Kindle 2 impressions

Kindle 2 and Cappucino, originally uploaded by Eric Jeschke.

Key: R20091226-121619

Santa brought my wife a Kindle (v2) for Christmas this year. It’s been in her hands almost constantly, but in a brief moment I got a chance to play with it for a few minutes. Bear that in mind when you read my following initial impressions…

My first and overriding impression, as someone who owns an iPhone with the Kindle app installed on it, was how rudimentary the user interface is. Tiny plastic buttons and a rather fragile looking toggle are what you have to work with. No sliding, swiping, finger gestures for you! This alone seems like such a throwback and non-efficient UI.  If the Kindle just had a simple touchpad it would make a large difference in usability.

The e-ink screen, which is highly touted, also struck me as fairly primitive. It is grayscale, with only 16 levels of gray. I bought a copy of the New York Times to give it a test drive. My overriding impression was that my netbook was in the same ballpark in terms of size (but not thickness) and it was an order of magnitude more pleasurable to read the Times online on the color LCD display. Even the Times on the iPhone is better than this. And the Times on those devices shows video clips, color photos, etc. I’m not sure what the resolution of the Kindle is, but the layout of the Times was quite basic. While less cluttered sounds good in principle, I found that I did quite a bit more toggling and spending time navigating the stories on the Kindle UI than with the simple mouse click navigation on the web version.

The “WhisperSync” technology (essentially 3G) does not seem all that fast. Furthermore, on the Kindle you have to pay for the Times.
So the bottom line, as far as my electronic Times experience goes, is that it is faster, more colorful, more featureful, more easily navigated and free on the web. I’m certainly not above paying for online content, don’t get me wrong. But when the free experience seems so much nicer than the paid one there is something not quite right in Smallville.

Ditto everything I’ve just said for blog reading.

Now to be fair, I have not spent any time doing the main activity on the device that it was designed for–reading chapter books. I suspect that for that purpose it may be superior due to the low contrast screen (for long reading periods), the excellent battery life and the lack of pictures in the material.

It is interesting to see where this is going. I could see that with a higher-res color screen and a better UI this kind of device could explode in popularity way beyond the early adopter crowd. Let’s see what Apple throws out next year for v1.0. I’m sure Apple’s new tablet will turn the market on its ear if they manage to strike a deal with publishers for this kind of e-reader functionality (through iTunes, of course–man is that getting bloated, but that’s another story). I hear their stock is soaring right now…

2 thoughts on “Kindle 2 impressions

  1. An interesting take on the Kindle, Eric. My wife loves her Kindle, but you bring up some valid points. She reads chapter books only. I’ll be interested to see what Apple comes out with, but what will be more interesting, for me, is to see who they partner with. Nearly every major bookstore already has a partnership with someone.

  2. Yes, and for once they are not first out of the gate with the successful product. The Kindle is a nice success, by any measure. Also, publishers have the hindsight of seeing how apple has managed the relationships with the record and movie industries. With the Kindle and Nook (Barnes and Nobles offering) available as a viable alternative, they (the publishers) have more options.

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