in his own words.  There will eventually be three volumes, but for now there is only one.  After a lengthy but interesting introduction that relates the history of Twain's efforts to write his autobiography there is a section of sometimes incomplete texts that he wrote at various points in his life.  Sometimes the texts are incomplete and stop in mid sentence.  This can be confusing when reading on the kindle as it eliminates the extra line breaks that are present when reading on the Windows Kindle viewer.  The abrupt endings are jarring but inevitable since Mr. Twain has been dead for a century now and cannot be expected to fill them in.  The poorly realized transitions when reading on the Kindle however appear to be due to limitations in the EBook format and the device itself.  It is possible that the publisher might have done a better job but given other texts I've sampled this is a common problem when dealing with anything more complicated than fairly basic text.  The transition from Twain's words to those of the collections editors should be much more visually obvious than they are on the Kindle.

That is my only significant complaint.

The Verdict
In spite of the issue mentioned in "The Bad" section I still like the Kindle.  It is great for reading novels and other simple texts.  There is still room for improvement though and I'll be looking forward to future generations of this product.  I generally try to get at least two years use out of a gadget like this so I'll likely be in the market around the time that the Kindle 5 comes around.  The DX might be tempting at some point as I have a real need to read and reference technical books and would prefer not to carry them around with me.  this assumes of course that the larger size makes complex documents easier to deal with.

Image via Wikipedia
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment