Monday 31 January 2011

Whisper quietly, whisper well (Kindles)

I got a Kindle for Christmas. It's just about the best Christmas present I've ever had. Here's why.

I love pressing buttons.

I could end the post right there, but I suppose that might not be terribly fair. Some people might not have one and be wondering if it's worth getting one (hi Kat) and others might be wondering what all the fuss is about and why a girl who is passionate about keeping public libraries open and who loves the smell of pages with print on them might want to turn the dark side.

Firstly, let me tell you what the Kindle can't do.
  • It's as useful as a blank piece of paper in a blackout
  • If, like me, you're an architecture geek, or a travel geek, or a bike geek and you want to see pretty pictures rendered in full colour, forget it. It renders them in beautiful, crystal clear black and white, but that's not really floating my boat when I know I should be seeing that cathedrals rose window in full technicolour glory
  • Apparently the buttons are in the wrong place for some people
  • I am short sighted, but even with my glasses off I can't read PDF's in native resolution, and so either I must increase the text size (which is incredibly easy to do) which means I have to use the '5 way' joystick affair to navigate from left to right across the page - irritating - or swich the orientation of the screen to landscape (which is also incredibly easy to do) which then means using the normal page turn button on the side at the bottom or top which just doesn't work very well
  • In its experimental bit is a web browser. Forget spawning new windows. So half the web. It can deal with Twitter. Just about. Don't try reading Google Reader natively to read blogs. That doesn't work either
  • As someone else has pointed out, the pricing model is bizarre. Painfully bizarre. Leaving me standing in Waterstones checking my Kindle app to see which is cheapest, real or electronic copy bizarre. 
  • Tying your Kindle to your Twitter account can be painful
  • Wireless reception is flaky. It might just be our router, but I don't think it is
  • Some books still don't have an electronic version on offer
  • Oh my god, the typos
Things which make me grin every time I pick the ugly grey thing up (did I mention it's ugly? It's ugly):
  •  The clarity of the words on the screen is ridiculous. Everyone I've given it to to have a poke and prod has commented on it. On the screensaver. 
  • The synchronisation with Calibre is excellent. We'll get to Calibre in a minute.
  • Wireless is painless to set up (but see above for reliability)
  • Tying the Kindle to your Amazon account is painless
  • The user guide it ships with is actually worth reading. Yeah. I read a manual. My geek card is on the counter over ->
  • The Kindle store means you can download sample chapters of books for free. It means you don't have to accidentally pay for books you'll never finish. It's a wondrous idea.
  • Collections - you can categorise all your books. Yay, thank goodness.
  • Deleting is two clicks. One more than is disastrous, one less than would be irritating.
  • Lots of classics are free. Which is great if you like classics (I do), not so great if you don't, because nothing else is free. 
  • The battery life is immense
  • Backing out of a book doesn't lose your page
  • The iPhone app syncs via Amazon to your Kindle so whatever you buy in one appears in the other, and ditto what page you were on syncs too
  • It weighs nothing. No more concussion for your partner when you fall asleep with a hardback book still in your hands (just me? okay), or if you've got badgered wrists.
I'll post about Calibre another time. This post is already too long.


  1. - there are a ton of books which are free or less than a quid, if you look via the website rather than the Kindle store (just because it's a bit easier to browse and open multiple tabs). I've discovered LOADS of authors I wouldn't usually have bothered with in print. *That* business model is excellent because it does lead you into buying other books by the same author. The crazyass pricing model for popular books is down to publishing cartels, not Amazon's fault. It'll resolve eventually, I think.

    - is awesome for free books.

    I actually think it's lovely, myself; clean lines and curves without being obviously overdesigned. Kinda like an eco-sportscar. :D Now, the overpriced covers with the lights that apparently break frequently...that's not so good. I use a Mighty Bright clip-on embroidery lamp - not perfect, but enough that I can read in bed without disturbing the little one.

    I love that everyone finds different and cool ways to use their Kindles. :) My other half can control our PC with his!

  2. "Tying the Kindle to your Amazon account is painless"

    Ordinarily, it's even more painless than that - they do it automatically at point of sale, the only reason yours needed setting up manually is because it was bought using my account rather than yours. (-:

    "The battery life is immense"

    It's probably worth expanding on this; it only uses power when it has to change the display. It'll hold a static image indefinitely, which is pretty impressive.

  3. Are we allowed to post more Kindle-drool? :)

    - I love that the page-turning is ambidexterous. You can read one-handed!

    - FTW. I collect up all the articles I see on Twitter/FB/blogs/papers which are too long to skim-read with the kids around, and have them all delivered on a Friday night. Then text-to-speech reads them to me while I'm driving to work Saturday morning. It sounds a little like the crazy Portal computer lady which makes me even happier :D

    - the packaging was really well thought-out, totally no-fuss.

    - OMG how did I forget this: delivery time for anything you buy from the Kindle store is under a minute and usually less than that. You can go from WANT to HAVE in the time it takes to sip your tea.