Thursday, September 09, 2010

Me and my Kindle

So, I have had my Kindle for just over a week and I am in love with it.

I've already written here about my reasons for wanting one, so now I must report back on whether it is meeting my expectations, I guess. I haven't yet explored all the features and some I may never use, but here is my verdict so far:

1.The design is sleek and generally user friendly, with buttons which are small and firm but not stiff. The Kindle comes with a USB cable and a very lightweight plug into which the cable can inserted so the machine can also be recharged away from a computer. It all arrives in beautiful packaging which appears to be made from recycled materials. A quick start guide is in the box, the main manual automatically arrives on your Kindle and can also be downloaded as a PDF file from the Amazon website to read in advance or print out.

2.The Kindle arrives already registered to your Amazon account and as soon as it is started any books you have bought in advance are downloaded. Books are easy to purchase and download onto it. Almost too easy, so I shall have to be very controlled in how much I spend. I've already downloaded quite a few books but many were free classics and some others were under £1.

3. The Kindle software for other devices, such as a computer or phone is very useful. I have it on my laptop and if I want to download samples of books I am interested in I usually send those to the laptop rather than clogging up the Kindle itself (though files are very easy to remove from the Kindle). I also found it useful to keep the Kindle manual on the laptop, so if I have a problem I can read on the PC while following instructions on the Kindle.

4. The reading experience is very positive. The contrast is so good that I can read comfortably in very low light. For Kindle books there is not only a choice of 8 font sizes but the font type, line spacing and words per line can even be changed. Kindle books can easily be searched for keywords to find content. Each book reopens at the point it was last left (and readers on PC or phone can be synchronised to this) but it is simple to return to the start via the 'go to' menu.

5. The PDF reader is good and keeps formatting intact as well as having a search facility. To read PDFs comfortably the screen needs to be put into landscape mode with the machine turned round and I have found that most of my PDF books can be read easily like that, though using the page turn buttons is more awkward. The exception is academic textbooks, where their original larger size means that the type is still very small. Readable, but barely for my eyes. There is a zoom in facility, but even on the first zoom level that means several clicks to move across each line which I find very slow and annoying, so I think I will use it on 'fit to page' and use a small handheld magnifier if necessary. PDF files can be transferred directly onto the Kindle via USB or sent to Amazon by email to download. I found the USB method very easy and much quicker for multiple files, as the Kindle just acts like an extra storage device to drop files into. I have also successfully emailed Word documents to Amazon for free download.

6. There are quite a few menus and functions to learn, but once you get the hang of the various keys and menus it is fairly straightforward, even to me. The keyboard buttons are tiny but easily pressed with a nail. Having to open the symbols menu to access number keys is, however, rather a pain.

7.The browser is, as expected, rather clunky to use and quite difficult to read in shades of grey. Key websites such as Google, Wikipedia and the BBC come already bookmarked and I have been able to get into email accounts on BT Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail. The browser is a nice extra, but it would probably only be used if no other internet access was available as it does have a tendency to freeze or crash the machine. I think this is due to the number of clicks needed to navigate a page.

8.The new Kindle does seem to have a few problems with stability, for which Amazon are apparently working on a software fix. Mine has both frozen and crashed, but I believe this was due to me pressing buttons too quickly in my impatience. Speed is not of the essence with this machine. There are instructions for both a hard reset and a soft reset in the manual and the soft reset via a menu sorted out a problem I had with a corrupted font in the early days, without me having to ring Customer Support.

9. It took me three goes to get my Kindle to connect to our home WiFi but I suspect that was due to user error in typing in the network key because of my manual dexterity issues. Initially I just used the inbuilt 3g and found that at home I can get the 3g speed during the day but it tends to drop to GPRS in the evening.

10. The Kindle doesn't come with any sort of case or protective cover, so buying one is essential. The 'official' case seems expensive but is sturdy real leather and seems well made. I didn't buy the case with a light, instead I have a small clip-on reading light, very cheap from eBay, which I can attach to the cover. But the screen contrast is good enough to read the Kindle with just a bedside light anyway so I will probably use it very rarely.

11. The battery life on my first charge was poor, just 4 days with the WiFi left on and a lot of experimentation (including a soft reset). I now turn the WiFi off except when I actually need it and this second charge is lasting much better, though I still think Amazon's own estimates are rather optimistic, especially if the browser is used at all.

12. I haven't tried any of the audio facilities for audiobooks or mp3 files, I will probably stick to my mp3 player for those as they would drain the Kindle battery. Nor have I yet attempted to annotate books, though that does appear to be straightforward.

13. The Kindle comes with two inbuilt dictionaries but the default dictionary is the American one. This can be changed to the Oxford Dictionary of English via a menu. I have also downloaded a Roget's Thesaurus for under £1.

14. Books can be catalogued into 'collections' but as far as I can tell this can only be done on the Kindle itself. That takes a while, but the result is worth it for the increased ease of finding what you want.

15. The Kindle puts itself into sleep mode after 10 idle minutes or when manually switched off, and comes with a lovely collection of literature and art related screensavers. It is always fun to see which one emerges at the end of a session and they do give the machine a classy appearance. My current favourite is the portrait of Virginia Woolf.

So, a few little niggles, but generally the new Kindle is meeting all my expectations. Is it worth the money given that most of the current books are around the same price as the print versions? Well, probably, I think, and for me, with my specific needs, definitely yes. I will be road testing it on a trip next week.


HelenMWalters said...

It does sound great, but I'm not ready to succumb yet. Give me time ...

Unknown said...

WHich kindle did you buy?

Cathy said...

Helen- a Kindle will never replace 'real' books, but it will save space in the house and enable me to take a reference library as well as novels when I'm away from home. And I find it easier to read than print.

Clarissa - I've got the new generation Kindle with 3G and WiFi.

Anne Brooke said...

I love that Woolf pic too - it's lovely! I'm really enjoying my Kindle too - though you do loads more on it than I ever do on any of my e-readers! The Kindle download facility is heavenly - soooo simple and quick! Like you, I am promising myself no more than one new book a week though ...

Did giggle at your comment about "real" books :)) Ebooks are real enough to me, and certainly earn me more in royalties than my paperbacks do! I suppose it's like watching TV or watching a DVD - both are real but just different formats. And of course one won't replace the other - just different needs at different times.



Cathy said...

Anne , you're right, ebooks are just a different 'real' and will eventually become commonplace I guess. I suppose what I actually meant was physical books, books with sensory attributes.

Anne Brooke said...

Tee hee! I thought you'd promised to stop sniffing the pages of paper books, Cathy! - or is that just me? :))