Friday, October 30, 2009

Kindle: First Impressions

Well, let me say that I was pretty much dancing on the sidewalk as the Fed Ex lady walked up the path. Unfortunately, she got here just before the kids got home, and we had a school carnival to attend before I could settle in and fiddle with it.

Since then, I have done a little fiddling. So far, the screen seems good. I know that some people have complained that it's too grey. For my taste, I think a bit more contrast might be good, but I know that too much contrast can be hard on the eyes even if it seems easier to read, so I'm okay with it.

It's awesome for instant gratification. Want a book? You can get it in 60 seconds. Also, I downloaded a two-week trial of the New Yorker, and it allows me to go straight to the cartoons and scroll through them.

I do, however, feel a lack of orientation. When I start to read something on the Kindle, I don't get a look at the cover. So far, it seems to me that the cover of the book doesn't download with the book. Instead, the Kindle shoots you straight to the first page of text. You can skip back to the title page, etc., but I haven't been able to go to a cover. Similarly, with the New Yorker, I haven't found a way to just look at the Table of Contents page. Maybe it's there, but I haven't found it yet. I know that the page numbers would be moot, but I still would like the orientation aspect.

Typically, when I pick up a text, the cover, color, size, and texture all serve to cue my brain to what I'm getting ready to read. In contrast, the Kindle plops me right into the writing, and it's hard to make the mental shift to what I'm reading. Perhaps this will come in time. Nevertheless, I do wonder why the Kindle doesn't flash the cover before it takes me back to my reading page. It would be a great cue to my brain.

More feedback to come as I actually start to read books on it . . .

edit:// Okay. I spoke to soon. I found a way to display the cover and the TOC. Yay! I really like the way the grey scale images look--like beautiful sketches or something.


Ink said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts. I keep going back and forth on the Kindle but everyone I know who has one LOVES it. So I'm really interested to hear what you think as you go along...

Dr. No said...

Thanks for posting this, I'm intrigued by the Kindle but not sure I can give up "book feel" and "book smell" yet.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Informative! I don't know anyone who has a Kindle, so I really had no clue what the user experience was like. Our local library allows free e-book downloads through its website (you're licensed to read whatever's in the catalog on your home computer for 3 weeks), but the software slowed my laptop down so badly that I couldn't really take advantage of that.

Looking forward to more impressions as you continue exploring!

What Now? said...

I really like my Kindle so far for particular types of fun reading; I think I'm doing more enjoyable reading in bed now because I can make the font big, which is a good thing for tired eyes at the end of the day.

I wound up not liking the New Yorker on the Kindle because it turns out that I mentally categorize New Yorker articles by their length and then decide what I want to read when based on what I've got time and brain span for, and I couldn't ever tell how long an article. There's probably a way to do that by figuring out the location numbers, but that doesn't translate in my brain to "ah, that's a one-page article."

The other thing is that I'm a big library user, and so there are all sorts of fun books that would be perfect to read on a Kindle but that I don't want to pay for!

However, having said all that, my Kindle was my favorite birthday present this year, and I'm glad you're enjoying yours. Happy birthday!

baxie said...

I dislike reading things longer than a few paragraphs on a screen, and I dislike the idea of a corporate someone controlling access to 'my' books- the Orwell flap clearly demonstrated where Amazon's allegiances lie.

And at the current price point I wouldn't have to spend much more for a decent laptop.

TKW said...

I am following this with much interest...hubs keeps asking if I want a Kindle, and I just don't think I can do it. I love turning the pages of a book, love the heavy feel of a book in my hands, love dog-earing pages that speak to me...

I also think this probably also makes me very old.

Good Enough Woman said...

Ink, I will keep you posted, but right now I really like it.

Dr. No, I have always felt the same. But since I still have hundreds of books in my house, I should be okay.

CT, It's very different from a laptop reading experience.

