Finally: my thoughts on the Amazon Kindle

kindleI’ve owned and been reading from a Kindle for a couple of weeks now. A number of people have been asking when I’ll post some thoughts on it … so here goes.

What I didn’t like

  • I won’t be curling up with it
    I stare at a screen 10-12 hours a day, sometimes more. That might be the 3.5″ screen of my iPhone, the 23″ plus 13″ screens of my laptop and external monitor, or the 42″ screen of my TV (this one is a little rare lately!).

    Surprise, surprise … in my downtime (which means: recreational reading) I don’t want to stare at a screen.

  • It’s just not as good a reading experience as a book
    The Kindle is definitely a gadget … and it doesn’t feel like a book. And, it doesn’t read like a book.

    I’m a fast reader, and I find I need to turn the pages so often that it gets annoying. A page on Kindle at a decent but not tiny resolution is not very many words, meaning that I’m flipping more than once a minute. Each time there’s a little hesitation/interruption in my reading process, my state, my flow. Each time, it’s annoying.

  • I don’t like the positioning of the buttons
    The buttons are oddly placed. If you want to hold it widescreen, you can’t reach the Next Page button without effort (a couple of times a second, remember). The big buttons on the left and the right are BOTH for Next Page … whereas intuitively the left side might be Last Page and the right page might be Next Page. The small button above the next page is Prev Page on the left and Home on the right … another inconsistency.

    And don’t get me started the on the “5-way button” that is masquerading as a mouse.

  • The keyboard hates humans
    Writing notes on the Kindle – page notes, footnotes etc. – is a masochistic exercise. The keyboard is easily the worst I’ve ever used. Painful! Slow! Annoying!

  • I just want to touch it NOW
    Sorry, world. iPhone has spoiled me rotten and now when I can’t use touch on a small screen it gets extremely annoying. Several times I found myself touching the screen trying to do something quickly and easily … only to find that the device was, after all, dumb and unresponsive.

  • Books not on Kindle
    Having a Kindle makes you want to buy books on Kindle … or at least acquire them. And when you have the capability of getting books INSTANTLY on Kindle, you want to. So when books are not available in Kindle format … even books by people who should be clueful enough like Seth Godin … it gets annoying. Having to get it shipped and having to wait a half a week for the physical object suddenly seems intolerable.

    In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of books that are in the public domain which sellers of e-readers who don’t make their money selling books make it easy for you to access. Not Kindle. It’s hard to get free books from, say, Google or Project Gutenberg on your Kindle. You need to download third-party software, install it, find books, and then transfer them over to your Kindle via USB.

What I did like

  • Immediacy
    Obviously, getting a hot new book right away (read, in a couple of minutes) is a wonderful, excellent, exciting feature. This is perhaps the best feature of the Kindle.

  • Small, thin, and portable
    The Kindle – I got the smaller, 6″ version – is so thin and light you won’t know you’re carrying it around. It’s easy to just slip in a bag and run. I could even fit it in my jeans’ back pocket (but I don’t recommend sitting down!)

  • Business/trade books
    While I didn’t like the Kindle for relaxation and recreational reading, I found it just fine for books that I’m reading for information: business books, books about technology, etc. etc. I would typically dive into a book for 5-15 minutes, and then get back to whatever I was doing.

    For this kind of reading – Twitter-style, you might say – I think the Kindle works fine.

  • Battery life
    As long as you turn it completely off – important caveat: sleeping is not off – the battery lasts a loooong time. This is great … you don’t have to take the charger along on a week-long trip. Just throw the Kindle in the bag and go.

. . .
. . .

Overall, I think I’ll stick primarily to paper books for now when I want to read for fun. For business/trade books, I’ll probably switch just due to convenience, price, and availability.

Interestingly, I recently played with a Nook in a Barnes & Noble and actually liked it better. David Pogue savaged the Nook in the NY Times, but I liked the feel better, felt there were a few more words on the screen, and really liked the touchscreen feature. It’s not perfect, but I think they may have a winner in the 2.0 version.

After a few more months of using the Kindle, I’ll probably update these thoughts.