Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

How well does Amazon's Kindle reproduce the printed version, especially non-standard elements?
May 17, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I know Kindle doesn't do color, and I've read that photographs leave a little to be desired. I'm curious how well Kindle does with other graphics and unusual formatting.

For example, I noticed that Stephen Colbert's "I am America (and So Can You!)" is available for Kindle. This book has a lot of non-standard items, such as various charts, line drawings, "torn out" newspaper articles, corporate logos, images of type-written pages, mazes and games, hand-written text, and stickers. It also has frequent notes along the side margins, and makes extensive use of the color red for effect and emphasis.

Obviously, most books aren't going to be as heavy on this kind of thing as this one, but there are also a lot of magazines available which will have a lot of charts and other graphics. I wonder whether a reader misses out on much with a Kindle version of a magazine or book that goes beyond plain text in its formatting. More specific questions include...

1. Are fonts and page layout preserved pretty well, including things like margin notes and footnotes?
2. How well are items that aren't plain text reproduced?
3. Does Kindle do anything to distinguish items that were color in the printed version?
4. When something can't be reproduced (such as a page of stickers), is there at least some reference to it so the reader knows what isn't there?
5. On the other side of the question, does a Kindle version of a book ever include anything the printed version doesn't?

Thanks!
posted by sjthomp to Technology (6 answers total)
 
I don't own a Kindle, but the MobileRead Forums are a good resource.
posted by sharkfu at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2008


I own a Kindle and the answer to this question is really -- it depends. Sometimes elements of the books are reproduced quite faithfully and sometimes they're gone without a trace. I was very disappointed when I downloaded a copy of Flatland from Amazon (without realizing that I could get it for free from Gutenberg or manybooks.net) and found that the cute illustrations of the people of Flatland was missing. That's pretty much half the charm of the book. I only paid a few cents for it so I wasn't out much money but I think they should have done better quality control for something they expect people to pay for. Other books, especially recent bestsellers have done their best to reproduce all the elements of the book in some form or other. For example, I recently bought Getting Things Done for the Kindle and was pleased to find all the charts, little mind map illustrations etc. reproduced in the Kindle version.
My general rule for Kindle purchases is: try the sample chapters first, which are available for most books on Amazon, except for the really cheap, old books. Those books are usually available for free from mnybks.net anyway.
In general I don't buy heavily illustrated books, or books that have stickers or other sort of interactive media for the Kindle. For example, the Griffin and Sabine trilogy of books features postcards and letter (in pasted in envelopes). Since the whole point of such books is opening those envelopes and getting that little thrill you get when you open a letter, there wouldn't be much point buying it for the Kindle. In general, Amazon is careful about what books it publishes for the Kindle and doesn't try to publish books it knows it couldn't make a good job of.
But I would like to say that I've been really happy with the purchase. More than anything else I love the feeling of being able to read about a book somewhere on the Internet and start reading it a few minutes later. Illustrations, though black and white, are usually very good quality. I especially love looking at black and white line drawings on the Kindle. But think carefully about the sort of books you usually read -- if design books and cookbooks are your thing, the Kindle would not be a worthwhile purchase.
posted by peacheater at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2008


Fonts and page layout are usually not preserved at all. The idea is that fonts can be resized at will, so preserving page layouts would be pretty much impossible. Footnotes usually appear in the text at the point where the reference to them would be with an asterisk.
posted by peacheater at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2008


> Footnotes usually appear in the text at the point where the reference to them would be with an asterisk.

I've read quite a few books with footnotes on my Kindle and that has not been my experience with any of them. All footnotes I've seen are represented by linked (underlined) asterisks that lead to separate pages at the very end of the document for each footnote.

> 5. On the other side of the question, does a Kindle version of a book ever include anything the printed version doesn't?

Sometimes there's an extra page or two about ebook licensing, but otherwise no.
posted by hjo3 at 12:54 PM on May 17, 2008


I've read quite a few books with footnotes on my Kindle and that has not been my experience with any of them. All footnotes I've seen are represented by linked (underlined) asterisks that lead to separate pages at the very end of the document for each footnote.

Now that you mention it I have seen that footnote style as well. But there have definitely been books with footnotes in the text as well.
posted by peacheater at 4:07 PM on May 17, 2008


I have a Kindle as well. I have purchase quite a few history books (for instance, The Coldest Winter about the Korean War) and I find the size and quality of the maps is lacking -- I wish there were a way to zoom in and out on illustrations. Photos are often hard to make out as well.

Even so, I am almost 100% reading on my Kindle these days. I like the option of downloading a sample of the book and then deciding to buy or not. I like having a lot of books with me. I read a lot (up to a book a day at times) and when I travel, carrying print versions gets heavy/cumbersome.
posted by elmay at 8:12 AM on May 18, 2008


« Older I'm looking for good sources o...   |  I need to compare construction... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.