What are your thoughts on the kindle?
November 12, 2008 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Those of you who own a kindle, what are your thoughts? Is it worth making the jump to digital? Staring at a computer screen for hours on end isn't my forte but i am looking for a different solution to going to the library and checking out a book every week

They say it has a high resolution but don't actually list what it is so i'm a little leery of that. just need some help deciding if it's worth making the jump to digital yet.
posted by no bueno to Technology (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Kindle and love it. I don't use it as a library substitute (libraries being free and all); for me it's great for traveling (both locally and out of town trips) because having it is so much easier than carrying around a bunch of books, especially as I read fast and have eclectic tastes - with my Kindle I don't have to decide to haul either an escapist novel or a big non-fiction tome because I can have both!

The resolution is lovely. It is not back-lit like a computer screen so you need light to read it (just like a book) and I find it very easy on the eyes.

I still love regular books (it's not a replacement for me, because some books are better in print), but the Kindle has made waiting in lines or for appointments so much better and I always have something to read at lunch. A bonus - you can seal the Kindle in a freezer ziploc and read it near the water!
posted by pointystick at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2008

I'm currently considering a Sony PRS for use with ReaderPlates. The Sony PRS series is cheaper than the Kindle and seems comparable in terms of reading features, maybe even better (of course the Kindle was the wireless connection, etc. that the Sony lacks). Another comparison.

The PRS-700 is coming out Friday - it has a backlight and supposedly is faster than the current PRS-505. I reckon after that, there will be a buyer's market for the used copies of the 505.
posted by exogenous at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2008

Staring at a computer screen for hours on end isn't my forte

It's nothing like staring at a computer screen. It looks pretty much like paper in a normal book. As pointystick mentioned, it is not backlit.

Amazon's page on the Kindle has a lot of videos to watch so you can see it. I think it might be helpful.
posted by Nattie at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2008

I found the Kindle to be a little ungainly for my purposes. I've settled on the iPod Touch - it's got a great eReader app (free), there are thousands upon thousands of free ebooks (pdb format) and many more available for cheap purchase.

The screen is backlit so I can read in the dark, in bed, on a train, etc, and it slips into my pocket easily for reading while waiting for a show to start, or just killing 10 minutes before a movie. You can't do that with a Kindle.
posted by Aquaman at 8:19 AM on November 12, 2008

I dunno where you're looking; the Kindle page on Amazon clearly states it's a 6 inch (diagonally measured) display, 600x800 resolution at 167 ppi, 4 level gray scale.

Every indication is that devices like this or the Sony are much easier on the eyes than a computer screen. I think your larger question is whether you're going to be comfortable laying out $10 (on average) a week rather than that free check-out from the library, assuming that wasn't just hyperbole.
posted by phearlez at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2008

Here are a couple of previous Kindle Ask Mefi threads that may interest you.

I really am interested in one (or another e-reader), but will probably wait for the next incarnation.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2008

I love my kindle, read mostly free books on it, and use it's wireless feature to settle bar trivia questions. IMHO, the free lifetime of wireless net makes it a better choice than the sony by miles.
posted by nomisxid at 8:40 AM on November 12, 2008

Does anyone know if or when college text books will be available for the Kindle or similar type readers? This would seem to be an ideal use for it, and yet I doubt the textbook publishers would think so, from a financial POV.
posted by jvilter at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2008

I had a Sony, now I have a Kindle, I loved both of them (e-ink rocks!). I was an avid ready already, so this just fed my addiction.

I like the Kindle better than the Sony b/c of the wireless online store and keyboard to annotate, take notes, and search which was all that the Sony was missing to make it a killer device.

