Being the technology type, I had been looking at the Kindle 2 since it was announced and found it very intriguing. Most everyone that looks at the Kindle, 1st or 2nd generation, balks at the price of the device but being a photographer and traditionally having to spend $1,000’s on one single lens, spending $360 on a device that will save me money on the price of books didn’t seem like that much to try it out.
Not that $360 isn’t a lot to spend on the Kindle 2, but I just sold a few lenses out of my camera bag that weren’t used to much and a few days later the Kindle 2 arrived. After using the Kindle 2 for a while I felt like a review of this new piece of technology would be appropriate, but it didn’t end the way I had anticipated.
I will say right off, it is the best, most sophisticated ebook reader (that displays eink as it’s called) and theoretically it can digitize your book collection or library much like the iPod has done for music. If you just want the conclusion, scan down to that section and I will sum it all up for you. Some of you may know that I have a Kindle Screen that was damaged (see Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen) so this was after the replacement had been sent by Amazon.
The Kindle 2 Graded
If you want the short of it, here are my grades for the Kindle 2 on different variables in no particular order.
- Price – [B]
- Size, Weight, Shape – [B]
- Screen – [C-]
- Keyboard – [D]
- Software – [C-]
- Ease of Reading [A-]
- Ease of Searching books [D]
- Availability of Books for the Kindle [B+]
- Price of Books [B-]
- Price of Periodicals [C-]
- Durability [C-]
- Customer Support [A]
- Portability [A]
- Practicality [C]
- Internet Browser / Browsing [F]
- Multi-use Portable Technology Device, i.e. it is a reader, only [D-]
- Highlighting and Taking Notes [C-]
- Compared to Other eBook Devices [A]
- Saving Trees [A+]
- Creating a Digital Library [A]
- Ability to Mimic Reading a Paper Book [D-]
All the point above are not weighted equally of course, but overall, I give the Kindle 2 (not having ever used the Kindle 1 but having used most modern portable decives on the market) a total grade of a “C”.
1. Price at $359 – About Right to Me
This is one of the biggest complaints of the Kindle 2. It costs $359 and since it is only sold by Amazon you can’t really find it for less than that anywhere. You can find a few used on eBay, but none of the Kindle 2 and Amazon only has a few Kindle 1 in the new/used category.
To me, the price is about right for what it does and the competition it has right now. When the iPod first came out it was (and still is) about that price and people couldn’t buy them fast enough. Of course the difference is the Kindle 2 requires that you actually read something. The iPod since it deals with music has a much larger appeal to the 18-28 age range, and they will usually plunk down $350 for just about anything if they want it bad enough.
I would not or do not expect Amazon to lower the price any time soon until the Kindle 3 comes out, and why should they. Amazon is probably making bundles on these Kindles with them priced at $359, and I think the price is about right.
2. Overall Size & Weight – OK, But Could be Bigger
The new Kindle 2 is light years ahead of the Kindle 1 in size and weight. It is about the size in total of a paper back book (not the screen size, the entire device). It is light and thin, but if I was wanting to ready a long book I could have used the Kindle 2 even larger than it is. The thickness is about right but I would love to see one about the size of a piece of paper.
3. The Screen – Can You Say, Touch, Color, and Backlit?
The screen is a 16 color grayscale, matte screen. To me, this was one of the bigger disappointments of the Kindle 2. The screen was to small, it was not in color, it was not a touch screen, and the biggest for me, the screen is not backlit.
Although the font size can be changed, the screen was too small to really be able to read a full page (on paper) on the Kindle 2. I would like to see one page on the Kindle equal one page on the corresponding paper book. Maybe I am jaded by using an iPhone for more than a year now. I want to be able to touch the screen and have it do what I want, not move some cursor around like I’m in DOS and in the same respect, a color screen is pretty much standard on everything today and it just looked old school. The last biggie on the screen was the fact that it wasn’t backlit. I would have preferred to be able to sit in a dark room and read without the need for a reading light.
One last bit on the screen. All of the images are all converted to gray, which in itself is fine, but it lost detail and did not show what I am use to in a high res screen that shows great detail in black and white.
I understand all those things go to battery life, but I would sacrifice a 2 week battery for one that lasts a few days for the above changes on the screen.
4. Keyboard – Needs Some Help
I know I keep going back to the iPhone, but that I the current device I am use to using. The keyboard on the Kindle 2 is a full keyboard, but it works like the crackberry qwerty keyboard’s of old. This is because the keys are very small. I would have liked to see them closer together and much much larger than the small round dots. They were hard for me to use, but it was a full-ish keyboard. All special characters were like a comma, or punctuation, were all on the shift end, which was a pain.
I did like the fact that you could type out comments and notes, but they were hard to get right and easy to mess up.
5. Software Interface – Good, But Not Very Sophisticated
The interface where you actually read the books is good for what it is intended for, but it lacks much of the functionality of today’s handheld devices. It has wireless through Sprint’s 3G network, and I seemed to get a signal everywhere, even where I don’t on my iPhone (which isn’t really saying much). Books downloaded quickly and the newspaper subscriptions were always on the Kindle 2 the next morning when I went to read them (I did the trial for the USA Today).
Reading on the eyes is good, probably because of the grayscale I didn’t like, and you can change the font size so it suits your needs. Taking notes and highlighting on the Kindle 2 is ok, but no where close to perfect. It saves all the notes into one .txt file and to extract the information you have to parse through all the different notes from the other books. It doesn’t separate out notes for specific books but puts everything all in one file. I would have much preferred the file attach to the actual piece I was reading.
Flipping from book to book is a little slow but works well. If you are trying to get back to a specific place in a book it is a little hard to do unless you bookmark the spot. Moving around in the books from place to place is much harder than flipping through the book.
In the title I said the “not-so-normal” review, because in the end, I returned my Kindle to Amazon, twice. I have never been accused of being old school. I will embrace technology and new developments before they are even released, but I still buy all my music on physical CD’s (to burn to my iPhone, iTunes, iPod etc) because there is something you can’t get from a download, the art the artist put into the album. The design of the artwork, the stories they still include in the booklet, silk screening on the CD itself, back cover artwork, and of course the ability to burn without digital rights management crap.
After using the Kindle 2 for about a week, I took it on a trip to South Carolina and while I was on the trip, the screen became damaged or something, but it wasn’t working correctly (see Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen // Photos). After receiving a new one from Amazon, I continued to use the Kindle for a while and finally came to the conclusion that I did not like the Kindle 2 enough to actually keep it.
In the end, it came down to something I totally didn’t expect. I found out that you can not (at least not easily) replicate the actual reading of a book on paper. You smell the pages, you can flip through pages, write in the margins, underline passages and as you do so, you become part of the book. Each book is different. The covers are different, the font size changes, the thickness of the paper, all which is very hard to duplicate in the electronic world and you end up reading all these different books and they all look and feel the same.
As a friend would tell me, it’s not art. The art of reading, and a lot of the time, it is the art of reading in the way the author intended. This says nothing about the Kindle 2 device because it can’t replicate the actual flipping of the pages like you can when you physically hold that book.
If you want to read a book straight through from beginning to end, page after page, the Kindle may be right for you. I want to get lost in time, lost in the pages of paper, ink, and verse, and at least for now, I will stick with the printed book.