Kindle evaluation

October 3, 2009

M. and I both used the Kindle extensively on our trip. By popular demand, here’s our review.

The good
It’s ingenious.

I love the convenience of bringing 15 books to Italy in a slim package that weighs practically nothing.

The font is easy to read and it’s not that difficult to transition from the way you’d read a pleasure book in traditional print to this electronic format.

The Kindle automatically brings up the last page you read the next time you turn it on and access that book. An automatic bookmark.

You can actually annotate, which is good, but it’s klunky, at least to me.

It has a built-in dictionary and a function that reads the book to you.

I read pleasure books more slowly on the Kindle, which is good. I savor more, because you can’t easily flip around. The Kindle brings up only about three paragraphs at a time.

The down side
It’s a slippery little device and there are no little rubber grips or anything on the back side to provide a better grip. So you have to be really careful holding it so it doesn’t slip out of your hands.

Same with slipping out of your fingers if you fall asleep over it. (Buy the warranty; we did.) This would be an easy design fix but it looks like they went for form over function. Probably because little rubber grip dots would mar the sleek design. (M. suggested two-sided tape; now that would really be unsightly!)

The lack of backlight is technology-driven (they can’t get it to run with the text technology they use) but it’s a real downside. It means on a plane or in bed, you need outside lighting. This was a big pain on the plane.

Sometimes I’d hit “next page” before I finished the last sentence and it moved so quickly I’d miss a fragment and have to go back. Quick moving is good but sometimes it isn’t.

I don’t like reading tougher books on Kindle. I bought a few books about faith and spirituality and I do not like reading them electronically. I’d rather flip around and you just can’t do it easily on the Kindle.

I do like to annotate and highlight but the entire process is different on Kindle. It sets the highlights aside, outside the book, on another form. It’s not user-friendly.

There’s no traditional pagination so you can’t easily go back to an identifiable place without using their bookmark system. There are something like zone numbers, in the thousands, and I haven’t figured out how to use them.

It does not come with a carrying case. The case Amazon markets for the Kindle actually cracks the device, oddly enough, according to many online reviews. I use a zippered leather case I already had as a carrying case, to protect it. But I can’t read it in the case.

The books run $9.99 minimum, with some higher, such as $14.99. You can find some old classics free. Against a regular hardcover or a trade paperback, this is competitive pricing. But I’m primarily a used book or library girl. I am past the point of collecting books I’ll only have to move around, and only buy writing reference books or books by writers I really like and know I want to keep. If I’m reading for pleasure, I’m reading for free. At the library.

Final Analysis
I like the Kindle for travel. I would download easy-to-read books, like fun non-fiction, some memoir and fiction. Books you don’t want to flip forward or back a lot. Books you don’t need to annotate. Books in which it doesn’t matter if you can only see three paragraphs at a time.

I wouldn’t download books I’d like to skip around a lot in. Or that I’d like to annotate and return to passages for another review. I wouldn’t download to Kindle any books that are a little deeper or harder to read.

Having said that: I think there’s a learning curve–that if you’ve spent decades reading one way, it’s not that easy to learn to work with a completely new format.

Maybe there’s an entire generation that will learn to read and reference electronic books in form factors like the Kindle. Not me, though.

I know people who text all the time. Fact is, I can’t text as fast as I can type, so I don’t get the big love affair with texting. I think it’s klugey.

For me, some modern conveniences aren’t as easy for me to use as the so-called old fashioned way.

But we’ll definitely use our Kindle when we travel, and probably other times as well. But we don’t see a second one in our future.

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