On July 31st I gave in and pre-ordered one of the ‘latest generation’ Kindles (apparently it is NOT the Kindle 3). Until then a combination of the price, lack of (easy) support for PDFs plus a slight uneasy feeling about it not allowing ePub had put me off but the new look and especially the new price tipped me over the edge.
It showed up on September 1st and I was immediately struck by how much smaller and lighter it was than I expected. I’d obviously read the specs but it is only once you have it in your hand that it becomes real. Despite the lightweight nature of it it feels solid and well made.
I went for the wifi only version and I managed to get it working with my flakey wireless in about one minute flat – it then automagically synced with my Amazon account (which was both cool & creepy at the same time) and I was able to immediately purchase or download free books. The whole bookstore process was so simple and quick I am glad I don’t have the 3G version or I’d be out of control with my book buying! I purchased Sleepless by Charlie Huston (inspired by a recent mention by Warren Ellis) and once the device was fully charged set about giving it a real-world run out.
I found the reading experience pretty amazing sat in my flat – the page transition is a little jarring at first but I soon got used to it, the bookmark option was easy to use, the feel of the device in my hand actually felt pretty natural, the weight in particular is about that of a paperback or manga title. The screen resolution was amazing – many times better than anything I’ve experienced on a computer – be it PC, Mac or Linux.
To give it a real test though you need to try it outside in the sunlight. Amazingly it was one of those rare Bristol summers days when the sun was shining so I decided to give it a true test. How would it cope in a pub garden 🙂
This was where it was a real revelation – I read a hundred or so pages sat in the bright afternoon sun and if anything it was easier to read than the paperback I had brought along for comparison. There was little if any screen glare and I didn’t feel my eyes straining at all (which is rare at the best of times).
I don’t have other eReaders to compare it to and I’m a month or so away from getting my iPad but I have to say I was very impressed. I do have a very specific use case for the device though – I want it for books. Not magazines, newspapers or blogs. Not email, RSS or Twitter. To be honest I’m thinking of making it a work free, fiction-only zone. Something I can take away with me that offers an escape from the always on nature of the rest of my digital life.
It isn’t without problems though – the small amount of titles I’ve downloaded so far are all pretty terrible from a page setting/layout point of view. Whether it is true or not the ‘books’ feel like they got a bit muddled in the conversion to the digital format. Also alot of books I expected to be able to find are not available – I’m sure this will change over time but at the moment it is a disappointment. The big problem is still the price of the eBooks – they are still too expensive given the the digital end-to-end solution they are using and while enhanced, interactive eBooks may be the future these are essentially poorly layed out text files and they should be cheaper. I think that will happen in time and personally for now at least the novelty and convenience will prevent me from complaining too hard. That won’t last forever though.
So will this very positive experience led me to buying less ‘real’ books? I doubt it. I still love bookstores, secondhand ones in particular plus I buy ALOT of graphic novels and the Kindle is far from a natural home for them (the iPad *might* be a different story.) Will it lead me to buy more titles in general? That seems inevitable! Much of my taste hovers around the obscure & pulpy end of genre fiction and as more of these titles become available it seems likely my occasional passing urges to revisit certain authors will no longer pass unfulfilled. Might be a problem for the bank balance actually..