On Kindle

Saturday, October 9, 2010

While staying at a friend's place, I had the opportunity to get my hands on the new Kindle (you can view some Kindle photos on my Flickr account). Truth be told I wasn't expecting it to be so small and light, although I had used (not owned) ebook readers before (Kindle 1st generation and a Turbo-X one).

So after the initial surprise, my attention was focused on the screen. E-ink has (almost) 180o of viewing angle (yeah it really feels like paper) and indeed provides a very comfortable reading experience. Screen size is big and the side buttons for page turning makes the whole process easy and distraction free.

This is where the problems arise though, for me at least. Being an iPhone/iPad owner I found myself touching the screen all the time, trying to navigate through the book I was reading (ReWork, you should get it by all means). Wouldn't it be nice (although I think this is bound to happen soon) to have a touch-enabled e-ink screen? If that was to happen Kindle would get to lose its annoying keyboard on the bottom plus the navigation joystick. I kinda believe this a barrier we will overcome the following months/years, so all I have to do is wait.

Next thing I noticed about the screen was the refresh rate. Although it was faster than any other ebook reader device I came across, it was rather unpleasant to watch the (almost instantaneous) flickering of the screen when Kindle needed to redraw the contents. I assume this is something you get used to, but it feels pretty weird the first few times.

On top of that, I tried some "experimental" Kindle features, cause you know  I never say no to some beta testing, and I almost instantly regretted it. Kindle's browser (although Webkit-based, which is always good) has some nasty UX issues. Once you open the browser, a mouse cursor comes up and you get to navigate everywhere inside the app with this cursor using the keyboard's "joystick". Pretty lame if you ask me although I get that, considering the hardware of device, they had no other alternatives. Anyway, Kindle is not an Internet device per se and I love the fact that it's so different from iPad.

Then of course, when iPad and Kindle meet themselves on a sentence you must always argue on which one is the best. If you are a Kindle user your "throw it to the bag when you are going on a trip" and "you can even read under the sun" arguments can start the debate, but it's not like that. I really think that if you have a dilemma on which device you should get, the answer is simple. Do you want an awesome reading device and just that? Buy a Kindle, cheap, distraction-free, relaxing. Do you want an awesome portable Internet device with reading capabilities, games and media playback? Buy an iPad and maybe it's gonna change a part of you.

Kindle 3 really feels like (or maybe it is) the right device to read stuff, but it doesn't appeal to me so much at the moment. Owning an iPad I do find myself using it pretty often for reading, so I can genuinely say that I simply don't need it. That of course doesn't mean that if I will ever get a Kindle as a gift, I'll throw it away. Far from it :)

(Tip) If you live in Greece (like me) I found that the common procedure of buying a Kindle is the following: Get someone you know in U.K. get it (from Amazon.co.uk) and then mail it to you.