Scott Hanselman

Amazon Kindle

February 26, '08 Comments [40] Posted in Reviews
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DSC_0031UPDATE TWO MONTHS LATER: Now that I've had the Kindle for two months, I still think it's horribly ugly, but I use it EVERY DAY. I subscribe to the NYTimes, to Newsweek and a few blogs. I've purchased 12 books so far and converted/downloaded 20 free ones. The battery life is very good as long as you only turn on the Wireless when you need it. Additionally, I've started using the Kindle as my primary Audible audiobook device and love it. I just slapped a 2gig SD card in and I've got 50+ hours of audio. It's the only device I need for long plane rides.

A year ago I had a Sony Reader for a month and reveled in its awesome screen. It's true, in case you haven't heard, e-ink looks like paper. At least, as close to paper as anything that's not paper can look.

I finally broke down and got an Amazon Kindle for my birthday.

If you are already bored with this post and want to stop here, here's the conclusion. I love it.

Why?

The Good Stuff

This device exists for one reason and one brilliant reason only, for Amazon to more easily extract money from my wallet. It's an entire device built around the concept of "One Click" ordering. You do get a second chance if you accidentally order a book, but it's designed for the impulse buyer. If I hear about a book on NPR or The Daily Show, I can get it immediately. If I read a nice book cover at the Airport bookstore on a long layover, I can buy it.

Once you realize its purpose and accept it and are OK with it, you'll like this as well. I like the "any book in the world in one minute or less" (and Bezos is not kidding, the books show up FAST) that I'm disappointed when a book isn't available.

The screen interface is clean, if slow to redraw (because of the e-ink), with just a few obvious usability things that I'm sure they'll fix with regular updates.

DSC_0032I was also thrilled to see that it integrates with Audible, so I popped a two gig SD card in and grabbed a gig and a half of books (about 2 weeks of audio) from my Audible subscription. Why not use a MP3 player? I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPod and consequently have faded away from using it. I find myself listening to XM Radio more often, or using a Zune with the All You Can Listen To Zune Pass, so my iPod has kind of laid fallow. At this point, I just really like the idea of all my books, audio or otherwise, on this one device. It also has a surprisingly loud speaker so I can listen to books without headphones which surprised me.

DSC_0034The Kindle also has an experimental mobile web browser. I say Mobile, because you should consider the Kindle like a really slow Mobile Phone with a slow to redraw grayscale screen. My blog recognizes the Kindle as a mobile device and renders nicely, even with pictures.

This discovery was just an added benefit. I can also check email (painfully) with Gmail's mobile interface. This alone justified, to me, the Kindle's keyboard that I'd previously written off as silly. The Kindle has the potential to be quite the handheld computer if Amazon allows it. For now, I'll just bookmark my new Mobile Home Page http://cantoni.mobi and be happy.

It works great with PRC Mobile eBooks (a standard) and as such the whole Baen Free Library (and many other similar ones) are available to me.

The Kindle has its own email address so I can send myself PDFs for 10cents and they'll show up pretty nicely. No, I haven't done PDFs with big images or code, but I can tell you that technical books looked lousy and hard to read on the Sony Reader, and I have no reason to think that the Kindle would be better.

There's a collection of newspapers available, so I got a trial subscription to the NYTimes. I love it. It shows up every day and it's got pictures and everything. Reading the newspaper has naturally fit into my day much more cleanly now, and I'm not in front of a browser for 30 minutes reading. It's more linear in that respect and I prefer it.

It's also got blogs, but they cost a buck or two and I'm not in there so phooey on them. ;)

When you're in an EVDO coverage area, the wireless is surprisingly fast.

The "Meh" Stuff

The Next Page buttons run almost the length of both sides of the thing so I keep accidentally turning pages. Also, I've fallen asleep holding the buttons at least twice and found myself with a dead battery and on the last page.

It's ugly. From a design perspective, it's just not sexy. That said, the Sony Reader wasn't exactly clever either. If I were Amazon I would have gotten the iPod designers on board to help. I will say that it's design is more thoughtful than the Sony Reader's and after a few days I stopped caring. It just works.

The screen is paperback book sized, and I wish it were about 30% larger. There's just too much bezel framing it.

It's still $150 more than I'd like it to be, but I bought it anyway because I KNOW I'll use it. I use it every day to read the newspaper, which was also a surprise. (see above)

DSC_0034 DSC_0033 DSC_0032 DSC_0031

Do be warned, there isn't coast-to-coast coverage. If you live outside the US, or outside a decent-sized city, you won't have coverage. That said, I still live an hour outside of Portland and I have coverage and I likely will have coverage everywhere in the US that I'd visit on a business trip.Be sure to check the Kindle Coverage Tool.

