Amazon Kindle – is it any good?

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

I bought one of these recently as I have technical books on SQL and C# that on their own weigh a ton and basically don’t travel well as a result. The Kindle is small and can hold up to 3,500 books in the device’s 2GB internal memory.

The version I have is the latest one with 3G and WiFi. This is a fantastic idea and one of the main reasons I decided to buy this one versus the Sony or other readers. Sony will soon bring out a 3G version but you can get the Kindle right now.

I read loads of reviews before buying and many people wanted to diss the appearance of the Kindle on account of its plastic looks. I find myself just looking at the screen parts so I don’t actually care about the way the plastics looks but I have to say, it is nice to hold. Very nice. Its light (lighter than the metal Sony) and warmer than I imagine the metal casing to be on some of the alternatives. A trip to pc world to hold the Sony confirmed this. I don’t think I want a metal case. It would show up scratches too.

The good points are

  • The Screen is very clear and the typeface is fine and easy to read (if a little limiting in the font choice – see bad things).
  • The menus are reasonably easy to navigate
  • It is really light (seriously light compared to technical reference manual)
  • Downloading books from Amazon is a doddle with an excellent feature to try a sample first, straight from the Kindle device in the Kindle store
  • Books are far cheaper than paper versions and selection is good for most subjects
  • Battery life is awesome
  • MP3 sound quality is astonishing considering this is a book reader.
  • It has a browser. Its basic but it has one.

However there are some really bad things.

  • The screen is still too small at 6 inches.
  • You cannot zoom the text to the edges of the screen so for most books the screen is only a usable 5 inches
  • Increasing the font size makes the text more readable but due to the size of the screen and the fact that the text will not go to the edges plus the poor choice of fonts, the effect is a lot of page switching
  • The previous and Next page buttons are too easy to use accidentally
  • You cannot hold the previous and next buttons to zoom forward and backward through the book
  • VERY IMPORTANT – books with tables and important tabular style layout do not render properly unless you choose the smallest font and use your reading glasses!
  • Pdf support is useless as the zoom functionality is rubbish.
  • Graphic support is poor. This is particularly noticeable on the joke of a front page for the Amazon Kindle store where it shows thumbnails (I think) of books which you might be interested in. Trouble is there is no accompanying text (e.g.with the title of the book) and you cannot make out what the book is based on the crap image.
  • It’s a bit too easy to accidentally buy stuff with the one click style purchasing but when you do purchase you get a chance to back out as the device questions you with “Purchased by mistake – click here”.
  • As mentioned by all reviews the keyboard is a bit crap (but at least it has one). The worst part of the keyboard is that the keys are tiny and there are no visible number keys (the top ten keys act as numbers if you press the ALT key when you press them but there are no indications so you have to count to work out which number you are pressing – duh. Stupid idea especially as there is just over a cm of space directly above the keyboard between it and the screen)
  • Periodicals such as Magazines and newspapers are way too expensive.
  • Cant read it in the dark or dim light. I think a dim backlight would be a good idea but don’t know if this is even possible on an eInk screen

I think Amazon should try to remember that this is a book reader and not an MP3 player / web browser and spend more development effort making zoom and pdf support. That said, considering that Amazon sell mp3 and do not sell books in pdf format I rather doubt this is barking up the right tree.

I have bought just two full books from Amazon so far and am trying several others on the “try a sample” option.

The two I bought are

“An Idiot Abroad” by Carl Pilkington which is funny as and works perfectly on the device

“The Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design” by Patrick McNeil which is totally useless on the Kindle as it is mainly graphical and has lots of links to web site which don’t work properly in the Kindle browser. A shame as it looks like a reasonable book apart from that. Incidentally it also doesn’t work well in the Kindle for Pc software as that does not zoom either but at least you can get a decent browser.

So Amazon, Sony, iPad or Computer then?

For the price the Kindle is well worth the money. The Sony is £50 more and you don’t get the wifi or 3G so I think the Kindle is the better reader, at least until the bigger Sony 950 comes out which will have bigger screen and reportedly 3G too.

As for the iPad, my friend has one and wants a Kindle. The iPad’s poor screen quality, backlit glare and shiny (reflective) screen let it down badly for reading books, plus as with the pc, its easy to get distracted by the internet and therefore stop reading the book you started. On the other hand, the kindle’s lack of ability to do anything but show books does mean that in some cases you end up carrying two devices. This is apparently what most iPad owners do anyway as the iPad is not a good laptop replacement so if this is you then I would recommend a small laptop and a Kindle might be a better choice.

Conclusion: definitely a good buy but could be highly improved. The next one should be a lot better and I look forward to seeing the Sony 950.


About davidbridge

I am a contractor for David Bridge Technology Limited specialising in database design and Web development using Microsoft technologies such as c#, MVC .net and SQL Server (full stack)
This entry was posted in Hardware stuff, Other stuff, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Amazon Kindle – is it any good?

  1. IP camera says:

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