Kindle review

14Jan10

I was fortunate to get my hands on a Kindle through the boy (who received it as a corporate Christmas gift-not bad eh?) and was really excited to try it out on vacation (especially when I received my holiday reading in the mail from Chapters and realized my choice was gigantic).

The Kindle with case from Seaside Sew

Basics
The Kindle sells for $259USD and is shipped from the US, meaning you’ll be footing heavy customs fees that Amazon assumes will put the cost around $330CAD at delivery.  Not cheap.  Books can either be bought online at Amazon or downloaded directly off the Kindle using the on-device bookstore.  The cost is deducted from whatever credit card you have linked to your Amazon account.  Books cost, at most, $11.99CAD.  Cheaper than the cost of most books in Canada.  Battery life (especially with wi-fi off) is excellent, with more than enough juice to satisfy your literary purges.  I read 2 books and am only at half battery life.

Screen
The screen, using e-ink technology, is surprisingly crisp and easy to read.  It really is like reading a regular book (including the need for adequate lighting).  I’m prone to eye strain, and I found I could read text off the Kindle for an extended period of time (like my long flight to the UK) without any problems.  The text can be adjusted by pressing the “Aa” button beside the space bar on the Kindle keyboard (you can also change the screen orientation using this button).

Design
The Kindle is light and easy to hold-and the previous/next page buttons are well placed.  The only problem occurs if, like me, you enjoy lying on your side in bed reading.  The Kindle is awkward to hold one-handed at that angle, it’s really better for reading when sitting upright.  The keyboard looks teeny, but the buttons are raised enough that typing is fairly easy.  Really, you’re not using the keyboard much anyways.

The Kindle is a bit fragile-the screen is “soft” and lacks and protection from other items that may be in your purse/bag.  The Canadian Amazon shop only has really limited (and really ugly) cases available-I ended up ordering mine off of Etsy from Seaside Sew, who allow you to customize your case with various types of fabric and closure and were really pleasant and quick to deal with! (Note:  The Kindle cover is custom, you have to email to enquire).

Features
Some nifty features included are the abilities to look up words (just use the toggle to move the cursor to the beginning of the word), highlight, make notes, and bookmark pages.  You can then view a list of these for each book.  It’s a great way to keep track of interesting quotes and passages-although for English students it really doesn’t substitute scribbling and dog-earing a book to death.

The current version of the Kindle can also read PDFs natively, which is where I came across a few issues.  It might have had something to do with attempting to put image based (versus text based) PDFs on the device, but I could NOT read the teeny and slightly blurry text from the documents I downloaded.  You can’t change the text size as you can with regular Kindle files either, which made the PDF compatibility basically pointless for me.

You can use MobiPocket Creator (there’s an excellent how-to video here) to convert PDFs to Kindle files-this worked much better for me (though image based PDFs don’t work with the creator).

Kindle Store
Ok, this is where I had A LOT of issues.  The US Kindle store boasts a library of 360,000 books, while the Canadian store has around 300,000 titles.  Clearly, Canadian publishers are not on board with ebooks (more specifically, the Kindle).  If you’re interested in purchasing the Kindle, be sure to search the store first to see if the books you want are actually there.  The 4 authors I searched for (Haruki Murakami, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, and Margaret Atwood) yielded 1 result in total (for Coupland’s JPod), while the US store contains many more titles (though still not an impressive amount) by the same authors.  This lead me having to search for *ahem* “alternative” modes of obtaining the novels I wanted (and making use of Mobipocket).  Only Freakonomics was available in the store out of my vast novel list.  As well, the Kindle, unlike competitors such as the Sony eReader, doesn’t allow you to purchase books from other ebook retailers-the Kindle uses a special file type so you really are limited (legally) to the Amazon shop.  Also, unlike the Barnes and Noble “Nook”, you can’t “lend” books to others to read-meaning if your friend wants to read the same book, they have to buy it themselves.  Some libraries in the US allow people to “check out” books using their ebook device-and I would LOVE to see an option like this in Vancouver in the near future.

Overall
I’d probably give the Kindle a 3/5.  It was great to have along while I was travelling and was definitely much better than carrying 2-3 books around with me.  However, I definitely wouldn’t dish out $300 for this (although it’s a fabulous gift to receive!) especially considering the limited selection of books available to Canadians.  It is a pretty new technology though, and I’m certain that in a couple of years prices will go down and more publishers will be on board.  If this is the future of reading, I’ll definitely welcome it in.

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