Conclusion

I'm thrilled with the purchase, overall. The wireless ability is the key. I didn't want YET another device to dock to my machine. I am so sick of syncing things and looking for tiny USB cables. I even think I could get a device like this for an elder relative and they'd be able to use it without trouble. I suspect that the Kindle will have me reading more often (and I already read a lot). Recommended.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:57:08 AM UTC
>reviled in its awesome screen
I think maybe you mean reveled. Reviled means something...rather different. ;)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 2:17:02 AM UTC
Shoot.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 2:36:34 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

I am really surprised to hear you say that the EvDO network is slow. Because it operates at 756 Kbs or 2 Mbs depending on which Rev you have. And the network is usually a whole lot fast, usually by a factor of 3 over EDGE offered by AT&T. If it is really that slow I wonder if they have an under powered processor in it, which may explain the awesome battery life it is suppose to get.

Nick
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 2:45:14 AM UTC

The button going along the page is a good design actually. While holding the book, you don't want to move your hand for every page flip. And because it's along the page (is it?), it doesn't matter where you have your hand laying on the device, with a quick one finger flip, you flip the page.

( I have an Iliad which has a single long vertical button which does both forward or backward page flipping. I don't know if the Kindle is similar)

Where you reading something boring? :)

It takes flipping thousands of pages to drain an e-ink device battery. You must have had a steady grip on that thing the whole night!

Abdu
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 3:02:39 AM UTC
Hey - it looks like you're reading (or are listening to) VALIS. That is a great book. Not a big fan of the single device for reading deal but I like your choice of content.

Or is that a stock photo?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:20:09 AM UTC
Nick - I don't see where I said it was slow. I think I said "surprisingly fast."

No, these aren't stock photos, rather new photos with my new Nikon D40. I hope Valis is good!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:38:27 AM UTC
>> The Kindle also has an experimental mobile web browser. I say Mobile, because you should consider the Kindle like a really slow Mobile Phone with a slow to redraw grayscale screen.

Wow you are right. Man did I have a dyslexic movement. What I read is, web browser ... slow. And I equated that to the network.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 5:37:49 AM UTC
A follow-up post relating to WAF would be appreciated :-)

Maybe:
* initial WAF
* things that can be done to help increase WAF
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 6:06:16 AM UTC
>>It's ugly. From a design perspective, it's just not sexy.
And it is for a reason..you don't want to be admiring how good the device is, but rather read the content on it. Bezos says something to that effect in the intro video.

>>Nikon D40
Is it any good?..I am contemplating getting a D40x.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 6:59:56 AM UTC
Very objective and professional review. Bottom line: me too -- I love my Kindle.

I solved the problom of the edge switches by using velcro to attach the Kindle further inside the case, after removing the upper and lower obstruction designed to hold the Kindle in place, but which doesn't work worth a damn. When you do the above, you have about a quarter inch edge on the case right edge which is enough to keep your fingers off the edge switch. Actually I love the case after this change, and never remove the Kindle from it.

I also leave both switches on all the time, and recharge every night. Kindle recommends you do that, since it says that the battery is the same kind as in a cell phone, which is designed for daily recharges. They say whatever you do, do not allow the battery to become fully discharged. So charge it every night. No problem for me that way.

Charles Wilkes, San Jose, Calif.
Charles F. Wilkes
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 7:24:08 AM UTC
I must be a shallow bastard because as cool and great as the Kindle is, and I've only really heard "really good, not great, but really good" comments about it I still can't get past the ugly nature of it. I'm the same with software, if someone hasn't thought about usability AND aesthetics and they have ugly screenshots I don't even bother.

I'm holding out for a v2 version without the keyboard, I read books to get away and unplug, the last thing I want is the temptation to check email or go browsing.

I'm guessing the thick bevel is so you have something to grip onto comfortably while holding it?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 7:36:51 AM UTC
@Sunil
"And it is for a reason..you don't want to be admiring how good the device is, but rather read the content on it. Bezos says something to that effect in the intro video."
Interesting point but honestly I consider that a cop out, it's the same line of design BS that desktop manufacturers have fed us for years, "Who cares how your desktop PC looks, it's how it functions that matters!" Riggggght, nope. People don't gaze lovingly at an iPhone because of how it looks when it's off (OK, maybe they do but they get over that quickly), they gaze at it because of what it does. Same with an iPod or Zune or XBox 360 or even your HDTV. In fact what makes really great design is that it seems effortless and is in fact unobtrusive and subtle. Like God said to Bender in 'Futurama':

“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 9:01:25 AM UTC
Sunil - I'll do a D40 write up also. Pics from my first outings are on Flickr. I paid $500, but should have stretched and got the D40x for the 10megapixels, perhaps even a bundle and got an extra lens. You can usually get a local camera shop to buckle under the threat of "I'll get it online" and get a few memory cards and lenses.

