Monday, July 11, 2011

The Kindle Experience: Two Weeks Later


About two weeks ago, I broke down and bought a Kindle.

I haven't been resistant to the "Ebook Revolution," but I haven't exactly been running toward it either.

As a reader, I wasn't sure what it would offer me. As a writer, I didn't know if it would have any utility beyond giving me a device on which to check the formatting of my stories.

So, two weeks later, a look at what I love, like, and hate about Amazon's bestselling e-reader. For full disclosure, I bought the Amazon Kindle with Special Offers (wi-fi only version) because I wanted to save a few bucks.

As a reader...

LOVE...

WHATEVER. WHEREVER. WHENEVER. I can read whatever I want, whenever I want it. Amazon has integrated its Kindle store onto the device, making it easy to browse and find books. Connect it to wi-fi, and I've got an entire bookstore at my fingertips.

WHAT BOOKMARK? If a phone call or something else interrupts reading time, the device remembers where I'm at, allowing me to pick back up right where I left off. If I'm reading multiple books at the same time, those are all bookmarked in the appropriate places.

NO MORE BOOK LUGGING. I'm not usually one to carry around multiple books, but I do it every once in a while. I don't have an extensive library on my Kindle (there are six books on it so far), but I don't have six books to lug around. It's nice.

NO EYE FATIGUE. It's like reading from a paperback. Really. I didn't believe it until I saw it for myself. I tried reading off an iPhone, but gave up because I didn't like the size of the screen and the backlighting became tiresome.

TRAVELS WELL. I took my Kindle on its first road trip this weekend. It performed admirably. Hotel wi-fi was easy enough to pick up and the device is light and easy to carry and/or pack. It was also easy to read while riding in the car, even in the sunlight.

GOOD BATTERY LIFE. My Kindle was down to about half battery power before the trip. After about two weeks of usage, I still had about 50% battery power. Since I'm sometimes overly cautious, I charged the device before heading off. Still, it seems like the device sips its battery power.

HATE...

BLACK FLASH! This really does take some getting used to. I'm talking about the quick "black flash" effect that happens when you turn from one page to another. The first time I read from my Kindle, I couldn't get over this. I didn't know if I ever would. It just takes a little time before this effect becomes second nature.

SOMETIMES FEELS LIKE A VIDEO GAME AND NOT A READING EXPERIENCE. While the Kindle marks your reading spot for you, a percentage meter at the bottom of the screen shows your reading progress. Sometimes, I expect to see "Achievement Unlocked!" when I hit the 50% mark of a book.

SLUGGISH INTERFACE. The refresh rate on the screen is nothing like you're used to on a computer or smartphone. Kindle's interface plods along, sometimes getting several steps behind your button presses as the device tries to keep up. It's noticeable.

IT'S NOT THE KINDLE'S FAULT, BUT I WANTED TO TOUCH THE SCREEN. This isn't really a "knock" on the Kindle. I've had an iPhone for a couple of years now and am used to using the screen as an interface. When I first got the Kindle, I wanted to keep doing this. IT DOESN'T WORK LIKE THAT.

"PHOTOCOPIED" COVERS. Often, part of the charm of a book is its cover, whether glorious or hideous. It doesn't matter how well a cover is designed or colored for the Kindle format; they all look like something from a Game Boy.

LACK OF LIBRARY SUPPORT. I know, I know. This will change soon. It's still worth mentioning, however, until this gets fixed because you can't check out library ebooks and read them on Kindle. Oh, I'm sure there's a way (just not a legal one).

As a Writer...

LOVE...

EASY TO SEND. I HATE reading in front of the computer, something often required when you write. I self-edit okay...but being able to email a Word file, PDF, or HTML doc to my Kindle is invaluable. Getting that text off the screen and into a book-like form helps me spot problems.

PORTABLE WRITING LIBRARY...WITH NOTES. In addition to the above, I can annotate short stories and novels. If I catch a misspelling, poor word choice, or anything like that, I can make a note to fix it. During a weekend road trip, this came in very handy while looking over some stories.

FORMAT GAUGE. The real reason I bought the Kindle in the first place was to "see" what my stories would look like on an e-reader. I needed to see for myself, tangibly, what an ebook felt like. This is also useful for spotting any formatting errors.

HATE...

BRAIN SPACE NOT ATTUNED! When trying to use the Kindle keyboard, I'm all over the place. I commonly mistype "M" when I want "N" and don't like the location of the "delete" key. This is mostly a function of muscle memory and unfamiliarity, but still worth mentioning.

MOVING THE CURSOR. ICK. It's not that it isn't intuitive, it just feels clunky. A lot of it has to do with the refresh rate and the Kindle's lack of horsepower. It just takes some practice.

I am overwhelmingly pleased with my Kindle. It has a lot of flexibility as a "paperback replacement" and writing tool. I won't do a lot of typing/productivity on it, but it does what it's designed to do remarkably well.

I'm not interested in an iPad/tablet computer, so the Kindle and its E-ink display work well for me.

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