The latest version of the Sony that was just announced (PRS-700) has a virtual keyboard and side-lighting, so it's becoming a contender again with the Kindle. The last time I checked the Sony ebook store though it sucked (the interface) and the application that installs on your PC sucked too, which is disappointing for such a nice device.
posted by jpeacock at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

You may know this already, but if not, a new version of the Kindle is in the works. (I was hoping it would have debuted before Xmas, as I'd love one, but eh.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2008

It's great if you actually want to purchase books online via Amazon.com and read them. Converting PDF's to read is possible but they lose a lot of formatting information and it make it a bit painful. Checking e-mail on it via mobile gmail works, but is sort of difficult. Getting news and rss feeds from online with the internet connection is really great. things with pictures and images take a bit longer to load than expected. I think they have a 30 day money back trial, still. There are a lot of other ebooks available

so, get it if you like being able to take a lot of books with you and read them. don't get it for it's extra features like internet browsing. however, the internet anywhere via built in cellphone connection and no monthly fee is cool if you need to look up something quickly on wikipedia or check the weather. (or read rss feeds)

screen resolution is good, meaning not pixelated fonts. it's easy on the eyes, and not backlit which is important.
posted by kindel at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2008

We just returned a trial Kindle -- I liked it, but not enough to justify paying >$300 for it.

My likes:

* the screen really is nice, and reading on the Kindle is nothing like staring at a computer screen for hours.
* the form factor is pretty cool -- it's thin, light, and really manageable.
* the on-screen fonts are pleasing, enough so that I never got the eye strain I can get when I'm reading a book set in some godawful annoying font that makes my brain think about it rather than the content of the book. (I hate those books, and those publishers.)

My dislikes:

* pretty much every inch of the entire left and right edges of the Kindle are taken up by buttons, so it's very hard to handle the thing without clicking one of those buttons by accident and turning the page or some such function. I'm frankly surprised that this isn't something talked about more in reviews, since it was my main frustration with the Kindle, and was the main frustration of the handful of other folks I know who have or have used a Kindle.
* the UI is slow, slow, slow, slow. Specifically (but not solely) there were times when turning the page forward would take 1/2 a second or longer -- doesn't sound like a lot, but it certainly felt like a lot when I was burning through a captivating book reading it like I would a paper one. This problem actually led to more problems, as I found that I would unconsciously start modifying my behavior, sometimes clicking "next page" before I had finished the page I was on, trying to anticipate that sweet spot when the Kindle would change pages just as I was finishing... which inevitably led to missing the mark or other annoyances. To me, an e-reader needs to have the whole next-page thing down; that's its main forte.
* the DRM is annoying. I hate only quasi-owning the books I read; maybe I'm old-fashioned like that, but I'm a book person, and not having true ownership of the book pisses me off. I wanted to share the first book I read on the Kindle with a friend and found myself angry that I couldn't.
posted by delfuego at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have one, and think it's fantastic. I travel a lot, and it saves loading my bag down with books. The wireless delivery of new titles (without the need to dock it with a computer) is also a real boon; more than once I've browsed in a bookstore at the airport to kill time, then downloaded the book(s) I want to the Kindle.

I won't stop buying 'real' books altogether. Technical books are still better viewed on paper (diagrams aren't great on the Kindle as, for starters, it only has four shades of grey), and there are a handful of authors whose stuff I will always want in hardcover. But for most titles it's just as good as the real thing, and they're often significantly cheaper.

The only downside, really, is that because it's an electronic device I can't use it during flight takeoff and landing -- so I need to be sure to remember to stick a magazine in my bag for those times.
posted by littleme at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2008

I love my Kindle. I have hundreds of books on it.

It does not induce eye strain at all like reading books on the computer. One reason I would prefer it over the other ebook readers is because of the e-ink technology. Does not hurt my eyes like backlight.

I don't leave home without it now.
posted by nougat at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2008

people in my office love it for reading newspapers. people i know who travel a lot love being able to preload the thing before getting on the plane. friends who work in the e-news business are busy figuring out how to make their content kindle-friendly.
posted by micawber at 10:34 AM on November 12, 2008

I have a Sony PRS-505. I've handled a Kindle and I hated the design, mainly because of the huge page-turning buttons delfuego mentions. I would recommend trying one out before buying. Ask around to friends and acquaintances to see if anyone has one.

On the other hand, the Kindle lets you browse the Amazon store, make purchases, and subscribe to newspapers and magazines without ever connecting the device to your computer. If you think you would use this feature a lot, then the Kindle is probably the best choice for you. (The Kindle's wireless only works in the USA, so if you live elsewhere or travel a lot, this feature may be of limited use for you. Also, make sure your home is in range of Sprint's wireless data network; there's a map on their site.)

