Last night I finally bought a Kindle. I’m still a little surprised myself, because I’d pretty much talked myself out of buying one for good, or so I’d thought. I’ve got the Kindle app on my iPhone and my Macbook. Why would I buy a dedicated device? I want an iPad – which surely is as good as a Kindle, and does a whole lot more. Why would I buy something that serves the same purpose but doesn’t do as much?
What would even have me at the store looking at the thing anyway? It doesn’t have a color screen. It doesn’t have a touch screen, and it barely browses the web. Next to an iPad or even an iPhone it’s about as sexy as yesterday’s oatmeal. Even as I was paying for the thing, I was asking myself what it would have that would make me want to keep it.
Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.
It started with reading. Really, my lack of reading. There was a time when I was reading a book a week, but for several years now I haven’t read hardly a book a year. My old habit of reading when I went to bed had died somehow, years ago. Because I read less at home, I’m less likely to be reading on my PDA during nearly every empty moment. Last January one of my goals was to read more, and I found myself putting that same goal down for 2011, but I think I read less now than I did last January.
So I started to think about when I’d last read a lot and what had changed since then.
One big change was that I had been using a Palm TX to read. I remembered that when I was using eReader on the Palm I read quite a lot. The Palm had many flaws, but it was actually a pretty good reading machine. eReader had auto scroll, so I could lie in bed, prop the Palm up on a pillow, and only touch it every few moments to tweak the auto scroll speed. It was pretty sweet, and I read a lot of books that way. I got used to buying eBooks, and used to not buying paper books. Living in a small house space was at a premium and several times I’ve had to cull my paper book collection. When I’m taking books in to sell them at Half Price Books I can’t help but ask myself why I bought them in the first place. With ebooks I know I won’t have to get rid of them some day, so there’s no temptation to look for a used copy or waiting for the paperback.
When I switched PDA’s, first to a Blackberry (no eReader client back then) the cycle was broken. I was left with no way to read the ebooks I had, but still had a resistance to buying paper books. I tried to use the Palm as just a reader, but it’s battery life is just too short without the routine charging that comes from syncing to home and work PCs. With no syncing, it was always dead when I needed it. I made it work for a while, but eventually I drifted away.
Later when I ended up with the iPhone I figured I’d get back into using eReader. I did, a bit, but it wasn’t the same. eReader just didn’t have the selection that Amazon has, so I ended up buying more books at Amazon (also because I thought I might get a Kindle some day), the Kindle iPhone app doesn’t auto scroll, and maybe my eyes are just too old for a small screen.
So maybe something new would do the trick. I thought about the Nook, but since I’ve already got many Kindle books and I like the Amazon buying experience, I decided to give the Kindle a try. Here’s my view so far:
Turning pages is better on the Kindle.
Turning pages is a very critical feature for any reading appliance. If it’s not easy and reliable enough to do without thinking about it, it disrupts the reading experience. eReader once again put auto scroll in their app on the iPhone – the first version didn’t have it – so for those books life is good. Kindle on the iPhone, however, doesn’t have it.
Turning pages on the iPhone isn’t smooth or solid. I have to tap the right side, or worse, swipe the right side. It’s a small thing but with the small iPhone screen it’s something that has to be done every 20 seconds or less. I drives me to make the text smaller so I don’t have to turn pages so often, which leads to another set of problems.
The Kindle has a bigger screen, so I turn pages less often. More importantly though is that it’s a simple click with excellent tactile feedback. I know when I’ve done it. I never have to re-click because I mis-clicked. On the iPhone it’s just not as positive. I can do it one handed, with either hand, and without feeling like I’m going to drop it. It’s about as good as it can be without auto scroll. I thought the page turn delay of about a second would irritate me, but so far it hasn’t.
Reading in bed is better with the Kindle.
The key to pleasant bed time reading is being able to read without any part of your body being stressed. Nothing in a strained position, at an awkward angle, or getting numb. Everything relaxed.
I have to hold the iPhone. It refuses to stay propped up where I put it and slips and slides instead. It’s annoying – if I get it positioned so I can see it and page turning is easy, my arms are strained. If I’m comfy, the phone is sliding around or I have to keep lifting an arm to turn pages.
A Kindle in its case can be set up like an easel. A hand rests on top of it while lying on my side, with the page turning buttons conveniently close under the thumb, and nothing is strained. Easy reading, easy clicking.
Power management is an open loop.
Those who’ve followed David Allen’s books will know what I mean by an open loop – it’s a source of worry, something that taps brainpower because it’s an unsolved problem. When I read on the iPhone I feel like I’m on borrowed time. I know that if I turn up the brightness to get a good contrast ratio I will kill the thing in short order. so I turn it down. I know that when I’m done reading I will feel compelled to go plug the phone in so it’s charging lest it be dead when I need it. I can’t just set it down when I’m done reading. If I’m traveling my decision to read is influenced by my proximity to power outlets. I can’t enjoy a book as much when I feel like reading it is potentially going to put me in a jam later.
The Kindle isn’t anything but a book. I don’t have to worry about not being able to call someone if I kill it, which is unlikely anyway. It’s so power efficient that for most trips just making sure it’s charged before I leave will be enough if it has even half its advertised battery life. The battery life is long enough I can treat it like a paper book and not worry about managing it.
A few more things…
- The screen is easier to read than I thought it would be. I think there may be something to the allegations that eInk is easier to read than LCD.
- The weight is about at the max. I don’t think I could read a lot on an iPad, it’s twice the weight of the Kindle. The Kindle is just light enough for one-handed reading. Not to say I wouldn’t love an iPad, just that for reading I don’t think it will be as nice.
- The lack of a backlight is no big deal. I bought the lighted Kindle case and it works pretty well. I think a better light could be had, but probably not a more convenient one.