Archive for the ‘Amazon’ Category

The Amazon Kindle 2 – a review from Norway

October 26, 2009

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.

26.10.2009

I’ve just finished reading “The Children of Men” by PD James – the time is ripe for a short review of this practical little device.

I had a rather busy day when receiving it – so a half-hour tram ride 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 book, 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’m definitely getting some sort of hardcover plastic protection for it, as I doubt it’ll survive tumbling around in my backpack on its own.

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 aren’t that great – they make a low, clicking sound, which I’d prefer it was without, it is mildly annoying until you get used to it. I can see it potentially unnerving my partner.

Navigating menus and surfing Wikipedia or the Kindle store is slow, but usable. I haven’t used the reading support or 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 once since getting it, read one book, and it is still at 80%. 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.

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 (of course I can’t promise there’s no novelty factor involved there – we’ll see). 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.

Facebook, WordPress, flickr, interoperability and integration

March 6, 2007

I’ve just started using Facebook, and it’s pretty nice. A lot like LinkedIn, only focusing on leisure instead of work.

The problem is that Facebook is networking, blogging, online photo album and lots more, all rolled into one application. I’m already using WordPress for blogging and flickr for photos. Fortunately, Facebook can import my weblogs from WordPress automatically. The integration isn’t flawless, though – comments to the post on WordPress are separate from those made at Facebook.

Right now, a part of me feels that it would be great if Facebook was aquired by Yahoo – it would probably mean nice flickr integration with Facebook (since flickr is part of Yahoo). However, we don’t want the internet dominated by a small number of huge companies, do we? Nooooo.

What we need is standards and open APIs, so that it’s possible for Facebook developers and anyone else to access a user’s flickr photos provided they get the user’s login information. Fortunately, it seems we are moving in that direction – getting my posts from WordPress and displaying them in Facebook and being able to blog on WordPress from flickr are good examples.

Separating storage from presentation on the web
However, it strikes me as unlikely that these interoperability/integration issues will be fully resolved until we separate the basic work of just storing our stuff (photos, our social network, blog posts, music, videos or whatever) and presenting it in a frontend. Right now, the money is earned in the frontend, through advertising, and you are locked into one frontend since they have all your data and the associated metadata.

What we as consumers need is the opportunity to pick one company for storing all our stuff in one secure location and then let any other company present the data to us and let us modify and add to it through any standards-compliant interface.

I think Amazon is taking us in this direction with Amazon S3 – Amazon Simple Storage Services. They store 1 gig of your stuff for 0,2$ per month. If a company such as Amazon provides a standardized storage service, with suitable APIs for getting to the content, other companies, such as flickr and Facebook, could compete for our custom by providing the best interface to all that information.

In that world, I would pay Amazon a fee for storing all my stuff. Then I would use flickr to upload (into my storage at Amazon) and tag my photos, since they provide the best interface for doing that. Facebook would interface with the same storage repository, so all my photos would automatically be available there, if I wanted it to. If Facebook started providing a better interface for photo management, I’d start using their interface instead of flickr’s. When looking at my content on my phone, I would probably use a specialized Mobile Photo Album service, since mobiles are so different from desktops, and I would still have access to all my photos without any hassle.

If an unknown company appeared and created wonderful new web applications for combining videos, photos and social networking information in a seamless interface, everyone would be able to try it out using all their media without any fuss. Just type in the address of your Amazon repository, and off you go. Imagine what kind of innovation such a world could see.

Wouldn’t it be great?