My (Early) Review of the Kindle

This post is more than 2 years old.

A couple of weeks ago I got the Kindle 2 (Affiliate Link FTW) via my wishlist, and a few of my friends asked me what I thought of it. I haven't really had much time to play with it, but this week I decided to give it a try. I've only gotten to spend a few hours with it, but I thought I'd share what I've found so far in case people are considering picking one up.

First off, let me talk about the hardware itself. While a bit simple looking (the color is a bit bland), the device is pretty darn cool. Out of all the high tech gadgets I own, including the iPhone, I think this is easily the one that is the most futuristic looking. I feel like I'm holding something from the future. I know that's a bit dorky, but I mean it. Physically it feels good in the hands. I don't honestly care what the dimensions are, I just care about how it feels when I'm reading. The best comparison I can think of is a half-size magazine, like the size of the Fusion Authority magazine. My hands are probably a bit bigger than most (insert joke here), but maybe this picture can give you an idea:

Of course, I also thought it would make sense to compare it to my big head:

In case you can't tell, that's Milton on the left, me on the right. Lastly, here is a picture of both the Kindle and my iPhone. While the Kindle is bigger height and width wise, it feels much thinner:

The screen is very crisp. I didn't get a chance to try it outside, but I did try it in my office, in my son's taekwondo gym, and in the car, and it always looked fine. I was a bit worried since it doesn't look too bright, but it seemed fine. However, I did not try it outside in the direct sunlight. As a programmer, that is strictly forbidden.

For my first 'reading' tests, I tried one of the cooler features - automatic PDF conversion. When you sign up with your Kindle, they give you a special email address. You can then send a PDF to that email, and Amazon will convert the PDF and send it to your Kindle. I did 4 tests. The first 3 were issues of JSMag (which, by the way, I highly recommend), and the last one was a short story. Within 5-10 minutes of me sending the emails, they just magically showed up on the Kindle. Freaking cool. Unfortunately, the reading experience here was a bit flawed. The magazines were simply ... scrambled. The first page or two were fine, then I began noticing odd 'cuts' and jumps in the text. My only guess here is that the magazine's format simply didn't convert well. Supposedly the new Kindle has a PDF reader, but I really wish they would add it to my version, maybe via a firmware update. I gave up on the magazines.

The short story converted a bit better. But on chapter changes, where there would have been line breaks), the text ran together. Also the footer of each page was simply inserted right into the text. I was able to get past this though once I figured out what was happening.

So that was day 1. On day 2 I decided to stop being cheap and get some 'real' Kindle books. I didn't want to buy anything too expensive. I've been very blessed by my readers (you guys rock!) visiting my wishlist. I have, I kid you not, probably 30 books waiting for me to read. I'm set till 2011 or so. Therefore I went searching for free, and cheap, Kindle book. I picked up three books suitable for light reading: The Bible, The Koran, and The Essential Mythology Collection. After 'buying' the 2 free books and purchasing the 3rd that wasn't free, I patiently waited for the books to magically show up on the Kindle. After 30 minutes or so nothing had changed on my Kindle. Looking at my Kindle, I noticed that my Archived Items had 2 things in them. I didn't remember putting anything in my archive so I took a look. Turns out the two free books were there. Why were they archived? I have no idea. I then tried to view them - and was blocked. I saw a progress bar in the top of the Kindle rev up and I figured that maybe I had needed to start the download process. (Before going on, let me be clear that, like any other self-respecting geek, I didn't bother to read the docs.) Oddly though - these downloads went very slowly. After an hour, the Koran was done. My third book then showed up in archived items. This time when I clicked to view it, I actually got a message saying that the item needed to be downloaded. Great. Except that I couldn't leave the page. The home button didn't work. Nothing did. I had to disable wireless and essentially 'break' the download process to get my Kindle back. When I left to get my kids though, all of a sudden the rest of my docs downloaded immediately. I'm not sure what went wrong there, but it was definitely a bit flakey.

While waiting to get my kids, I began to read the mythology book. It was here that I discovered one of the coolest features of the Kindle. Run across a word you don't know? You can move the cursor to it to see a definition at the bottom of the screen. I love that feature. Obviously there is a full dictionary on the Kindle that you can browse if you feel like picking up a few new words. Anyway, I began to read the book.... and... it just clicked. I got into the book and simply forgot I was on a Kindle. Completely forgot. It felt as natural as reading any old school book. As a left hander, I did accidentally hit the Home button once or twice instead of the previous button, but I quickly learned. (All left handers learn to deal. ;)

The big question is - would I buy it? Well, I'm probably not the best person to ask. I work at home. My commute is walking up 15 stairs. If I spent time on a train every day I can see really making a lot of use out of the Kindle. Also, as I mentioned above, I've got enough reading material in dead tree form to last me a while. So I personally would probably not buy it. But if you do travel - if you do find yourself needing a handy way to carry reading material with you, the Kindle probably makes a lot of sense.

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by andy matthews posted on 5/7/2009 at 5:42 AM

That's a shame about the download and conversion processes Ray. That's awesome that you got one.

By the way, this is the first time I've seen a picture of you in quite a while. You're looking lean and mean. Mind if I ask how much weight you've lost (you have been working out right)?

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/7/2009 at 5:44 AM

I lost about 80 pounds. From approx 260 to 180. I've been at 180 for close to a year now though. And yes, I do work out. Thanks for inflating my ego. :)

Comment 3 by Sam Spade posted on 5/7/2009 at 6:05 AM

Want to sell it? ;-)

Comment 4 by Phillip Senn posted on 5/7/2009 at 6:17 AM

Big hands, big feet - shoulda been a clown.

