Kindle, Day One

Like Don MacAskill and others, I’ve been a fan of Sony Readers for some time. Today, an Amazon Kindle arrived, so I’ve spent most of the day avoiding getting any real work done. Unlike Don, however, I’m not all that happy with the device itself. Here are some observations, some of them different from what you might have read elsewhere. Some are in comparison to the Sony Reader (PRS-505).

  • The Kindle Store purchase experience is great. Based on Amazon’s One-Click model, it’s super easy to buy and download books and periodocals. That part, Amazon got just right.
  • My biggest complaint is the buttons. They’re too large and way too easy to press accidentally. Both the left and right edges are lined with long navigational buttons: Next Page (two of ’em), Previous Page, and Back. They’re much smaller on the Sony Reader, and just fine that way. It’s not easy to hold this thing without pressing one of the buttons. I find I rest the lower-left corner in the palm of my hand, but that’s not too comfortable after a while. And if I set it down, when I go to pick it up, I inevitably press one of those damn buttons along the edge.
  • The supplied case is awful. It’s cheap, doesn’t hold the device well, and it doesn’t protect the buttons from being depressed when something hits the cover.
  • For that matter, the entire unit feels cheap and a bit flimsy as comared to the Sony Reader, which has a metal frame. I feel I have to treat it carefully, particularly those oversized buttons. In an interview, Jeff Bezos said something about taking it to the beach. I don’t think so, although I’ve successfully used my first Sony Reader there.
  • I’m using a two-week trial subscription to the NY Times. I’ll put my hardcopy subscription on vacation hold to see if I can survive without it. The Times is certainly readable on the Kindle, but the navigation is awkward. It takes a while before you get used to using the Back key (as opposed to the Previous Page key), which acts like Escape to take you back one level in the hierarchy. I think I’m like most people in that I skim the paper reading headlines to find articles I want to read, then drill down into the opening paragraphs, possibly skipping the rest of the article and going on to the next one. But it’s not as easy as scanning two pages at a time in the hardcopy paper. You lose track of where you are.
  • One thing that really annoys me about the Times is the way the op-ed page displays. Rather than showing me the name of the columnist, it gives me the title of the column. I want to see David Brooks or Thomas Friedman, but instead I have to select each op-ed item separately just to see who wrote it, then go back or on to the next one. Some more thought needs to go into what’s in the metadata, people!
  • You don’t really need to connect the device to a computer since you do almost everything you need via its Whispernet (Sprint EVDO) connection, but if you do want to copy files to/from a computer, the Kindle supports PCs and Macs. The Sony Reader can’t be used with a Mac unless you run under Parallels, Bootcamp, etc.
  • I don’t miss it all that much, but the Sony Reader has the ability to rotate the content to display in landscape mode. The Kindle does not, as far as I can tell.
  • As Don and others have written, the content selection isn’t great, but it is better than what you can get for the Sony. And the Kindle’s “store” experience is vastly superior. Sony’s Connect software is extremely clunky and Windows only. I expect Amazon to increase the selection over time more aggressively than Sony, but that’s just my expectation. 🙂
  • I had to call the toll-free Kindle support line because of a (reasonable) problem with my registration. The guy at the other end (located in southwestern Washington) had never encountered my problem before. No surprise since it was the first day you could get one of these if you weren’t some kind of VIP. But he was generally knowledgeable and friendly, and he did figure it out in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Yes, as so many others have said, the DRM is a real problem. For example, I’ve already bought and paid for a few books on my PRS-505, which I cannot now move to my Kindle. But I’m ignoring that issue, at least for the time being. Not that it isn’t important, but I do understand that there are some things I can’t do with these devices. I still find them useful.

In summary, I love what’s new about the Kindle (wireless connectivity and the one-click purchasing directly from the device), but I wish it were combined with Sony’s packaging, interface and styling. In any case, this is a great step forward for eBooks, and for that I’m glad. What will be most interesting are (a) do I stick with the NY Times subscription or go back to my hardcopy, and (b) when it comes time for my next trip (two weeks from now), which one do I take with me?

Update: See my Day-Five review.

2 thoughts on “Kindle, Day One

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