[Guest] Kindle Review

Through my internship at Brooklyn Public Library I did quite a bit of research on ebooks and the issues surrounding them for libraries. I am an iOS user, and have had mixed experiences getting ebooks onto my iPhone and iPad, so as part of my internship I built this page for BPL about digital media generally, with some ebook tips mixed in. So, this has become sort of a professional interest of mine now – I use Curated.by to grab all tweets, articles, etc related to ebooks for further research.

I was surprised when I got a call from my best friend Josh Mason saying that he was going to purchase a Kindle. He’s always been a book kinda guy, so I never thought he’d go for the ebook. I asked him to write a review from a non-librarian point of view so I could have an idea what the common user experience of this device is like. His thoughts are below. Follow Josh on Tumblr and Twitter for interesting things related to art and sound. NOTE: Josh is an artist and so approaches the world by examining the aesthetics of things. His insights are always eye-opening for me because of that fact.

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Right out of the box the Kindle 3 was ready to go. It came linked to the Amazon account which I purchased it through (with the option to unlink if you bought it as a gift for someone). I can’t remember the last thing I bought that was truly ready to go right out of the box. All that was included with the device was a usb/powercord and a quick start guide. Once the device powered up, the quick start guide seemed a bit useless. For someone who is even a little technologically inclined, this device was no problem to start poking around in. Plus, all the manuals were already loaded onto the device (who’d have thought). It’s no more complicated than a flip phone from 2000 and felt a lot like learning how to play a Gameboy.

One of thing things I liked about the Kindle was its physical presence. It was compact but big enough to still read. I could see how people would be annoyed by the fact that the screen goes black for a split second every time you turn a page. It does this so that the e-ink can reorganize itself for the next page. It might seem slow—but considering when you are done with a page you have to turn it in a real book, it doesn’t seem too bad. It reminds me a lot of reading a novel where you fold the left spread around to the back and hold it with one hand because you’re tired of using two or cramping your fingers. It also fits in the back pocket of my jeans, weirdly enough.

Click for a surprise!

I would say within 15 min., I had done and figured out all there is to do. Surfed the internet, figured out how to convert just about any ebook format to a Kindle friendly format, connected to Twitter and tweeted a passage from an Emerson essay. My device is equipped with only WIFI which seems to work well, although not as strong as my Macbook Pro or my iPhone. People seem up in arms about having 3G on everything—but really, how many books are you downloading? No one these days has enough time on their hands that they need constant contact so they can download something when they need it. I guess if you were getting magazine or newspaper subscriptions it would make sense to pay the extra balloons for 3G. Otherwise, there is a WIFI hotspot like, every 5 min in any direction.

The problems I have with is so far lie in the navigation—which is only exacerbated by the fact that I deal with the graphical organization of information for a living. One thing I have gotten used to in other forms of navigation is the ability to select your way down a list and when you get to the end the cursor or highlight returns to the top of the list and can be endlessly repeated. With the Kindle you make your way down a list and that’s it. You have to start clicking back up a bunch of times to get back to the first of second menu item. In the end, it’s not a huge deal, just something that I might would have expected to be there.

The next issue I have with it is another “I have gotten used to it” thing. If you are reading a book that has a table of contents you can jump around in the book by selecting that chapter—but if the original book you are reading the eBook version of didn’t have a TOC, such as my personal favorite “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, you are crap out of luck. I want that to make sense, but it just doesn’t because we take stuff like being able to grab 50 pages at a time and flip to another chapter for granted.

But, one cool thing about the Kindle is that Amazon released the source code for it. This is good because it comes with a stock screen saver of images of everything from literary tools to book covers to famous authors. Bloggers and infonauts tend to agree that the image of Emily Dickinson provided is especially creepy.

So the obvious course of action? Dunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna nunna…

All in all I am pretty happy with it. All I wanted was to be able to read books anyway. All the extra stuff is just that. Extra. If you would like to be totally distracted from your book by the rest of the world, get an iPad. If you just want to read a have a solid device that does what it was designed to do and doesn’t fry your eyeballs, you can’t beat the K3.

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