Archive for the ‘DRM’ Category

Three months on – review of the Kindle 2

January 5, 2010

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


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.)


Awesome stuff is happening!

April 4, 2007

No, I’m not talking about my master’s thesis nearing completion – unfortunately, it is quite far from being awesome.

However, as if to compensate me for having to stay indoors and staring at OpenOffice when the weather outside is brilliant and sensible people are having their Easter holidays, the worlds of games, music and technology have dropped me three presents!

Games first! Some readers might be aware that I’m a big fan of SingStar, that game where people who tremendously enjoy singing in the shower can finally do so outside of the shower as well. Many times after playing (yeah, it is really playing and not singing it’s about, right?) I’ve said “wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have more voices going at the same time, or the entire band?”. The potential was obvious, and my prayers have been heard. Harmonix, the guys behind Guitar Hero (which I, sadly, have barely played) are creating a game called Rock Band where four players can take part. Vocals, guitar, bass and drums! YEAH! The potential awesomeness is completely off the charts. I can barely contain myself!

I’ll go in more detail some other time, since I have two more pieces of awesome news I want to share with you.

Music! In my previous blog post, I complained about DRM on music – in short, music files bought over the web that you can only play X times or only on this or that device. It seems someone was listening, because starting in May, EMI (the record company with Robbie Williams, Coldplay and lots of other big names on contract) are starting to sell music on the internet – without DRM. The price will be slightly higher than on the tracks already retailing on iTunes, but the quality will be higher as well. This is the beginning – I am confident the other record companies will have to follow EMI on this one. Yeah!

Finally, technology. Last year I heard some rumblings about wireless power, and how it was physically quite possible and probably would happen, you know, inside our lifespans, at least. Well, guess what. Philips are coming to market with a wireless LED light bulb this year, and next year we’ll see a wireless power receiver in phones, keyboards, mice etcetera. At this stage, the range of the “power waves” is about 1 metre, and the power transmitted is sufficient for, well, LEDs, mice, keyboard, cell phones, but not larger devices such as laptops. We’ll get there. This is awesome.

I love the feeling of progress! Collaborative gameplay never seen before, finally music in decent quality available legally without DRM – and wireless power. Bring on the future, I can’t wait! Yeah!

The moment of truth

March 18, 2007
Photo 86

I was just considering buying some songs on the iTunes music store. For some reasons, which I’ll detail in a bit, I didn’t, but headed over to The Pirate Bay and BTJunkie instead. After not finding the music I was looking for (it’s probably too old), I stumbled across a reference to I’m typing this now because I watched the anti-piracy video there and was immensly provoked.

It’s really just the standard bullcrap about how the poor record companies are losing tons of money on illegal downloads, concluding that it’s easy and safe to download music legally. OK, Mr. Record Company Man, here are some news for you:

– You might think that all the MP3s on my disk is lost revenue for you. You are wrong – if I hadn’t been able to copy that music, I would never have listened to most of it. 99% of the MP3s I have in my collection which I would have bought if I wasn’t able to copy them, corresponds to the CDs in my music collection and the tracks I’ve bought off iTunes.

– After spending lots of money on concerts, DVDs and CDs you get really annoyed when hearing for the umpteenth time that you are killing music by copying it. In fact, I have several concert DVDs that I never would have bought without getting aquainted with the music through MP3s copied from friends.

– I didn’t buy those tracks of iTunes because
1) They don’t play off my MP3 player, since they have DRM.
2) They are a pain to backup, because of the license key required to play them.
3) I can’t give a copy to my girlfriend without burning a copy to CD. I’d consider that fair use.
4) They probably have lower fidelity than the stuff you can get on CD or bittorrent.

I’m so sick and tired of hearing you whine about piracy! The solution to all your woes is easy. Sell 160/320 kbps MP3s without DRM.

My credit card is lined up to buy the first single released as a clean MP3 through a major record company in Norway – no matter what it is – just to prove a point. Bring it on!