Darren - Initial WAF was more WTF? But after she's watched me read on it she wants to try it. The auto-newspaper thing clinched it. She does think it's too spendy and doesn't see why it's useful to browse the web on.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 12:19:31 PM UTC
> "If I were Amazon I would have gotten the iPod designers on board to help."
Maybe they were inspired by Alan Kay's Dynabook rather than the iPod?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 1:37:52 PM UTC
Is it like reading a book printed on paper, or like reading a book printed on grey paper?
Harry M
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:18:52 PM UTC

The keyboard should have been virtual. The user spends 99+% of their time on it to read. The keyboard takes too much real estate and they could have used that space to make the screen larger or the device smaller and lighter. That's important because the user is holding the device with its full weight for extended periods of time.

---

More pixels on a digital camera doesn't make the picture better. Just bigger prints. This is all marketing stuff.
Actually more pixels eventually will make the photos looks worse if you post them on the web because you will need to shrink them to fit the smaller browser window. This means the resize algorithm will remove pixels. So if the photos are intend for the web, set your camera to use lower resolutions like 4-5Mpix even if the camera supports more.
Abdu
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:39:22 PM UTC
I think you mean "laid fallow" instead of "laid follow".

I only know this because people here are keeping their fields "fallow" in the hope of getting them out of the agricultural zoning and building a mega building.
Peter H.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:40:55 PM UTC
I'd be interested to here how a technical book looks on it, seeing as how that's about 85% of my reading these days. I'd love to empy my tech bookshelf and just have a single device. But given the resolution of the screen I can see how some of the code sections might get a bit janky.

A real test would be a 'mixed print' book like House of Leaves or Godel, Escher and Bach.
Ryan Smith
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 5:37:22 PM UTC
Come to think of it, this would be a good area for Apple's next kick ass device... books from iTunes to your iReader
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 7:22:25 PM UTC
I like the design, and having actual keys and buttons to push. When I'm in the middle of a book, I'm not thinking about the design anyway. I'm reading. It does what they say it does.

And once you figure out how to hold it with the cover folded back, pushing buttons accidentally isn't a problem.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 8:22:01 PM UTC
/points at VALIS

Lost fan ?

:)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 1:40:38 AM UTC
This is very funny, here i am over the last few days debating if i should buy this for my birthday and here you are beating me to it.

Now that you like it though its giving me more encouragement to buy it. Id also like to point out that some technical books are now becoming available for the kindle, so not as much worry on PDF conversions of Ebooks.

Here is a link to the programming book selection:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_n_3?ie=UTF8&rs=156116011&bbn=156128011&rh=n%3A154606011%2Cn%3A156116011%2Cn%3A156128011

I also hear that the search feature works very good as all content on Kindle is organized. I wonder how well it works though as the library grows. Let me know if you try any of these books to see if they are useful.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 2:36:29 AM UTC
I'm curious what the first title is. I did a search of 'Dr. Stephen L' but nothing came up.

Yep, just being nosy.

Thanks Scott. Looks like a great device.

Mike.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 8:34:40 AM UTC
This is really nice, but i am recently checking out ipod touch, and its buying music from itunes right from the device , also rips money out of wallet :-) You may want to check that out as well. it better than the traditional ipod tough.

Thanks,
Mehfuz.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 5:48:52 PM UTC
One way I've found to avoid spending excessive amounts of money at once is to always download the sample chapters of books I'm interested in rather than buying them right away. Then when I'm ready to read a new book, I browse my sample chapters and find one that suits me at that time. You end up spending money only at the rate you read, but still have that "To Do" list of samples to choose from.

-Sarah
Sarah
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 7:23:49 PM UTC
Scott, the biggest question I have about the Kindle is if you damange or lose (or its stolen), how easily can you recover your previous ebooks without having to purchase them again? I've already been bitten by that which is why I haven't used an ebook reader in years. Not only that, but I've seen quite a few tech books for Kindle that are twice as expensive as the printed book on Amazon's "new" price. So I want to make sure if I do use a kindle and the inevitable happens, I can replace it and be on my merry way (BTW: my tech books shelf at home is over 900 books). I'm looking to collect ebook counterparts and I've had my eye on the Kindle for a while.

