Three months on – review of the Kindle 2

As a gadget enthusiast and wannabe bookworm, I jumped onto the bandwagon right away when Amazon released their Kindle 2 with international support. It arrived promptly via UPS after three days, and I’ve now had it for more than three months. This is a revised version of the review I wrote after using it for about a week, written for calcuttagutta.com.

26.10.2009

During my time with the device, I’ve read 5 books:
- The Children of Men (PD James)
- Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
- The Gathering Storm (Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson)
- The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
- The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

When I unpacked the device originally, I was on a half-hour tram ride. It provided the perfect opportunity to give it a go. As I hoped, the battery charge was sufficient for immediate use. After switching it on, I could go online without needing to configure anything – marvellous. I searched up “The Children of Men”, bought it, had it on the device in less than two minutes and started reading. By the end of the ride I was well into the third chapter and having a good time.

The Kindle 2 is the right size. It doesn’t feel that solid, but it is pretty light-weight, which is more important. I’ll eventually get some sort of hardcover plastic protection for it, but so far it’s been getting along well with alongside my laptop in my backpack, protected by a cartboard folder.

The e-ink screen works well – the more light you have available, the better. It can’t compete with paper for constrast, but it reaches the crucial “good enough” milestone. View angles are great. I love the ability to adjust font size – being nearsighted, I turned it up a notch at once, and this makes it easier for me to have a comfortable reading position when using the Kindle as compared to normal books. The fact that the device is board-shaped means it is practical to read when holding it with one hand, and having the “Next”-button there on both sides means you can alternate hands. I’m really appreciating this – it means I can stand, eat and read simultaneously. The board-ey nature of the device also means it can be put down on a table and stay there without support while you’re reading – unlike, say, a pocketbook.

The device’s buttons themselves didn’t feel great after initial use, but after reading a few books on the device I don’t think about them anymore.

Navigating menus and surfing Wikipedia or the Kindle store is slow, but usable. The reading support (by an artificial voice) is surprisingly good, though not something you’d use unless you were desparate to read the book but unable to use your own eyes. I haven’t used the MP3 support yet. It is obvious that this is a dedicated reading device – and to me, that’s definitely a good thing. It translates to a good reading experience and long battery life – I have charged mine three times since getting it, read six books on it (my brother borrowed it to read one), and it is still at 50%. A book is supposed to be a book, not everything else a electronic device with a screen could possibly be, and I like that the Kindle is dedicated to being good book.

I’ve used the open-source caliber support application to convert PDFs and transfer stuff to the Kindle – works like a charm. As a result, I now have quite the mini-library with me wherever I go. And if you don’t have it on the device, the Kindle store is only a few clicks away. The books are a bit expensive, but not completely unreasonable – they cost about the same as a pocket book would cost from the bookstore.

I’d say the principal negative of the Kindle 2 is the lack of support for lending books to others when you buy books in the Kindle store. I really enjoy lending books, and I think many avid readers feel the same way – now I can only give a warm recommendation, unless I want to part with my Kindle for an extended period of time. And unless the book is in an open format, of course.

Two events really made the Kindle’s appeal dawn on me – first when I considered continuing “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, but opted for a book on my Kindle instead, and second, when I was reading a paperback I got for Christmas and quickly got fed up with how heavy and cumbersome it was to use while lying in bed. My arms got tired, I had to switch positions fairly frequently. That doesn’t happen with the Kindle. As long as you have enough natural light and a reading position less than 110% perfect it is easily my preferred reading instrument.

To sum it up – this is a nice device which works well as a e-book reader. I like it, and it makes me read more. It is easy to use, and at 2200 NOK taxes and freight included not that expensive. If you can handle not being able to lend books to friends (perhaps swapping Kindles is a substitute..?) I’d say the Kindle 2 is a good deal. Make sure you consider the Nook too, though the colour touch screen is a turn-off for me – makes it look less bookey and more like a tablet computer.

On a final note – I am disappointed that the publishers are trying to wrap DRM around e-books. You would think that after hopelessly trying to protect movies from piracy (1 movie = 700 mb) the publishing industry would realise the idiocy in trying to copy-protect books (one book = 2 mb, maximum). Getting bestsellers from the internet is easy if you want to, and there are compilations of books available – say 50-100 books in a package of 300 megabyte. Considering how easy piracy is, there is not much to lose by getting rid of DRM, and as usual, DRM harms the legitimate user more than the pirate – if I spend money on a book, I cannot lend it to others – if I pirate it, I can do with it as I please.

The lesson of the music industry is that you have to make solutions that are friendly to the consumer – with luck the book publishers won’t need 10 years to achieve the same insight. (For the record, I’m a very, very happy Spotify user.)

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3 Responses to “Three months on – review of the Kindle 2”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Baen books has by far the clearest headed view on DRM of any publisher I know – of any content maker I know! Eric Flint’s essay (available on the Free Library portion of the Baen website) pretty well nails the issue.

  2. Are Wold Says:

    Andrew, cool to hear from you! How are you doing down under?

    Thanks for the tip :)

    Cheers from the somewhat slow to response-Are.

  3. Swahili Street Says:

    quick question: I’m going to get a kindle and have it posted to my sister in Norway – she’ll be receiving it. Will she have to pay any extra Norwegian taxes beyond what I will have to pay when ordering on amazon. Thank you.

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