After one week of use, I’ve come to some clear conclusions about the Kindle 2 that was not immediately apparent during the initial honeymoon phase.
Quick conclusion: I like it, and it’s become like a real book to me, with certain caveats.
Long answer…here goes:
The screen’s contrast level limits where you can read the Kindle.
Like I said in my initial impressions, the contrast level is not great, with a light grey screen and not-100%-black text. It’s bit like reading printed text on a grey cardboard box.
So while the Kindle is meant to be read with a light on like a normal book, I found that it’s best read in really good lighting when indoors – either next to a table lamp or next to a window. You’ll definitely get some eye-strain if you read under normal florescent or incandescent lighting. For outdoors, no issues at all.
While the Kindle indirectly promotes good reading habits (I probably became myopic because I always read under poor lighting), it does call for a better screen or improved font rendering. Here are some web posts on the font rendering issue:
I do like to read in good lighting so it’s not a big deal. The test will come when I board a plane with the Kindle 2 next week.
It’s an incredible sleep inducer
Now I’m not sure if this is because of the screen contrast level. I’ve always fallen asleep quickly when reading books or the Bible, but the Kindle sends me off to dreamland within ten minutes if I’m lying on a couch. Luckily, I’ve yet to roll over and sleep on the Kindle.
Great for insomniacs, not so great if you’re trying to finish a long book.
What, only one font?
It looks like Rockwell, but I’ve learnt that the Kindle 2 screen font is known as Caelicia. And that’s the only font you’ll get unless you hack it. (Note: Font hacks don’t work with current 2.3 firmware)
I think one of the beauty of printed books is the wide range of fonts you get to experience on them. Each font family creates a different reading experience and emotional space.
Having only one font is not a deal breaker for the Kindle, but for book lovers, it does remove an element that you don’t realize is gone unless you’re from the graphics or books industry.
This is something that the iPad will fix, and I’m sure Amazon could do the same with a firmware update.
Watch the food and drinks
Be careful if you’re going to eat greasy stuff while reading the Kindle. The big page turning buttons do have small gaps where food or grease can get stuck in!
And who doesn’t read books and eat snacks at the same time?
You can get really absorbed in a book
It seems like I’m ranting above, but those are small quibbles. This is where the Kindle really proves its worth:
With normal books that offer reams of pages and small fonts, I tend to skip over passages wholesale. However, with the Kindle, I’m reading more slowly and carefully, and getting more absorbed than ever before. Perhaps because I can now control the font size and column width to my needs.
The test of this comes with plot twists and kickers. I get the same literary impact from both the Kindle and a real book!
Battery life is as advertised
After a week of reading everyday (or the equivalent of a Dragonlance fantasy novel so far), I still have 75% battery life left.
More books need to be Kindled
Amazon advertises as having over 400,000 Kindle books, but when you realize there are several dozen versions of Pride and Prejudice, it’s an obviously inflated number.
And when I search for Michael Crichton, I get novels like Prey, The Lost World, Timeline and Airframe, but no Jurassic Park or The Andromeda Strain. This is probably a publisher issue, but you’d think that 3 years after the launch of the original Kindle, book publishers would have put more resources in digitizing books.
Plus the Harry Potter series is still in lucrative print format only 😀
If you’re into newer books like Percy Jackson or NYT Bestsellers, the Kindle will serve you very well. For old skool guys like me, I’m just reading what ebooks I have now until the rest come online.
So should you buy a Kindle today?
It really depends on how much you’ve been wanting to move to ebooks. The commercial market is still in its infancy and ebook readers have plenty of room to improve. The Apple iPad will also be a disruptive force that might confuse buyers and publishers alike with its different approach to ebook technologies.
For me, I’m happy with the Kindle 2 because
1. It’s really re-Kindled my old love for reading and I love my HP Lovecraft collection though I’m now reading Asimov’s Foundation series on it.
2. I like to show off something different in an MRT full of iPhone-toting young punks and aunties. I’m the original Gadget Guy here, folks.
3. I paid alot of money (S$460) for it and it had better make me happy!
I’m a gadget lover at heart, but it doesn’t mean I buy every gadget out there. The true value of a gadget lies in how much you use it, and the Kindle is slowly, but surely usurping the time I previously allocated to my Xbox 360 . It now ranks up there with my other highly-utilized gadgets (iPod Touch, office laptop, Olympus Pen, Xbox 360, Onkyo receiver, Samsung HDTV) and does not belong to the low-utility gadget category(PS3, Wii, and Panasonic LX3).
Gadgets aren’t useful unless you use them, and by Jove, the Kindle demands to be used.