Over the last few months I’ve been playing extensively with the new Amazon Kindle 2. In today’s post I’ll share some of my conclusions after quite a long period of constant usage. Since there already tons of technical reviews on the internet, I will will focus more on the day to day usage and on the insertion points on my daily routine, rather than talking about too much geeky stuff. But since we’ll be talking about a gadget, I will shortly go through some of the most important technical highlights of it.
Kindle 2 – The Gadget
Amazon Kindle 2 doesn’t have an LCD. Instead, it uses something called electronic ink, which basically means it will not have a backlight on the display. There is also a latency in browsing to a new page as well as changing the current screen (for the Home page or for the table of contents of the current book). Surprisingly enough, the screen is crispy and very comfortable. You must be in a suitably lighted space though.
The battery life was also a pleasant surprise. If not used, my Kindle 2 battery can last even a few weeks. If used intensively, the battery last at least 2 days in a row. For some reason I was not able to charge my battery using the original power outlet, but only by connecting it to the USB on my MacBook Pro. Might be something related to the voltage difference between US and Romania, but since the output it’s still a USB standard outlet, I doubt it’s that.
Kindle 2 is gaining huge points at usability. There are buttons on each side for next and previous page. The left side has 2 buttons, the up one is for Previous page and the button underneath is for the Next page. On the right side, the upper button will take you to the Home and the button underneath will trigger a Next page. I find it very convenient, since I’m right handed and browse forward with my right hand and backward with my left hand.
One very interesting feature is the table of contents for properly formatted books. I know this is not a Kindle 2 per se feature, and it’s coming from the ebook format, but I still find it very convenient. i have quite a number of technical books in my Kindle 2 and I go back and forth from the table of contexts to a specific chapter. If it’s a self-improvement book or a literature book I don’t do this so often, but on technical books I jump around quite often.
Which brings me to the annotations feature. Kindle 2 has a small keyboard on the bottom and although the keyboard shares the same color with the rest of the box, and I mean white, I find it easy to work with. If I would treat the Kindle 2 as a computer, the keyboard will be small, but if I’m using it as a book, the keyboard has just about the right size.
One annoying thing about Kindle 2 is the fact that I can’t change the font settings. I’m using it in Romania, where I obviously don’t have access to the Whsipernet network, so I can’t actually register it via mobile. It seems the settings are locked down by this registration, since every time I try to change fonts it keeps asking me to register my device.
And that leads to another important aspect of the Amazon Kindle 2: getting the actual books in it. Once connected to my MacBook Pro, it appears as a regular device, mounted below the hard disk. I can copy and paste from and to it whatever I want. However, the books must be in a proper format (and that would be .mobi) in order to be recognized.. Fortunately, Amazon provides an email service for converting .doc or .pdf documents into .mobi and it works pretty good. Basically, all the books I have on my Kindle 2 are generated this way: emailed to the email converting service at Amazon and then copied from the laptop to the device.
Note: at the time of writing, Amazon Kindle DX, featuring a screen of 9.7 inches and auto-rotation was just launched. Although I don’t plan to replace soon my Kindle, if you didn’t get one for you, maybe that would be a good moment. Amazond Kindle 2 costs 359 USD and Amazon Kindle DX cost 489 USD, but apparently it has as much as double storage space compared with Kindle 2.
Amazon Kindle 2 Insertion Points
As opposed to my iPhone, which is an almost ubiquitous device in my life, the Amazon Kindle 2, has less insertion points. I don’t use it all the time, it has different attention needs from my part. But when I use it, I do it for at least 30 minutes.
I read books whenever I got the chance. If I know I’ll be staying in some place longer than 1 or 2 hours I always carry it in my backpack. Once I’m done with all my twittering, email checking and browsing with my iPhone, I can safely revert to a much more relaxing activity like reading.
Kindle 2 proved to be a fantastic asset on my recent trips to Japan and New Zealand. Staying in a plane for more than 10 hours in a row (and doing this for 4 times in less than 2 weeks) can be quite a stressful experience. Introducing Amazon Kindle 2: I always carry it with the GSM antenna switched off, so it doesn’t really count as a phone. I can switch it on a few minutes after taking off and keeping on until we’re ready to land. It’s better than inflight entertainment, that’s for sure.
Most of the time I use my Amazon Kindle 2 in the afternoon, during Bianca’s sleep and sometimes in the evening. Reading before going to bed is also something that I should really like to do, if I would not spend that time taking care of my blog. Because of the time difference between my readers and myself I always find that the action on my blog starts in the afternoon and ends late in the night.
But once I’m done with the conversational mood, I find quite a little bit of pleasure taking my Kindle 2 and reading some fine piece of literature or self-improving text.
All in all, despite its drawbacks, Amazon Kindle 2 is a gadget with a clear place in my space.