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The Amazon Kindle: First Impressions

Sunday, 12 June 2011

So I've finally joined the massed ranks of the Kindle-owners. I've been reading stuff via the Kindle app on my 'phone for a while, which works pretty well, but now I have a luxury, bottom-of-the-range WiFi-only Kindle too. Also a rather snazzy Eco-Nique hemp case which makes it feel like some dusty old spellbook I'm carrying round. Which, obviously, is a good thing.

Chances are you have a Kindle already, or you want one, or you're damn sure you don't want one. Still, in case you are undecided, here are the pros and cons of the device as I see them so far.

You have to hand it to them, Amazon are really switched on. The Kindle arrived already registered to me and I just had to do a quick synch to have all the books I'd previously purchased downloaded to my new device. Stupidly easy.

... which, however, feels a bit Big Brother, like I'm now more in the clutches of the all-powerful Amazon than ever.

The battery-life is great. Haven't had to think about recharging so far.

... although, the battery-life of a paperback is even better. Really.

When the machine isn't on it displays a picture like the cover of a book. Which seems pretty cool ...

... at first. Then it starts to get annoying. The Kindle just chooses one of its built-in images at random. Wouldn't the obvious thing be to display the cover of the book you're currently reading? Like, duh. And of course there's no colour anywhere. You get black, white and, well, grey.

It's very good you can read the screen in full daylight, just like paper ...

... but, again, just like paper, you can't read it in the dark. You have to get an external light-source. Aren't we supposed to be making technological progress here? Can't we have a back-light that's there if needed? And while we're on the subject, the screen isn't so much black-on-white as black-on-grey. It reminds me rather of an Etch-a-sketch screen. It works but it's drab.

The Kindle does all sorts of additional clever stuff like voice-synthesis and letting you choose font-sizes. And it has a built-in web browser which means there must be all sorts of interesting possibilities for the writer, getting readers to find your web site etc.

... although a lot of it feels superfluous. I tried the voice synthesis. Once.

It's wonderfully light, fantastic for travelling and it doesn't get any heavier as you add more books (I think - please correct me if I'm wrong on that, physicists). And It can store a lot of books.

... but I haven't yet dared read it in the bath for fear of dropping it. And reading books in the bath is, of course, one of the five great pleasures known to humanity.

Overall, I actually really like it. More than I thought I would. And paperbacks have their pros and cons too, of course. The screen-flash doesn't bug me at all as I worried it might (Nathan, you were right).

Mind you, I am still reading paperbacks as well. I don't really see that old and new technologies are competing. They're just different ways of reading fiction. And that has to be a good thing.

Meanwhile, coming soon, I'm going to write a post on how to put your own artwork onto a Kindle to replace those darn built-in ones ...


  1. You're right, Simon. "They're just different ways of reading fiction." I've enjoyed having Gizmo (my Kindle) around for the past six months, but I haven't stopped reading books made from dead trees -- and I don't think I ever will. Replace the built-in screen images? Nice! You've got my attention.

  2. Milo,

    Stay tuned! It doesn't look too complicated ...

  3. "Different ways of reading" - I like that.

  4. Donna,

    Thanks. Yes, I think it's a case of horses for courses. Just like music we can "consume" fiction through a variety of media.

  5. I've been seeing that a lot lately - how people who bought Kindles, etc. are still reading books. I haven't gotten one yet - not opposed to it, just not sure it's something I need at this point. Sometimes I get tired of looking at a screen, any screen.

    Oh, but I do love that case! :)

  6. Madeline,

    Thanks. It is a nice case. Rather cheaper than the official ones too ...

  7. I have been resistant for a while but I think I am leaning that way now. I would be happier if it were in color.

    One thing I am looking forward to is the "hands free" aspect of reading. I know this sounds kooky, but I'm a knitter and I like to knit and read at the same time and with an ereader I think I can probably do that. I also like to read and cook at the same time. I'm a rabid multitasker!

    The other thing I think I will like is that you have your whole library with you. So if you think you want to take a sci-fi book on your trip and then it turns out you're in the mood for a mystery... voila! You have it all right there.

  8. Wendy,

    You make some great points. The "hands-free" thing is good. A shame you can't page-turn with a spoken command! Overall, I must say, I do really love my Kindle.


I'd love to know what you think.