The slow-refreshing screen is simply a consequence of the current state of the art in e-ink technology. There's little doubt among e-reader aficionados that e-ink screens will become much better over the next few years; research is progressing on faster refresh rates and even color screens. Frankly, you shouldn't buy any e-ink reader at this point unless you're comfortable being an early adopter, meaning that (like me) you want the device badly enough not to be bothered when better and cheaper devices come out in a few years.

Amazon has recently stated that the Kindle 2 will not be out until sometime in 2009, if that makes a difference for your decision.

As to your actual question, I love reading on my Sony (which has the same screen size and resolution as the Kindle). The e-ink screen is nothing like reading on a backlit LCD. I tried reading books on my tablet PC, but my eyes would get fatigued in 20-30 minutes. E-ink really is like reading print on paper, except that the background is light gray rather than white; it's roughly the color of newsprint made from recycled paper.

I hope this helps. Feel free to MeFi Mail me if you decide to consider the Sony Readers and have questions about them.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 11:22 AM on November 12, 2008

I found that the display is equivalent to reading cheap / low-quality newsprint. ie:

- lower contrast than a high quality good print (ie dark grey ink on light grey paper, instead of black on white)

- some artefacts on inspection, but not really an issue (the diminishment to font crispness from the pixelization is about the same as that of the ink bleed in low quality newsprint)

I find that low-quality newsprint is easy to read, and so is the e-paper.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2008

I think the "to Kindle or not" question boils down to your reading habits and how much you are willing to pay for books. I own a Kindle and I like it, but these days I am reading regular print books.

Advantages of Kindle:
- Readability is quite good, battery life is excellent, and it is fairly rugged. (I have taken it on a 4-day backpacking trip in the Sierras and on a camping trip to the Oregon coast).
- You can have 200 books with you at one time in a form factor the size and weight of one paperback. If you like to read a lot (I do), you read fast (I do), and you travel a lot (I used to), the Kindle is awesome because you have 200 books in the size/weight of one. IMHO, this is Kindle's biggest advantage.
- Selection of books is wider than other e-books such as Sony's reader or the 1st gen e-book I still own. You can go browse the Kindle store on Amazon to see if the books you like are available on Kindle.
- Price of books is less than other e-books and generally cheaper than hardcover. This is in contrast to my 1st gen e-book where the books were more expensive than hardcover. However, this is not as true (anymore) for paperbacks. You can check prices on amazon when you check availability and decide if the price of a book is acceptable or not for you.
- You can preview books for free by downloading a section of the book -- how much depends on the book -- in some cases it is multiple chapters. This has kept me from buying books that look interesting but that I find I don't really like :).
- Your books are always available from Amazon -- if you want to delete them from the Kindle for a while.
- You can add flash memory if the on-board memory isn't enough.
- You can surf the web for free -- it's slow and clunky, but if you're stuck somewhere with just the Kindle, you can access the Internet.
- It has a built-in dictionary so if you come across a word you don't know, you can look it up.
- It has a built-in clock so you know when it is time to shut down the Kindle and go to sleep :).

Disadvantages of the Kindle:
- Prices of content have increased -- you are looking at paying around $10 for a book only available in hard-cover and the new, undiscounted, paper-back price for a book available in paper-back. (This is the biggest downside for me).
- You don't really own the book so when you get done reading it, you cannot sell it back to your local used bookstore to fund more reading.
- The form factor is kind of ugly/clunky.
- Not all books that I want to read are available on Kindle.

If you do get a Kindle, I recommend getting another case for it. The case they ship with is not so good. I bought the slipcase from Waterfield (google "kindle case") and I have been very satisfied with it.
posted by elmay at 12:26 PM on November 12, 2008

Oh, one other disadvantage -- while the Kindle does have a greyscale screen and illustrations are re-printed, maps (such as the ones found in "The Coldest Winter" by Halberstam) and photographs are almost unintelligible. The resolution just isn't that good.
posted by elmay at 12:29 PM on November 12, 2008

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