My first Kindle

The latest generation of the Kindle—not the Kindle Fire, not the Kindle Touch, just the plain old Kindle—finally has the attributes I've been waiting for in an ebook reader:

It has a big(ish) high-res(ish) screen, it's thin and light and inexpensive, and it fits into my pocket.

So I bought one.

On the plus side, it has all of the above attributes. The screen is gorgeous. I can hold the device comfortably in one hand, but the screen is much bigger than my iPhone screen. And of course I can read all of my Kindle books on it.

Unfortunately, it has some less-positive attributes as well. For example:

  • Every page turn starts with a sort of scrambling of the page's pixels that's really annoying. (Or, I guess another way to say this is that E Ink is still very slow to change the page contents.) This alone may make the device unusable for me; I don't want to be annoyed every time I turn a page while reading a book. But I may get used to it.
  • It has ads. There are fairly unobtrusive banner ads across the bottom of the home screen, and there are full-screen ads that appear when the Kindle sits idle. It took me quite a while to figure out how to dismiss the latter; turns out you press the Power button, 'cause none of the other buttons work while the full-screen ads are showing. It turns out you can disable the ads by paying an extra $30; if I keep the device, I'll definitely do this, 'cause the ads are really annoying. I'm not sure whether I would've bought this model if I'd really understood the ads thing.
  • It doesn't have a touchscreen. I could have paid $20 more and gotten a Kindle Touch, but (a) it's slightly bigger, so I wasn't sure it would quite fit in my pocket, and (b) I tried the demo model in the store and found it extremely slow to respond to touches, which was really frustrating. (And I couldn't figure out how to get to the home screen on the Touch.)
  • The contrast isn't high enough, even when there's plenty of light; it's dark-gray text on a light-gray background. The screen is lovely, but I'm partly color-blind, which tends to manifest as my having difficulty when there isn't much foreground/background contrast. So far, I'm finding the text fairly readable when well-lit, but not as much so as I had hoped.
  • General slowness. It's not as slow to respond to input as the Touch seemed to be, but it's pretty slow.
  • Size. It's great that it fits in my pocket, but my ideal ebook reader would be just a little bit smaller. This is 6.5" x 4.5" x 0.34"; reduce it to, say, 6" x 4" x 0.2" (or even a little smaller) and it would be just about perfect for me. Funny—I've been saying for ages that I wanted an ebook reader to be the same width and height as an American mass-market paperback book, and this one almost is (slightly wider and shorter), but it still feels slightly unwieldy. And paperbacks are always an awkward fit in my pockets.

Anyway, I'm not sure whether I'll keep it or give it away. It's definitely pretty cool in some ways, but I'm not sure it's what I want.

My ebook reading up ’til now has been on my iPhone and my iPad. The iPad is a great reading experience (especially in iBooks), but it doesn't fit in my pocket. The iPhone is very portable (I take it with me pretty much everywhere), and I love the super-high-res Retina display; but the screen is physically smaller than would be ideal for ebook reading. If the rumored 4"- or 4.5"-diagonal iPhones do come to pass, that may be enough to assuage my desire for a better ebook reader. And the rumored 7"-diagonal iPad might be perfect, if it doesn't have a big bezel. But for now, I'll carry the Kindle around for a while and see how I like it.

4 Responses to “My first Kindle”

  1. tcornes

    One other big plus is you can now use the Kindle to check out e-books at the library.

    But I agree with you about the pixelation. I see it as a brief flash of black when I turn pages. It’s been there since the first generation Kindle. Recently I looked at a new Kindle and it has the same property. I wonder if the color one does as well.

    C also has a Nook and an Acer tablet. Both are too heavy for me. And C prefers his Kindle, but you’re welcome to take a look at them if you like.

  2. mst3kforall

    I don’t know what kind of processing or video power the Kindle has, but I can say that my favourite reading app is Kindle on my Android phone — there is no delay or issue turning a page, or with sufficient brightness (or darkness, if you read in bed in the dark). Last week, a big box chain had a fantastic deal on a fantastic Android phone (49.99 for 129.99 phone), but you would have to pay monthly service (if it had been just a one-time fee, it might have been worth it). So maybe the device’s hardware could be the weak point? Is there an option to not animate page turns? My version of software has none; but if that were an option with yours, it could potentially solve your problems.

  3. Jed

    tcornes: Yeah, the library feature is cool (though I gather that OverDrive works with other ebook readers too, not just Kindle), as is the lend-a-book-to-friends feature.

    My impression of the flash-on-page-turn thing is that it’s just a refresh-speed issue; E Ink can’t update the whole screen as fast as LCD or CRT can, so we see the pixels changing. But I may be wrong about that.

    Thanks for the offer of looking at the Nook and the Acer, but I’m pretty sure they’re both too big and heavy for me. (And I don’t really want to have yet another ebookstore to deal with; my ebooks are already split between iBooks, Kindle, and (a few) the old Stanza iPhone app.) I want something that’s at least as small and light as the latest Kindle; otherwise, there isn’t enough of an advantage over my iPhone.

    mst3kforall: Sure, and I use the Kindle app on my iPhone, and it works well. What I’m looking for is an ebook reader that (a) has a significantly bigger screen than my iPhone; (b) will nonetheless fit in my pocket; and (c) is thinner and lighter than my iPhone. I don’t want to carry around another entire phone just to read ebooks; there’s no real advantage in that over reading on my iPhone, which I do all the time. (Well, okay, some Android phones have physically larger screens than the iPhone, but they’re generally the same rough size and shape and weight as the iPhone.)

    The page turns on the Kindle device aren’t animated; it doesn’t update fast enough to do animation. It’s essentially a dissolve from one page to another, but it’s necessarily a slow dissolve because it can’t update fast enough. And there’s no way to turn off the dissolve; it’s not a special effect, it’s just replacing white pixels with black and vice versa, which it has to do to change what it’s showing. In other words, it’s really just a very slow screen refresh, as far as I can tell.

  4. Jed

    Update: I spent a couple of months occasionally reading from the Kindle, and then it spent a couple months languishing unused, and then I wiped it clean and gave it away.

    I did pay to remove the ads, not long after posting this entry, and I did more or less get used to the annoyingly slow page-refresh/turn. But the device was just too big to carry really comfortably in my pocket, at least along with all the other stuff I carry around. And the interface continued to be annoying, especially the placement and unresponsiveness of the page-forward and page-backward buttons.


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