Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2 Thoughts

Kindle 2
Having been an avid Kindle user since it came out, I immediately upgraded to the Kindle 2 when it became available. It arrived today.

There are plenty of unboxing videos and reviews already on the Web, so I am not going to do an in-depth review. I am just going to share some thoughts.

- The new five way control button. It is slower than the previous scroll wheel for moving up and down within menus and books, but definitely useful for moving sideways in the browser, in some of the pop-up boxes, and for use with the updated highlighting feature which actually works like true highlighting!

- The expanded support for conversion of personal document types including Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI documents is a welcome addition.

- The text-to-speech option which is "interesting" to listen to. I found the female voice, slowed down one notch, was the most pleasant to listen to. I can see using this function while hooked into the aux jack in the car or on the deck after sunset in the summer.

- The new experimental Web browser is great! It is more like a real browser in how it functions, and the 16 shades of gray make the images much, much clearer. Using the mobile versions of Facebook and Twitter, I was able to read and post, so my PLN is available to me while I am reading on the Kindle, too!

- The note-taking feature is easier to get to and the new keyboard works just fine, although I liked the tilted keys on the thumb board of the previous version a bit better. There is also no @ key on the keyboard, and it takes an extra step to get to it on the symbol button.

- Audible books can be loaded in the top two qualities (4 and enhanced) only, which means they take up more of the internal storage space than the lesser quality spoken word files. (This info is from Amazon's site. Audible seems to allow one to download formats 2, 3, 4 and enhanced, but I have not tried it.)

- Being able to load MP3 files directly into the internal storage is much easier than having to put them on an SD card and re-insert it each time in the back of the previous version. (Update: You can also move from MP3 file to MP3 file on the Kindle 2, whereas on the first version you had to just play them all without any control other than on and off.)

- The 3G network connection is speedy. And the page turns seem speedier.

- The smaller buttons make it easier to hold without turning pages, especially since I do not use the leather cover and hold the coverless Kindle while reading, opting for a zippered Belkin case to keep the Kindle clean and protected.

- There is still a "flash to black" as the electronic ink refreshes between pages. That's how electronic ink works, but after reading about 10 pages on a Kindle, you'll never notice that again.

- Oh, by the way, the Kindle 2, as with the previous version, does a super job of letting you carry lots of books with you and easily reading them! The electronic ink is never tiring to my eyes and the ability to use the Kindle in bright sunlight and other natural light is great!

Update March 3, 2009

Amazon releases the Kindle Reader for the iPhone and Touch!

iphone kindle appThe free Kindle app for the iPhone/Touch works great! With adjustable type sizes and some navigation options, it allows non-Kindle users to purchase books (via their computer or the browser on the device) from the Kindle bookstore and download them to their iPhone/Touch. This works both over 3G and the 802.11x connections.

For Kindle owners, it also does another cool thing-- it syncs your place in the book so, when you open the book on either device, it asks you if you want to move ahead to the place where you left off reading on the other device.

There is no widescreen support for the Kindle app (yet!), magazines and newspapers are not supported, you can add bookmarks, and you are able to read the notes you entered via your Kindle, but you cannot add new notes via the Kindle app.

I have read ebooks for years on small devices via Palm's Reader and with Windows CE/Mobile devices. The clarity of the iPhone/Touch screen makes the experience much more pleasant, but I do have to turn down the backlight so the reading is easier on my eyes. (At least this might extend the rather poor battery life of the iPhone!)

I would rather read an entire novel on the Kindle 2, but having the same books with me all the time for reference or relaxation is great!

Added: 4/19/09

One commenter asked about the number of Audible recordings the Kindle 2 would hold if he had no books on the device. (The original Kindle had an SSD card slot, so you were only limited by the size of the SD card.) The answer to that question needs some explanation as to how Audible works. Audible offers its audiobook recordings in different quality formats. The Kindle 2 can play formats 2, 3, or 4, with format-4 being the best quality.

I chose a title, Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country", to use for determining the answer to this question. Bryson's print book is 352 pages in length. Audible's format-2 of his book is 46mb in file size, format-3 is 86mb, and format 4 is 172mb. That seems to indicate that, on the Kindle's 2GB storage drive, you could have forty-five format-2 Audible recordings, twenty-four format-3 recordings, or twelve format-4 recordings. (And of course, various numbers of the combination of the formats.)

According to these figures, each page of this print book takes up .13mb for format-2, .24mb for format-3, and .5mb for format-4. Does this hold true for all Audible recordings? I am not sure, but at least this gives the commenter some broad idea of how many Audible recordings would fit on the Kindle 2.