Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kindle V3 First Impressions

Three Generations of Kindles
OK, so I'm not the first, or even the thousandth person to review the Kindle 3.  And this isn't really going to be a formal review, just a series of jumbled and somewhat random thoughts that occur to me while spending my first day or two with the Kindle.

Day One

First of all, the ease of use isn't bad and the screen certainly looks nice at normal indoor lighting levels.  I really do miss the ability to use the screen to interact with the device though.  Once mouse driven UI's became popular most people didn't want to go back to simple keyboard/CRT based interfaces and the transition to touch screens is a similar paradigm shift.  I'm not saying I hate it.  The cursor/select button is fairly easy to get used to and works reasonably well, particularly for book reading.  It just isn't as flexible/efficient as a touch screen.  I really hope Amazon adds touch screen capability to the Kindle 4.  It would add cost so the odds are against it.  Particularly given how well the current and previous generations have sold without this feature.

The form factor of the Kindle isn't bad.  With the leather case it feels a bit awkward compared to a paperback but it's much easier to hold than most hard bound books.

OK, I just read a couple of chapters in a book.  The overall experience was fine.   I don't know how it is for others, but for me, when I get into a book the pages vanish and I'm not even aware of transitioning from one to another.  That experience was intact on the Kindle.

The ability to email documents to the Kindle is kind of nice.  15 cents per megabyte doesn't seem out of line given that there is no charge for the 3G service beyond the initial $50 or so delta in cost between the Wifi only and 3G models.  AT&T, the people who provide the "free" 3G service and Amazon no doubt split that revenue. I like the fact that they require authorization on a per domain basis for incoming messages to this service.  It's a simple and reasonably secure way of preventing random spam from showing up on people's Kindle's.  There are of course ways to spook source email headers but this can be made fairly difficult if various checks are made.  I don't have a lot of experience with this feature but I assume Amazon is "doing the right thing" here.

Day 2
The ability to read PDF's is nice, but not very useful in most cases given the size/resolution of the standard Kindle.  The DX would almost certainly be a much better experience.  I'd love to have one of those, but they are spendy and it really would be limited to use around the house given the size.  I'm not sure why Amazon decided the DX should be 3G only given this.  Wireless only would drop a few bucks off the price while minimally impacting functionality.  Of course that is my use case.  Students might have a very different opinion.  Wi-Fi is widely available but there are often manual steps involved in getting authorized to use a particular hot spot.    The 3G service is almost always available without additional actions.

Hmm, I just looked at the Kindle app on my Droid X, why don't books emailed to the Kindle show up on the Android Kindle app?  That seems sub optimal.

The real value in buying Kindle editions of technical books, which tend to have a lot of graphics and charts is that they are properly formatted for the smaller screen.  It is often possible to purchase PDF's of these books, but as noted earlier the PDF's just don't work well on the small screen of the standard Kindle.  I'm working on my Cisco CCNP certification, and reading PDF's of some of the Cisco Press books is difficult.  It can be done if the contrast is turned all the way up and the page is switched to landscape mode, but barely.  Natural light certainly helps in marginal situations like this.

Final Thoughts (For Now)
Some things I'd like to see in a next generation Kindle
  • The 800x600 resolution is OK, but there is certainly room in the current form factor for both a larger screen and higher resolution.
  • I may be odd, but I don't care that much about battery life.  I'm already conditioned to plug in my mobile devices every chance I get.  I'd be willing to sacrifice at least 50% of the battery life for a larger display.
  • An SD card slot would be nice, but given the small form factor it is probably impractical.
  • Color would be very cool to have.  See link below for more info on this possibility.
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