Amazon Kindle 2 Review


My wife bought me an Amazon Kindle (Amazon affiliate link) ebook reader for my 40th Birthday and I spent the last week getting used to it, so I decided to share a few thoughts.

Reasons

My main reason for wanting a Kindle is due to the fact that I live in Germany and being a huge non fiction reader, and since the English sections in the book stores here are small and mostly just filled with the latest best seller, crap fiction, I am pretty much always starved for decent non fiction (in English) beyond the internet. Since the Kindle global wireless version offers immediate, free mobile access to the entire English based Amazon Store (anywhere in the world) pretty much anything I want in kindle format (books, magazines, newspapers) are usually one click and 30seconds away (depending on my wireless connection quality) Another reason I wanted a Kindle is because (as anyone involved in internet marketing would attest to) you end up reading a ton of ebooks and pdf's.  If you ever tried to spend the evening reading one on your glowing laptop screen, after about 20 pages, your eyes are burnt.  My wife and I also like to read in bed and the thought of nestling up next to my glowing hot laptop for a good read before slipping off to sleep is not so comfortable. Since the Kindle is thin, lightweight and has that fancy digital ink screen, reading is much easier on the eyes and hands.

Pros

  • The Kindle 2 is a much nicer looking design. The Kindle 1 was pretty hideous.
  • The screen is nice, clear and easy to read.  I would still prefer some way to increase the contrast of the screen because, although the text is very sharp, in low light the grey background still makes it a little dark, and even maybe a little gloomy to read.
  • The screen saver is cool because it is on even when the device is powered off.  When I pulled it out of the box the first time, i thought it was actually a sticker on the screen and tried to peel it off, but then realized it was the screen itself.  Kind of cool.
  • Battery life is great.  With wireless turned off, i'm running a week so far with one charge and the battery indicator has only moved one notch down.
  • The Whispernet works great and is pretty fast.  Much faster than my mobile wireless connection and browsing and downloading is nice and speedy.
  • No monthly service plan is excellent and global access was the selling point for me since I live in Europe.
  • The ability to preview chapters before you buy is nice.  I enjoy being able to flip through a book at the bookstore and this provides sort of a similar experience.
  • The overall construction is solid and seems fairly well built in comparison to some other ebook readers I have seen.
  • Text to speech is a nice addition, although the ability to purchase custom voices would be a cool feature much like some Navigation systems offer. (Like Yoda or sexy mistress... anyway...)

Cons

  • I want a touch screen. Clicking buttons for next, back and menu is "ok" but we live in a touch screen world now and a touch page flip option would much more intuitive. It would also allow for a larger reading area with more screen real estate and non screen real-estate would be free for holding space wherever the user wants to without obstruction.
  • Button orientation is still not perfect for me. I don't like the design of the 5 way switch.  Pushing down on it to make a menu selection results in accidental selections.  I don't like Menu and Back being so close to the 5 way switch.  Luckily I have skinny fingers but I can imagine that someone with larger fingers might have a much harder time using it. It also feels cheap and like i'm going to break it.
  • Overall placement of the buttons (while better than the Kindle 1) still makes it hard to hold the device without touching a button. I tend to hold books from the bottom sides with my palm, or with my thumb on the bottom, and either way, a button or keyboard gets in the way. I think it would be better if all side buttons on the left and right were much higher on the device to allow for adequate palm holding area.
  • My eyesight is pretty bad so even with glasses I have the font size set so that only one or 2 paragraphs fit on a screen.  i'll probably wear out the next page button in a month or two. Good thing there is another one on the other side…
  • Reading an imported PDF kind of sucks because you cant resize it without converting it, via either paying to mail it to yourself or with a 3rd party app (I use Stanza on Mac but a better recommendation would be welcome). Converting it usually screws up the page formatting and smashes all of the chapters together. Not cool considering I read a TON of pdf's and well, it's kind of an industry standard... Just deal with it Amazon... pdf isnt going away any time soon. Just let them work the way they're supposed to.
  • Having to pay to read free blogs is lame and i definitely will not do it.
  • Device color options would be nice.  My experience with white colored devices is that they get dirty and stained too easily. A black Kindle would be welcome.
  • Nice to have a built in browser to access Google and Gmail but burying the browser access under the "Experimental" label along with the audio in the menu is kind of lame. Either feature a browser or don't. The experimental option just insinuates that it might go away some day, and that's not cool.
  • Same goes with audio and mp3's. Just put it in the menu and dont bury it.  Or maybe some audio nav controls?

Thoughts

Robert Scoble brought up a good point.  There is no social network options available and the ability to comment and share information about books with friends and networks would be an excellent addition and maybe even good for marketing. Amazon and Goodreads should get married and have kids. My gut feeling is this:  Amazon needs a touch screen now.  Like yesterday… The Kindle is a great device but their UI could still use some work.  If Apple comes out with their rumored tablet and they manage to work out some way to make the screen behave similar to the digital ink to match the Kindle screen, i think the Kindle is going to have a big problem. Only time will tell I guess. For now though, I am using the hell out of this thing, despite it's quirks, and buying lots of books. My opinion on the Kindle seems to be pretty on par with a lot of reviewers. There are a couple good reviews available from Robert Scoble and another site called K Design Works. Update: I fund a great Kindle review here at: Ignore the Code To learn more and check out the Kindle 2 for yourself Click Here (Amazon affiliate link) Are you a Kindle user? If so, feel free to share your thoughts.
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  • I wrote a review very similar to yours about the Kindle DX. My major gripe was the PDF functionality because I read/study these documents. I can mark a page but can’t highlight a sentence. Font sizes are small making reading difficult sometimes.

    The browser access is so frustrating and primitive that I only use it to send an occasional tweet and check the weather. Even then I have to drive a few miles from my home because at various places on the Chesapeake Bay there is no Whispernet access. (I understand this may actually be SPRINT.)

    It is so easy to read books and keep my place. I have bought a few books and read many of the free ones.

    I take my Kindle anywhere I expect to have to wait. I have it loaded with mp3s files of old radio plays as well. Trying to play music mp3’s is to primitive. it is not an iPod. It makes sitting in the doctor’s office tolerable or easily reading a book wherever I decide to sit.

    I’d love to use the browser for geocaching but browser navigation and the snail paced speed make the broiser very difficult to use.

    So far I have never had a document emailed to me or converted because I don’t want to have to pay to massage something I already own.

    How did you find search functionality? It seems awkward to me, especially with PDF files.

  • To be honest, I haven’t experimented with search much yet. It’s located so low on the menu that I actually missed it until I read another review and discovered it.

    Seems to me a search button or a top feature on the home page would be a higher priority, as is my experience with most applications.

    Will write more when I play with that some, but I agree, awkward…