Thanks,
Shawn
Shawn B.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 8:07:25 PM UTC
Shawn B - Apparently they use the "Audible" method, which means there is a perpetual library of every book you've ever bought, and if you delete one or loss it or whatever, they associate a new Kindle with your account and you just log in and request any book to be redownloaded.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 9:52:34 PM UTC
The Kindle looks very impressive. Funny, the other night I was sitting in bed reading the novel Northern Lights - aka The Golden Compass (better that the film tbh) - and I thought to myself, will these paperback novels ever get replaced totally by a palm gadget. Looking at the Kindle, it looks like a step in the right direction for reading multiple books/document/newspapers in one easy thin gadget. Still if you're reading the odd book or two, you find it hard to beat the paper medium.

- Lee
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:30:28 PM UTC
So... the question I have to ask is this:
When you flip pages, does it refresh the screen to black before drawing or white?

The biggest problem I had with the Sony Reader (ie. the largest potential to annoy the hell out of me) was the fact that every page change would require it flushing the page with black, and then wiping out the white bits.

Why they didn't fix it in hardware or software to flush to white then redraw, I'll never know.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:39:54 PM UTC
Black. I think it's actually a technical limitation of the screen and is done to prevent ghosting.
Thursday, February 28, 2008 12:06:47 AM UTC
Oh, that sucks. :( You'd have thought they'd have caught this in the hardware design phase over at EInk and just swapped which sides of the little balls were painted black, and which were painted white. :(
Friday, February 29, 2008 12:55:06 AM UTC
It must be a birthday thing. I bought one for myself for my birthday. :-).

I must admit though I have been dissapointed with some of the conversion programs use by Baein.com and ManyBooks.com. They usually do not add the author and that drives me crazy sine I like to sort my books by author. You may want to check out the MobiPocket Creator at http://www.mobipocket.com/dev/. This allows you to convert PDF, Word, HTML and TEXT documents to .prc format which can then be simply copied to the Kindle (unfortunately through USB, but at least they become a USB drove in Vista).

I have been doing this with several Project Gutenburg files and some from Manybooks.net. As a matter of fact there are several amazon.com books that are just onversions of the Project Gutenburg texts. Check out the ones as the price drops below $5 for Science Fiction. I also found this allows me to take these documents and convert them easily to Kindle format.

We will have to talk when you are down for the Boise Code Camp. All my Public Domain books and Audio books are on my SD card in my Kindle. I can show you how they look
Friday, February 29, 2008 3:59:53 AM UTC
>"I got a trial subscription to the NYTimes"

Why pay when this is free? Or doesn't a browser run on the Kindle?

http://nytimesriver.com/
jonb
Friday, February 29, 2008 5:28:23 AM UTC
jonb - It's the difference between a complete, auto-delivered offline version, and a basic mobile browser, must be connected (not on an airplane) version.
Saturday, March 01, 2008 3:19:52 PM UTC
If you are science fiction fan Tor has released 2 free e-books in the the last 2 weeks in PRC format...

1) Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Hugo Nominee)
2) Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (Hugo Winner)

I think there's still more to come.
Monday, March 03, 2008 5:39:12 PM UTC
Any chance of getting a screenshot of a book that has like graphs and code samples? A certain ASP.NET 3.5 book with a professional spin comes to mind as a fine example. :-)
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 8:37:54 PM UTC
Scott,
Have you had a chance yet to try the PDF integration? I have a large library of PDF documents and an very curious how the Kindle would fair in letting me have that in a light portable (non-Tablet/Laptop) form.
Tim
Sunday, March 09, 2008 4:42:32 AM UTC
Hey Scott;

I know this sounds funny, but where do you keep your notes, where do you keep your bookmarks?

If the wife and I are sharing the same book, it's easy to just drop in two bookmarks. When I read personal development or technical book, I'll often keep a few bookmarks handy. Does the Kindle support multiple bookmarks?

Also, can I "mark up" my book. Again, with the technical and educational books, it's common to do things like highlighting or underlining or writing in the margins. We have a keyboard, can we leave notes in our books?

Of course, I like your idea of a larger book. I maintain large collection of trade paperbacks and harcovers and that's a definite reading preference.
Gates VP
Saturday, March 15, 2008 4:44:42 AM UTC
thank for nice content



Monday, March 31, 2008 1:51:44 AM UTC
Hi Scott. I was hoping to see you post some follow-up to this Kindle post.

I have hardly done an exhaustive search on your blog and twitter feed, but I think the only other times you have mentioned it are to say that your battery was dead when you were getting on a flight (probably just a brain fart on your part to not have it charged already) and that the e-ink works as described in that it was "stuck" on your last page when the battery died.

So, after using it for quite a while now, are you still as enthralled with it?

Anyway, hope you get this and decide to post a quick follow up on it. I just did a side job, and I have an unallocated $500...am thinking I want to order the Kindle now, so I'm starting the research.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.