Saturday, January 02, 2010


Portrait of a study in contrasts.  Peggy and I in front of the living room fireplace on a snowy New Hamster day.  Peggy is playing Spider Solitaire on her new iPhone. Fred is reading the New York Times on his Kindle...

So, Santa was overly generous this year and a new Kindle was found under the tree by one super-spoiled Freddy.  First impressions from a new Kindle owner.

I was concerned about how well the Kindle's "Whispernet" connection (Whispernet is the wireless connection either being supplied by Sprint or AT&T, I'm not sure which).  Given that our cell phones barely work unless we stand out in the driveway, I thought Whispernet was going to be a bit problematic.  And indeed, at best I only get two bars of signal strength.  On the one hand, cruising the Web or downloading content from other-than-Amazon through the Kindle ranges from difficult to impossible.  On the other hand, getting content from Amazon is simple and without problem.

Magazines and Newspapers: Kindle may never kill printed books, but I think it (and its various e-Reader brethen) is probably going to be the death-blow to print newspapers and magazines.  Within a few days of adding the New York Times to my Kindle, we had killed the delivery of the print Sunday edition. A telling piece of evidence is that the Kindle subscription is less than half of the price of the Sunday print version... plus I now get the other six days as well, all for $14 a month. It's still an open question about whether I'll move my New Yorker subscription over to the Kindle.  According to various reports the Kindle version is incomplete and lacking cartoons.  Given that those issues get worked out, I may consider subscribing through the Kindle when my print subscription ends in 2011.

There is little as cool as waking up in the morning, switching on the Kindle, and by the time I'm sipping my first cup of coffee, I have the Times ready for my persusal.

I was disappointed to discover that there was no Kindle version of Wired, about the only magazine except the New Yorker and Cigar Aficionado (I know, I know) I read regularly.  According to the rumor mills, Wired's publisher, Conde Nast, is preparing a multimedia version of the mag for the rumored-but-probably-true Apple tablet.


Experience.  Pros: The reading experience is ah, "book-like" enough that very quickly you forget that you're looking at a high-tech device rather than paper.  Pluses:  You can change the font size, an important factor for anyone with 50+-old eyes, as we all discover eventually.  The built-in dictionary is way cool.  Move the cursor in front of the word, and see an abbreviated definition.  Click, and call up the full definition.  I think of myself as a fairly literate guy, but I didn't know that maven is from the Yiddish, for example. The controls are simple and relatively easy to use, although I still have a tendency to poke the wrong button at times.

Minuses: The only button placement I really object to is "Previous," which is midway up the left side of the Kindle.  While it probably works if you're holding a "bare" Kindle (that is, sans cover), I'm holding a beautiful leather cover from Oberon rather than the device.  With cover on, you can't click "Previous" easily. You have to poke it.  I didn't realize how much I refer back to earlier pages until it became difficult to do.

Although text is easier to read on than a computer, the Kindle screen will occasionally reflect light until you find the right angle.  The "page-turn-Flash" that everyone complained about when the Kindle 1 was released is there, but to me barely noticeable, no more distracting than turning a page.

While I keep on reading claims that the Kindle will hold a charge for as long as a week (with the Wireless turned off except when needed), my Kindle seems to be draining the battery much faster than that.  I haven't decided whether that's a problem yet or not.  "Seems" is still the operative word.  Stay tuned on that one.

- Cover:  Believe me, you want a cover, and you want a nice cover.,  You want to be gripping and holding leather rather than plastic. It changes the entire Kindle reading experience.  So, spend the extra cash.  Mine is from Oberon Design in California.  Santa somehow knew that the cover to the left - in blue - was the one I wanted and had it ready for me on Christmas Day.

- And finally, Books.

So far, I have a few free public domain books, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Time Machine on my Kindle.  I'm kind of looking forward to reading old favorites, Dickens, Twain, Wells, Verne, on the Kindle.  I found the links to various archives of free/public domain eContent through one of my first Amazon purchases, The Complete User's Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2 by Stephen Windwalker, which I heartily recommend at its low-cost .99 cents.  It covers Kindle basics, probably nothing you couldn't suss out on your own, but its real value is its links to on-line content, especially free content.

My second purchase was David Grann's The Lost City of Z,  one of those "meaning-to-read" books that got lost in the daily noise and which I ws reminded of when it showed up on one of those "best books of 2009" lists.  In a couple of minutes and $9.99 later, the book was on my Kindle.

And that's both the delight and danger of the Kindle, especially for someone like me.  Read an interesting review and want that book?  No need to wait for the next trip to the bookstore or to be put on the library waiting list. And the chances are good that in a week you'll have forgotten the title, or why you thought it interesting, or will have been distracted by the next, new shiny object and not get the book. But no more of that.  Now you can have it on your Kindle in the time it takes to read this blog post.

So, a couple of house rules are already in effect: one set by Peggy and one set by me.  Peggy has me on an allowance, which is probably a very good idea, knowing me.  Me, I'm going to try the enforce the rule I use for buying physical books.  No new purchases until the books already on the "to-read" list are either abandoned or finished.

Of the two, I think the allowance rule will probably be more effective.


beth said...

So I guess a Barnes and Noble gift card wasn't the perfect gift!


fhb said...

No worries, Bethie. I haven't completely given up dead-tree technology yet. :-) Thanks for the gift card!