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.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a developer advocate for HERE Technologies. He focuses on JavaScript, serverless 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!

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