WN, I'm with you on all of those things. I'm not sure I feel "oriented" enough to keep the New Yorker on the Kindle, and I also use the library a lot for my leisure reading, so I wondered about that, too. We'll see. But I do like the ability to make the font big! Last night, the hubster was in the throws of a death migraine, so I could only read by candle light. I put the Kindle on the highest font, and I could see!

Baxie, I read reviews from folks who were really angry about Amazon going in and taking books back, even if they credited the account. For some reason, I'm not bothered by that so much. But I'm much more enmeshed with Big Brother than you are, so I guess I'm just used to it. Reading on the kindle screen is much different from the laptop, but it is sometimes a bummer to not be able to flip around. Overall, Bax, I would never try to sell you on a Kindle since you are definitely interested in the physicality of books--the paper, the binding, the illustrations.

But for folks who buy a lot of trade fiction or pocket books, it could be a great thing! More feedback to come . . .

baxie said...

I love computers and I'm inclined to like gadgets, but to win my affection the gadget has to sufficiently change the paradigm of its target to justify the price.

The iPod, for instance. CDs suck, iPods improve and expand the listening experience to the point that I willingly overlook their high price tag & Apple's manifold faults as a company.

With the Kindle, its seeming advantages (portability, searchability) are things it has in common with the product it seeks to replace. Its ability to snatch books from the ether is just a swifter version of ordering the physical item from Amazon itself.

I can see it having uses- I like that it can 'read' to you (or so I hear). Having a big pile of books on a little tablet seems like it'd be handy for research. And maybe it has some of that ineffable quality of an ipod, where you have to play around with one for a while to get sense of the contours of its true utility.

But at a remove, it feels like a product that was created to fit an Amazon business plan, not an organic evolution of an existing format. "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could sell people a pricey bit of kit to read the books we sell them on?"

I asked TC Boyle what he thought (he came up for Erin's dad's bday), and he said he didn't mind it personally- "Its like a little fairy that delivers pennies to my bank account while I sleep" but worried at the impact on less established authors who're just coming up.

The writing and selling of books has always presented a marginal living for those foolish enough to pursue it, it doesn't take much to tip the scale from 'improbable' to 'impossible'. The great die off of independent bookstores was followed by the great die off of used bookstores, and now perhaps the great die off of the book itself.

What have we lost with the fall of each successive domino?

I don't know that I could put it into words, but given the choice I wouldn't trade it for a million Kindles.

Good Enough Woman said...

Baxie, I think your assessment of the current situation is probably fairly accurate. And it's likely that e-readers will impact books, bookstores, and readers in the ways that i-Pod has affected music stores and listeners. But I would also guess that, at some point, Amazon will lose its tight grip on the content of the Kindle, and that other markets will require them to open up to a larger field. I'm not sure if i-Tunes is good or bad for the songwriters and musicians, but it seems that i-Tunes actually provides an opportunity for less established musicians to distribute their work. I would guess that, eventually, something similar will happen with e-readers. But, of course, I'm not sure. I don't know enough about that stuff. Also, I've found myself reading some writers and things I wouldn't have read in the past because I can download samples for free (the first chapter or so). That could be a nice feature for some writers. Kind of like those little song freebies that one can pick up at Starbucks.

As for the "read aloud" feature, it's not great. Rather robotic. Also, so far, it doesn't seem to me that the Kindle is great for research. It's not easy enough to flip around and make notes the way I do with my research texts. So I will continue to buy those.

For me, it's best for leisure reading. And so far, I've bought several things that I would normally just pick up at the library. Not good for my bank account, but fun all the same. And I do enjoy fiddling with the Kindle just for fun.

And I would suggest that the portability factor is a bit different from the books themselves, primarily in that, with the Kindle, I can easily carry a lot of books at once (as the i-Pod can carry a lot of books at once). Since I've been traveling a fair amount lately, this could do wonders for me. Also, I think my husband is really hoping it will do wonders for the area on and around my nightstand.

It will be interesting to see what happens as B&N launches the "nook."

Mostly, I don't have a committed defense of the Kindle. I just wanted one, and I'm stoked about my recent downloads, esp. a recent novel by Ron Carlson.