Adventures into the Madness

Do you Like it? – The Kindle Experience or “iPhone vs. Kindle”


I’ve been dragging my Kindle2 around with me everywhere and everyone who figures out what it is I’m reading on and poking at asks me the same question:  Do you like it?

To which I enthusiastically answer, “Yes!”

But the question I feel like everyone is actually asking is:  Should I get one?

“Do you like it?” is a good place to ask someone who has one, but here’s the thing – who is “you”?  Because the Kindle is one of those tools that isn’t quite for everyone.

“I” am a person who enjoys gadgets and has no trouble figuring out UI quirks and how to make things work.  I am also a big reader, although I would not describe myself as “avid”.  I also possess the quirky trait of liking to read my favorite books and stories over and over and over.  There are several books on my shelf that have been worn out and replaced not once, but twice.  I read a lot of word documents and have very much enjoyed being able to import them.  I like newspaper articles, but hate, hate, HATE the giant, dead tree format.  The Kindle is a good fit and a good tool for how and what and why I read.

The thing I have been most surprised by is how well the Kindle mimics the book reading experience.  The page width, fonts and screen tones feel so familiar that I actually found myself lifting my hands to “turn” a page several times before I remembered that the button turns it instead.  My brain was tricked into that familiar pattern.  Observations like this have changed my assumption that the Kindle is for early adopter, geeky types who aren’t necessarily avid readers.  I would now, firmly, say that the people who would like it best are avid readers who are just techy enough to appreciate the storage capabilities and savvy enough to download books (which is easy).  Its target market really is the devoted “reader”.

This is probably why there are negative reviews out there that bemoan the Kindle’s lack of multi-functionality and internet features.  While these are valid comments, they are features that aren’t important to the target market, and in fact would sabotage some of the “experience” that Amazon is deliberately imitating.  Amazon has it’s work cut out because its target market are bookworms who are also probably the most resistant to changing their reading habits.  The techy folks who are most likely to adopt new tools for the fun of it are also going to be looking for the most multifunctionality and be disappointed by the Kindle.

It’s sort of a cat-person or dog-person kind of thing with the Kindle existing in the marketing equivalent of that creepy Nickelodeon character Catdog.  Which are you?

In my house, we have one of each of the above.  I’m the Kindle-type, who loves the classy screen and is happily adapting my “curling up with a book” moments into “curling up with the Kindle”.  My husband is uber-geek, techno of the day type.  His love affair with his iPhone prompted the creation of family rules about bringing it to the dinner table which the four year old happily enforces.  (DADDY!  NO TOYS AT SUPPER! <insert ferocious glare and hands on hips>)

While I would enjoy an iPhone, I would waste most of its capacity for geekdom with simple indifference.  Hubby admits that he is very impressed with the Kindle as a reading tool and loves the idea of finding another way to fill his brain with stuff.  But since all of the content he digests on a daily basis is produced (almost) exclusively on the internet, the Kindle would need to beef up its web browsing and blog downloading UI.  In truth, it may get there, but is not so now for the likes of him.  (And it doesn’t have a LOL Cats app.)

So…does this mean I like it?  Yes.  I like it.  Should you get one?  I can’t tell you that.  Hopefully the above will point you towards the followup questions you should ask of yourself.

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Week 1 – The Kindle experience


So, the first week has come and gone.  I admit to falling in increasing love with my little toy.  After several nights of reading my required bedtime-story on it, I branched off into newspaper articles and tried out the spiffy magazine subscription option.  I have uploaded several of my own documents to read.  I went shopping at the Amazon store directly from the Kindle and found it surprisingly easy to buy stuff although the UI needs some work.

The best thing so far is the screen.  The text is truly beautiful and very easy on the eye.  After months of reading mostly on a standard laptop monitor, I found that reading on the Kindle was stunningly easier and my reading was much faster.  Hubby was quick to point out that the Kindle does not have the many distractions that my laptop does.  That is definitely a point, but then he picked it up and read through the newspaper.  Before I wrestled it back out of his grabby hands, he was lamenting that the ink-technology wasn’t available in full size screens and was making plans to try to tweak his fonts and contrast so that his monitor settings are more like the Kindle.  Score 1.

I am also enjoying the content.  The magazine and newspaper subscriptions offer trial periods and the newspaper navigation is well done – at least on the newspaper I’m trying out.  One of the magazines I have downloaded is not so easy to navigate and I suspect that the Kindle is dependent upon the publishers to provide the nav.  UI may be hit or miss.

Another nice discovery was that the Amazon Daily newsletter offers free downloads and 99cent deals.  With room for 1000 books, I’m finding it easy to take advantage and try out the offers.  The sample chapters from new books are fun too.

So far I’m finding that I drag my Kindle along everywhere.  A new purse was required and happily acquired.  I find all my paper books that have been stacked in piles around my room looking at me with expressions of disappointment.  They will be ignored for a while while the shiny new toy gobbles my reading attention.

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Day 1 – The Kindle2 Experience


After four days of constantly refreshing the USPS package tracking site, my freshly minted Kindle2 arrived with a very unceremonious plop in the mailbox up the street.  Didn’t they know they were supposed to ring the doorbell?!!!  My husband had been ringing the bell all day just to watch me race to the door and then laugh at me.

So, the first 24hrs were mostly spent pining over the fact that I’ve got a crazy weekend with company in town and a writing project in the cliffhanger stage.  I did manage to open the box and plug it in right away.  My very first e-book that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for days, just waiting for my kindle to wake up, popped into the menu on my screen and I happily re-read the first chapter of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.  A dubious honor, but an honor none-the-less that I’m sure John Scalzi will quite appreciate. ahem.  He’ll appreciate the royalty check at the least.

First impressions:  the e-ink thing is crazy.  I’m a gadget user, but don’t care much about how things are built or programmed, so I wasn’t expecting such a different screen.  Once I was convinced that the flash between pages was perfectly normal, I found myself quite able to ignore it completely.  The text is crazy good, with a very soothing eye.  Take this though, as from someone who reads too much on very old computer monitors.  I used the kindle for bedtime reading and found it very relaxing to look at, even in cozy lighting.

The other aspect I have played with a lot over the course of the day has been the document transfers.  Part of my interest was the ability to put my own documents on the kindle and I have uploaded several to my @free.kindle.com address.  The conversions were very quick, the link to the document download was in my mailbox in about five minutes.  My Word story documents tend to get sloppy as they are often hybrid monsters of formatting from google docs, two computers, different venues, and whatever caffine I was on the day I created them.  So I realized after the first couple, that some formatting would be required to get them to look like “stories” on the Kindle screen.  Find/Replace magic has taken care of most of those issues, in my particular cases.  Transferring to the kindle through the USB cable was very easy.

I have lots to explore, and lots to learn, so that is probably enough for now.  I have only been frustrated by a couple of things that I am willing to write off as learning curve.  So far, I’m quite pleased.

The ONLY truly truly frustrating issue has nothing to do with the Kindle itself.  As a tool designed to facilitate reading, I just really with I HAD SOME MORE DAMN TIME TO READ!  Send me a beach and a babysitter and Kindle, I’m all yours.

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