I bought my wife a Kindle 2 a few months ago, when the refurbs were on sale for ~$100. She reads a TON, so I had been eyeing them for a while, and jumped on it when they hit a more comfortable price-point. After trying to finagle some free e-books onto the device (not a great experience), I finally caved and purchased an e-book from Amazon. I bought Making Ideas Happen, which was recommended recently by my friend Chris Freeland.
As expected from Amazon, the masters of online purchasing, the buying experience was seamless. I purchased the book from my computer (because I had Chris’ post in my Google Reader starred items) and chose to have it delivered wirelessly to the Kindle. Within probably 1 minute of clicking the ‘purchase’ button, the book arrived on our Kindle and we had an email confirmation in Christina’s inbox.
You can purchase books and other content directly on the Kindle, thanks to its built-in wireless. I personally find this a bit slow and clunky with the e-ink display, but I suppose if you knew what book you wanted, it wouldn’t be a horrid experience.
The Kindle 2 has a smaller 6-inch display which is a few inches smaller than a standard size book (or at least the ones I used to read). As such, I felt like I was buzzing through the content, since I was constantly pressing the ‘Next Page’ button. You can easily tweak the font to be smaller, thus fitting more in the space, so I suppose it’s just a matter of personal preference (and how good your eyesight is).
The e-ink display is perfect for reading books and other printed content. Because it has no backlight, you can read it in just about any lighting or situation with no issues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a backlight, so like a book, you won’t be reading in the dark without a USB clip-on light or something. The display is more-or-less grayscale, and even the background is darkened, much like a normal page in a book. It’s really an entirely different experience than the brightly-lit LCD and OLED displays that I’m used to looking at, and I noticed that my eyes didn’t hurt after extended use, as well.
To get an idea of how much better (or worse) this e-ink display was, I installed the Kindle for Android application on my Nexus One. Granted, this is a MUCH smaller screen (3.7-inches), but I wanted to compare the readability of OLED vs e-ink. After about half an hour on my Nexus One, it became abundantly clear why people prefer e-ink. Of course, the Kindle for Android app lets you adjust the display a bit, but there’s still no real comparison.
One drawback to e-ink, though, that did, admittedly, get rather frustrating, is its refresh rate – that is, the quickness (or lack thereof) with which it is able to change things on the screen. Once you click the ‘Next Page’ button, expect to wait about 1/2 second before you can continue reading. Similarly, using other features, which I’ll talk about shortly, becomes a painfully slow process. In a world where digital toys continue to move faster and faster, it’s quite odd to see something move so slow. However, after a few page-turns, I rather appreciated this sluggishness – books shouldn’t be blown through, but rather read slowly. It’s almost like a built-in brake for us Internet-speedy-types, and I like it.
Yes, there is a social aspect to reading books on the Kindle, but it’s so subtle, you’re not likely to get distracted by it (which is *just* barely the acceptable level of interaction needed when reading). For starters, there’s a social highlighter feature. As you’re reading a book on the Kindle, you’ll see various places that have a *very* light dotted line, along with text such as ’37 highlights’ beneath it. This tells you how many other people who’ve read this book have underlined that specific text. Odds are, it’s something you want to either re-read a few times, or highlight yourself. These ‘suggested’ highlights are so light, I almost missed the first one – you can also turn them off completely if you want, but I found it really helpful as I was reading.
There is also a more active social aspect if you want to share a portion of text with your social network of choice. I haven’t set this up, mainly because I want to be reading and not worrying about Twitter or Facebook, but it’s there, nonetheless (and it might be handy here or there).
I used to read a ton of books when I was younger – mostly spiritual authors such as John Eldredge, Donald Miller, Brennan Manning, C.S. Lewis, and the like. I would go through five or six books a year, taking notes in the sidebar and underlining all over the place. I have a bookshelf in my office full of books, most of which I’ve read a few times over. Since technology gripped my soul, I haven’t really taken the time to really read a book like I used to.
I honestly don’t know if the Kindle would change that or not. I’m going to finish reading ‘Making Ideas Happen’ on it, and see what I think. Already, I’m enjoying the device itself – it’s super thin and light, feels solid in your hand, I could, theoretically, carry my entire bookshelf on it. The battery life is insane, too, though that’s not surprising with a monochrome display.
Overall, I’d say the experience matched my expectations dead on. There are some sacrifices (battery-powered, slow screen refresh, etc), but there are also some big wins (small and light, easy on the eyes, social highlighting, easy purchase). It’s a bit of an investment up front (I got this Kindle 2 for $100, but they normally go for $139-189, depending on the model). I can say without a doubt that I wish I’d had one of these in high school and college, when I was lugging around monstrous textbooks that I often couldn’t sell used because there was a ‘new edition’. The upfront cost would quickly have been covered by the convenience.
Have you tried an e-book reader? What’s your take?