I ordered the original Kindle the day it was released. I’d been dreaming of a device like that for years; a small, energy efficient tool optimized for reading long form writing. I’ve not been disappointed.
I ordered the iPad the day it came out. I ordered it for the iBookstore and the Kindle application. Adding color, email, web browsing, etc, to the ability to carry my whole library with me seemed like the next step in the logical chain. I’m still using it and its effectively replaced my laptop for travel use.
So I ordered a new Kindle (the cheapest version possible) the day it came out. It arrived yesterday. It’s exactly what I was hoping it would be. It’s small, light weight, has reasonable storage and an excellent e-ink screen. And buttons, blessed buttons!
I’ve realized that I do most of my reading online these days. Tools like Instapaper and Readability, even the reader function of the Safari browser make it possible for me to read long essays, articles and short stories quickly. The iPad is extraordinarily well suited for this. It works pretty well for book reading too, though not as well as I’d hoped. It’s much better than the original Kindle for reading books with illustrations, or for annotating texts. But its weight and size make it hard to curl up with hour after hour. And it can be hard on the eyes…
The Kindle e-ink display, especially the third generation display found in the latest batch of Kindles, is perfect for reading. It’s non-glare, high contrast, and there’s no sense of a display scanning when you use it. It’s monochrome, but that’s more of an asset than a liability when reading books or long essays. It’s very light. It has excellent battery life (though to be honest so do all the Apple devices). It’s a perfect secondary device, a back up for traveling, or for taking outside to read on the patio or around the pool.
It works just like you’d expect. No surprises, no issues. If anything it might be a little too light. I’m used to the heft of an iPhone or an iPad. They feel substantial. The new Kindle is so lightweight that I’m afraid to hold it with too strong a grip. It feels like it would snap. But the screen is awesome. And it quickly synced with my existing purchased and I was reading my newest one in just a few minutes.
And it has buttons. I decided to go with the cheapest possible model in part because it was cheap. This is a secondary tool with a specific usage case. I didn’t particularly care about the 3g access; I can use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot if that’s needed. I don’t particularly won’t a first generation touch e-ink screen. I’m not at all convinced that it’s going to work – the smearing from fingerprints is much more noticeable on my Kindle than it is on my iPhone or iPad for instance. And I’m not optimistic about the accuracy the new screen is going to have in tracking finger movements.
I just want a tool optimized for a specific task – reading novels. This has buttons to turn the page (which means you don’t have to move your hand around) and there are no accuracy issues to manage. It’s not great for annotations or highlighting, but the iPad is. Besides I hardly ever annotate a novel. I scribble up the margins (metaphorically speaking) on reference works – but I prefer to do that on iPad with its color display and larger screen.
The price is right too. Actually the price of both the Kindle and the entry level Kindle Touch are very interesting. Breaking the $100 barrier may mean that these become impulse items – stocking stuffers at Christmas. I expect it won’t be too long before there are vending machines selling these things in airports. For a reader this is a great option.
But as Steve Jobs said once, “people don’t read books anymore…” I don’t think the tablet makers are worried. And I expect that’s why Amazon seems to have put most of its eggs into the Kindle Fire rather than the e-ink devices it released this week.