Kindle the eBook 2.0

They looked so similar at first.

 

Both had a leather book exterior and page control along the side of the screen, but my what a difference a better screen can make.

 

I used to think eBooks were a joke. Why carry a crippled laptop around when you already have a laptop? Why squint at a hard-to-read screen? Why worry about running out of juice on the plane? Paper was just fine for me. I have a Softbook on my shelf to this day as a reminder of a useless product way ahead of its time; after reading a few pages on it, I could tell it was destined to be a collector’s relic.

 

The Softbook had a grayscale passive matrix screen, like a laptop, but worse. Reading was a pain, especially in normal lighting. Here you see the e-books in the outdoors. The Amazon Kindle, on the other hand, uses an e-ink screen. It uses no backlighting. Ambient light reflects off the surface. So it looks great wherever a book looks great: in sunlight, at an angle, even while wearing polarizing sunglasses.

 

But more importantly, the screen is very light and energy efficient. It brings inks to the surface to blacken a pixel. Once a page is rendered, it uses no energy to maintain the image. There is no reason to turn it off, which provides a peculiar relief from the stress of battery life optimization. Rather, the Kindle embodies a sense of leisure.

 

So, I have left my Kindle on since I first got it two weeks ago, and I am still at a ¾ battery charge midway through my second book. No need to worry about recharging on the road.

 

And that is with a super-light-weight battery compared to the Softbook. The Kindle’s weight is an important breakthrough. It’s smaller and lighter than a single book, and on vacation, I usually bring at least three books, and then it wins hands down.

 

Of course, the integrated cellular connection to Amazon web services and book sales brings a library to your fingertips, but even if I ignore the ease of use of the software and services, the hardware advances alone make the Kindle better than a real book.

 

And like most consumer products that I love, like the Mac and Tomtom next to me, I have found no reason to look at the instruction manual. When I first read a word I did not know (as Hitchens like to sprinkle his prose with archaic vernacular) a quick click on that line of the page brings up dictionary definitions of all of the words on that line, just as I hoped it would.

 

The kindle was a gift from gadget-junkie Roger McNamee. He told me it would change my thinking about eBooks, and he was right. Thanks!

 

(My only complaint so far is that the physical design does not appear to have any human use mode in mind. It has a number of asymmetric angles and corners that are pleasing to the eye, but not the touch. I have yet to find a comfortable way to hold the device. The bottom corners could have been rounded to rest in the palm, but they are sharp corners instead; luckily, it’s light enough not to be painful. And the navigation buttons appear to be perfect for unintended use, running along both sides… so you can’t hold it on the sides, and need to shield the edges from contact with anything. Oh, and the soft leather case is lovely, but it does not hold the Kindle in place, so it seems to be a storage case only. I had hoped that it could fold back and remain as a soft cover during reading, like the Softbook. Hmmm…. Maybe I should look at the manual after all… ;-)

 

  • Jim Rees 7y

    I had assumed it was a closed, proprietary platform, but having checked I see you can load plain text files onto it yourself. I've been using an old Palm for ebooks and its screen is really pretty bad.

    I prefer a real book, but some are not available in this country due to our broken copyright system, and on a trip it can be more convenient to carry a smaller and lighter package.
  • Jenny Addison 7y

    I think technologically this Kindle is a great idea, it has all the features I'd want in a portable eBook.

    But- its fugly. There seems to have been only half-hearted attempts at making the Kindle ergonomic(whatever that term is worth now), and while its thin and small and squarish, it just doesn't have that visual appeal like say, iPods, or Nintendo DS Lite or the Playstation 2. Unfortunately, Kindle's physical designs liken it more to some klunky plastic kitchen device my grandmother would have had laying around for slicing onions, instead of something I really want to fondle and caress.

