Tag Archives: kindle

The Heroic Kindle Of The People

I agree with all of the points Jason makes in this TechHive piece about the Kindle’s limitations.

(I would add one item: international access. The Kindle is fab, if you live in those parts of the planet where the device and its library are available.)

I also agree with the tone of the piece, which is spot-on. These are things about the Kindle that annoy us. They aren’t reasons why the Kindle is a bad product.

The Kindle is exactly as important and exciting a product as the iPad. When Amazon introduced this e-ink device, it cost $399. Today, the most expensive e-ink Kindle is $119…and the cheapest is only $69. Amazon has continued to add features and build the product up, year after year. But they’ve also worked just as hard to drive the price of the basic model down, down, down.

Every year, Apple updates the iPad and magically delivers a device that’s twice as good as the previous edition, at exactly the same price. Good. But they’ve done next to nothing to put iPads within reach of a broader economic range of consumers.

As with Jason’s complaints about the Kindle, this is meant only as a criticism, and not as an argument that Apple’s a bad company. Apple’s whole business is based on high markups. And at the same time, their whole brand is based on high-quality products. A+B equals a company that isn’t in any position to make things for people who are on a tight budget. Apple is set up to build the slimmest, slickest, and most elegant $999 notebook on the market. They can’t build a chunky, $399 plastic notebook that’s reasonably well-made and will competently suit the needs of most users.

Those $399 notebooks are important to a lot of people. The device that they can afford is way more useful than the device they can only dream about owning.

Amazon keeps finding ways to get the price down. Another five bucks here, another ten bucks here. Ads? On the lock screen?! How gauche! But there are many people for whom that $20 discount is the difference between between “affordable” and “impossible.”

The e-ink Kindles have plenty of faults. Almost none of them get in the way of their core function: book reading. And when we gripe about the build quality of a $69 Kindle compared with our iPads, let’s also try to think about a kid out there who has access to every great work of classic literature, free, for life, for one eighth the cost of the Apple product.

Kindle 2 Review is up! And: Bonus Screenshots

My Kindle 2 review is up on the Sun-Times site for your glorious edification. I thought some of you might also like to see a few screenshots of the K2 in action.


First page of my library. Here be all your books & papers.

First page of my library. Here be all your books & papers.


Basic reading. This is a Fast Company article that Stanza downloaded and converted to Kindle format.

Basic reading. This is a Fast Company article that Stanza downloaded and converted to Kindle format.


Okay, let's go do some web surfin'. Menu...ACTIVATE!

Okay, let's go do some web surfin'. Menu...ACTIVATE!


There's a working, JavaScript-enabled browser in the "Experimental" menu. Send up the kites!!!


It's a perfectly fine browser, but it works best with a site's "Mobile" edition.


Google Reader might justify the cost of the Kindle all by itself. It turns every blog into a Kindle-friendly format, easy as pie.

Google Reader might justify the cost of the Kindle all by itself. It turns every blog into a Kindle-friendly format, easy as pie.


Yes, you can even Twitter with it! The screen really isn't fast enough for long typing, but hey, it works!

Yes, you can even Twitter with it! The screen really isn't fast enough for long typing, but hey, it works!

Kindle 2 In The Housssse! (Diner, actually)

Happy Pancake Tuesday! AKA, the day before Ash Wednesday on the Catholic calendar. There’s also a tradition that before you start your Lenten sacrifices, you go off and have a rich, hearty pancake breakfast.

(Ha! See? I’ve just gone and proven that Richard Dawkins is just a big stupid idiot who’s head is filled with stupid! Next time he says nothing good ever comes from religion, spit in his eye. A good, maple syrupy-scented gob of spit.)

My UPS guy met me on the way out the door. And what did he have for me?

The Kindle 2!

So I kept my date with the diner. But I was Pancaking with my right hand while I was Kindling with the left.

Initial impressions:

1) Damn, this thing finally feels like a real, richly-designed consumer product. It’s metal, and has that MacBook Air vibe where the case tapers down into thin edges. You get the impression that it’s a lot slimmer than it actually is.

2) Hallelulia! That flimsy cheap plastic back-cover is now gone. The back actually looks like a generation-one iPhone…a vast, unmarked plain of brushed metal, topped by an inch of plastic (where the wireless antennas live, npo doubt).

3) The transition from your old Kindle to the new one is simple. Natcherly it knows who you are when it arrives. Click into a setup menu and it re-downloads all of the content you’ve purchased via the Amazon Kindle Store. But none of the docs or public-domain ebooks that you might have emailed into the device will show up…that’s on your shoulders.

4) WhisperSync works fine. I was in the middle of re-reading Michael Palin’s wunnerful Python Diaries on my Kindle 1 yesterday and when I clicked the book on the 2, it opened it to (almost) the page I was on.

5) Text-to-voice is…functional. As expected, it sounds like very, very good text-to-speech. I do think it’s more of a feature for people with vision problems than any sort of replacement for the audiobook edition of a title. But it’s perfectly understandable, if a little American Idol-ish vis a vis artistically and convincingly interpreting and performing a piece. The speaker’s kind of weak. I was in a not-at-all-busy diner and I had to hold it up to my head to really hear it. The speakers are flat on the bottom-backside of the device.

6) The new interface is a five-click joybutton instead of the rolling elevator. But the MO is mostly the same. Instead of having a separate LCD stripe on the side of the screen, the thing you’re about to click on is underscored with a line. It works fine.

7) The device is devoid of all but a single mechanical sliding switch, which powers it up when it’s off and wakes it when it’s asleep.

8) I might have to take back my longstanding complaint about Kindle 1’s paddle switches for page turns. It annoyed me that I couldn’t put down the Kindle, take a two-handed bite of my sandwich, and pick it up again without being one or two pages away from where I was. The Kindle 2 has some conventional pushbuttons mounted flush with the surface of the device and I find that I have to push them with a little but of authority to get a buttonclick to register. Whereas the paddles on the K1 responded to a gormless flick of the thumb.

(I stress that this is a brand-new, out of the box device. So it’s possible that the K2’s page-turn buttons haven’t been broken in yet. It’s also possible that I’m just used to the feather-touch of the K1. But let it be noted that it’s the first thing that struck me as a step back, after a whole 21 minutes of experience with the Kindle 2).

(Added: Now I’ve been reading with it for about a half an hour. A little experimentation indicates that the “most clicky” part of the button is the edge nearest the screen. Now I’m finding it much more comfortable to use.)

9) The tech specs say that the display has been upgraded. But it’s a subtle thing. I don’t find it any more readable than the Kindle 1’s perfectly-fine screen. The only spot where I actually noticed the improvement was in the “sleep” wallpapers. So now these dead publishers’ faces are smoothly-shadded instead of stippled. Which is a win; it was kind of creepy to glance and think “Wow, Harriet Beecher Stowe really needs a shave.”

10) Damn…the “standard as hell” USB connector on the bottom of the K2 is now a “Crap! I forgot to pack the cable that charges my Kindle!” connector.

My full review for the Sun-Times will come in a couple of days. My overall first impression is that this is a step forward.

Hey, photos!

The only way to kill it is with a Ticonderoga #2 through its heart!

The only way to kill it is with a Ticonderoga #2 through its heart!

One click installs all of your K1's purchased content to the K2.

One click syncs all of your K1's purchased content onto your new K2. Note "underscore" highlighting of the item you're about to click.

From back to front: Kindle 1, Kindle 2, YUM.

From back to front: Kindle 1, Kindle 2, YUM.