Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kindle 2 Review

By popular demand (okay, so only one guy asked my opinion), a Kindle 2 review! As you may know, my lovely wife gave me a Kindle 2 as a joint anniversary/birthday present, so that while I am traveling in CA and not near a library worthy of the name, I will not run short of reading material.

So, how is it? First off, the screen is freaking amazing. As I opened it, the screen displayed a message demanding I charge the battery. The lovely wife believed this to be printed on the cellophane screen protector it shipped with - until I peeled that off and the message remained firmly on the display. It really is as easy on the eyes as reading a paper book - I spent an entire Saturday afternoon curled up with it and no eyestrain resulted.

The battery life is similarly astounding: I can make it through about 2.5 medium length novels on one charge (so long as I leave wireless turned off).

The page turn buttons and keyboard work well, though not amazingly so. The "five-way button," otherwise known as a four-direction joystick you press on to select an item, is a bit small for my fingers, resulting in accidental selections and such when using it; I have thicker than average fingers, but not hugely so. This shouldn't have been an issue.

Another quibble is the page-turn delay; there is a fraction of a second's delay between when you press the button to turn the page and when the Kindle does so. This seems insignificant, but when reading at speed, what ends up happening is that I try to time it so that the page turns precisely when I reach the last word, and thus doesn't disrupt the flow. After the second or third book I had it down pretty well, but I still mistime it and need to back up a page every once in a while. This, combined with the relatively small screen necessitating many page turns, still constitutes only a minor annoyance.

My biggest issue with the Kindle is the way it (dis)organizes my virtual bookshelf. I can sort by recently read, author, or title. This sounds great, but it really sucks for browsing, as there are no book flaps to read. "What was that one about?" You can't tell. "Is this a book in a series?" You have no way to know unless it's part of the title - and even then you'll have to open the book to see, because the title won't fully display if it contains series info, as it's too long. Then I have all the free books I downloaded, be they from Project Gutenberg, the Baen Free Library, Tor.com, or elsewhere. These all display fine on the Kindle, but when I convert them for use on my Kindle, the file name becomes the title, which means that I have no way of inputting author info. On top of that, the search function is marginal, as it will only search the texts themselves, not titles (Who cares that the word "forgotten" appears 27 times in a book when all I want to do is find The Forgotten Man on my Kindle?)

Finally, it can't support the graphics-heavy PDF engineering papers I need to read for grad school, even when converted. The Kindle 2 is a strictly recreational (or, more accurately, text-only) reader, and I couldn't justify the extra hundred-and-some to buy the Kindle DX instead. This made me somewhat sad.

Now all of the above makes it sound like I'm kind of down on the Kindle. I'm not! I love it! Once I get into a book, the device just disappears (aside from the occasional page-turn issue), and I can get lost for hours in the narrative. It allows me to carry around and read conveniently the 153 books I have on it at the moment (and there is space for many more, I just haven't loaded them). I have paid a grand total of $10.07 for them, since all but the aforementioned The Forgotten Man ($9.27) and The Complete Sherlock Holmes ($0.80) were free. This allows me to read said free books in a comfortable manner - on my sofa with no eyestrain - and I have many, many more where that came from. Go. Buy one now. (But only if you can actually afford it and will actually use it, given that it costs almost as much as the laptop on which I type this.)


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