I’ve wanted one of these – or something like it – since I first heard about “eInk” book readers a couple of years ago. I have gotten used to reading things off a screen but the promise of something that was a bit more like paper, but with the searchability and capacity of a small computer – that sounded good.
However as you may know it’s taken Amazon a while to offer the Kindle outside of the US. This largely has to do with the deal surrounding wireless/3G networks because one of Kindle’s big selling points is that you can purchase and download the ebooks directly onto the device. You can copy stuff over from a computer but there’s no need to.
So anyway I’ve had my new gadget for a couple of weeks and have read one complete novel on it (Juliet, Naked) and here’s my thoughts:
- It’s light and small
- It looks nice
- It has a decent amount of memory (2Gb)
- It has a simple interface with the PC – basically it appears as a USB drive and adding to your library is as simple as copying files across. (Some might have hoped for more sophisticated ‘helper’ software but for me that would have just meant hunting for a linux equivalent.)
- There’s a free service to convert documents to the native format – though it understands text and .mobi ebook format.
- It will play mp3s and a few other audio formats.
- It has a text-to-speech feature
- the look of the ‘paper’ is good but not great. It’s essentially dark grey on light grey so you need a decent amount of light, more so than a black-on-white paper book.
- the controls are fiddly to use physically
- the controls are non-intuitive in terms of what they do
- ebooks from Amazon are still quite expensive. Juliet, Naked was cheaper than the immediate alternative – buying a physical hardback, but not by much and certainly if I’d waited for the paperback.
- the selection isn’t great. Amazon are selling out of their US store so what there is is a little US-centric. Also some titles, although available in kindle form are not for sale to us non-USans. Most of the 40-something titles I’ve loaded on so far are classics from Project Gutenberg.
- the text-to-speech feature is an interesting curiosity. I can’t imagine using it for any length of time. (“back-quote hello she said.”)
I thought I’d be distracted by the turning of a page – the eInk takes a second or so to refresh which means when you turn the page it ‘flashes’ black for a visible amount of time. It turns out it’s not too bad because it’s not that frequent. I also found I slightly missed the physical feel of a real book – which I wouldn’t have thought about myself.
Overall it’s not perfect. There are some technical challenges to overcome and some organisational ones. I’m hopeful that the prices will come down and the availability/range will go up in time (they plan to sell out of amazon.co.uk at some point). It’s possible a software update will at least ease some of the controls issues. I’m happy with my purchase whilst realising it has its flaws.
8/10 – a nice thing to have if you like gadgets and like reading.