Comment 5 by Phillip Senn posted on 5/7/2009 at 6:31 AM

The Kindle makes sense if you travel.
Think of carrying 1000 books with you on a plane.
But I've found that there's no need for it if you are sitting in front of an Internet-enabled computer.
If judged on its own, I consider it a modern marvel of a new information age.
And I think you're right in that it makes more sense for storytelling reading rather than computer manual reading.
I downloaded the ColdFusion developer's guide and reference manual to see if I could squeeze in an extra 15 minutes here or there.
Although it's less bulky than the 3000 combined print pages, it's not the same as flipping through the manuals with a yellow highlighter.
Still though, based on sheer volume, the Kindle is like carrying an entire library around in the palm of your hand.

Subscribing to rss feeds might be interesting, like BlogCFC.

Comment 6 by Michael Long posted on 5/7/2009 at 6:42 AM

I'd be interested in what you think of the Kindle Reader app on the iPhone (and/or Stanza) and how it compares to the Kindle.

I had a K1 and I had a K2, and also have Kindle Reader and Stanza on the iPhone. Of the three, I tend to prefer the iPhone. Obviously, since both Kindles were returned.

I can easily read text on the iPhone at one level below the standard font size, while the low-contrast screen (75% gray text on a 25% gray background) on the Kindle requires me to INCREASE the size up one level in almost any situation other than sitting outdoors in direct sunlight.

The result? At those settings one can actually see MORE text per page on the iPhone, even though the Kindle has a much larger screen.

I may get a DX since the much larger screen should be able to fix any font size issues. (And assuming that Apple doesn't come out with a large-screen Touch.)

Comment 7 by andy matthews posted on 5/7/2009 at 7:45 AM

Wow. 80 pounds is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations. I've mentally decided that I'm going to have to start a workout routine...just not sure how to approach it.

By the way, the captcha for my previous post was "cron"...just thought I'd share.

Comment 8 by Terence posted on 5/7/2009 at 9:29 AM

Sounds like you had some wireless connection problems. I have a first gen Kindle and an area well-serviced by Sprint. Book downloads have always been flawless. And this is a strength in that you don't need a computer. BTW, whats the secret to losing 80 pounds? That is an achievement!

Comment 9 by Luke posted on 5/7/2009 at 12:07 PM

sweet SW poster Ray :-)

Comment 10 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/7/2009 at 2:53 PM

@Terrence: Crack and whores, my friend, crack and whores. Ok, um, no. Seriously - diet and exercise. That's it. You just got to find the diet/exercise that works for you. Took me a long time to do that.

Comment 11 by Gary Funk posted on 5/7/2009 at 4:31 PM

I have to ask. Why are the photos flipped?

Comment 12 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/7/2009 at 4:39 PM

I was staring at my web cam. You can probably see the reflection of the monitor in my glasses.

Comment 13 by sandeep seshadri posted on 5/7/2009 at 4:47 PM

you should add a link on your blogs ... send this post to kindle .. so it will be easy for us kindle users to read it ..

Comment 14 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/7/2009 at 4:51 PM

I'm not a big fan of 'flair' on blog entries. Stock BlogCFC has a few of these, but notice my entries have none. Just a date stamp and a views stamp.

Comment 15 by JC posted on 5/7/2009 at 5:50 PM

It will actually be *easier* to read outside in bright sunlight. E-ink isn't backlit, it's very much like paper... that's why it seemed dim indoors. It's not going to get washed out. But you probably can't read it in a pitch black room (You can use the kindle reader app on the iphone for that)

Comment 16 by Michael Long posted on 5/7/2009 at 7:44 PM

"You just got to find the diet/exercise that works for you."

I've lost about 40 lbs over the last few years, and have come to the conclusion that pretty much any diet and exercise routine will do the job if, and it's a big if, you KEEP DOING IT.

I found an aerobic activity I liked (volleyball), workout a couple of times a week at the local rec center, and started eating a little less, more good food and less junk. No special diet plan, and I didn't buy the latest wonder workout machine off a late night infomercial.

Realize that it's a steady process and that miracles aren't going to happen immediately. Stick to it anyway.

Comment 17 by Raymond Camden posted on 5/7/2009 at 10:00 PM

This is one trick that really worked well for me. I picked up the Firefly DVD series. I walked 30 minutes a day. That means I saw about 75% of an episode each day. As I loved the show, I was eager to get up on the treadmill so I could watch more.

Comment 18 by Terence posted on 5/8/2009 at 5:11 AM

Ah ... good old fashioned hard work. Exercise with either TiVo or surfing the web keeps me engaged. Still trying to find the right diet. Every book has a different contradictory suggestion. Carbs = good, carbs = evil, etc.

Comment 19 by Michael Long posted on 5/8/2009 at 5:30 AM

@Terence: Come on guy, those are just rationalizations. Diets aren't hard. Just eat more protein and vegies and green stuff (salads) and a lot less junk food (cookies and candy and chips and fries and so on). You know what's junk and what isn't. Eat less as well. Don't have to always finish the entire plate.

Then go to the gym and WORK, don't just wave your arms around. A diet, on its own, probably isn't going to do the trick. You need to burn the fat and build muscle, which in turn will make better use of the calories you do eat.

But you have to decide in your head that you're going to do it. Don't commit, and nothing will work, and nothing will change.