    Once the outer design is able to hold up against the sexier devices I mentioned, I'm on board. Til then, actual paperbacks still have more allure for me.
  • blake borgeson 7y

    Just give you the perspective of another kindle fan, I made the purchase 2 months ago, and whereas I probably would have read 3 books in that time and attempted 3 others, I've read about 7 and tried out probably 10 others. I've learned so much more than I would have without it!

    What I love most is sitting down in my seat for a long flight, realizing I already finished my magazine and only other book I had on my last flight, then opening up the kindle, skimming through my samples, and buying one and downloading it right then. By the samples, I mean that for any book available for the kindle, you can download about the first couple dozen pages for free to see if you like it. So now, whenever I read of a book I might want to dive into soon, if I'm on my computer I hop over to amazon, and if the book's published for the kindle, I get the sample right then. It's sent to my kindle, and it's there when I'm next trying to decide what to buy.

    Only thing I'd add about the ergonomics is that it really feels pretty good, aside from the annoying placement of the buttons Steve mentions. Oh, and yeah, the kindle's supposed to be able to stick in that leather cover. You have to look on the back of the kindle for the notch, and sort of wiggle it in, then it usually sticks pretty well for a while.
  • GustavoG 7y

    ...if only it supported PDFs properly... and the embedded graphics in almost any scientific paper.
  • Juho Tunkelo 7y

    Really, is there a problem with PDFs on Kindle? Anyone? Bueller?
  • biotron 7y

    yeah, it does seem very strange not to consider the ergonomics of the human hand when designing this. i am, however, increasingly attracted by the idea of owning one...
  • Jim Rees 7y

    I don't buy many books. I take them out of the library. If I bought every book I read, my house would fill up with dead trees and I would go broke.

    I wonder how these devices will interact with the public library of the future. If we continue the current library model, it should be possible to "check out" a library book, load it on your ebook, then keep it until the due date. During that time no one else can check out the same book.

    But I can't see the publishers going for this. And the whole buy vs borrow vs rent model seems to be breaking down in the digital age.
  • AzizGilani 7y

    If it could only allow me to pre-load office documents + pdfs for readings it would be absolutely perfect
  • sandrino 7y

    I am waiting for version 2.0. Maybe by then they will have hired a good industrial designer. Color would be nice too.
  • Tomi Tapio K 7y

    Great documenting!
    I suppose the diagonality in Kindle is trying to mimic an open hardcover book's page stack.
  • Stephen Bové 7y

    re: "the stress of battery life optimization"

    we need a new word for this...

    and a word for the closet/battery bench at my house devoted to recharging and organizing the myriad power vessels my world needs to run...

    last weekend I gave serious thought to fireproofing that room...or moving it out of the house entirely (like they used to move furnace rooms to separate buildings for safety) It is definitely the highest fire risk in my life...
  • Gone-Walkabout 7y

    good review, I may now consider it. I thought much of the same...plus I do like to the feel of paper every so often(but that adds weight)

    my only complaint is the sprint card, which limits me from downloading content when outside the US.
  • to_be_deleted 7y

    Really interesting review and comments
  • ideastoday 6y

    The size difference is pretty interesting. I can only imagine how much lighter the Kindle must be.
  • ddsiple 6y

    I don't suppose it can display a book's illustrations, can it? Imagine an art history book with the text only...
  • Steve Jurvetson 6y

    why not? (video too, given a demo I saw at Ricoh recently)
  • Rituparna Choudhury 6y

    kindle has been on my dream wishlist ever since it came on the market. unfortunately amazon doesn't deliver where i live.
  • jwordsmith 6y

    Ah, the Softbook. Haven't seen one of those for such a long time. I so wanted it to be what the Kindle is...
  • jaemin_an 6y

    I can't wait until I can fold and roll e paper and generally abuse it and it remains intact. Also in the future I would also like to see the ability to take notes on a e-pad connected to your reader like a tablet, then we can do math or doodle in meetings. :)
  • Egadgetsshow 4y

    It's hard to beat Kindle. Especially with all its features. I've found Kindle 3 Site recently.
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