My thoughts on the kindle: 1 vs 2 and the iphone app
Posted on Mar 08, 2009
First things first: The Kindle is awesome
I read a lot. I am not like those crazy people who read a book a day or anything, but i have been reading up to about 2 books a week for the past few years. They are not crazy books, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but they are not small books. I read to chill out. My day pattern is to go to work, work, get home, nap, hang out with hiromi, play computer and then read until i fall alseep. The reading part is VERY important to get my mind and body to a place where I can actually sleep. Needless to say, I take my reading seriously.
I ordered an original Kindle way back when they first came out. I was back-ordered for quite awhile. It was enough time for me to question whether or not I would like the device. Luckily, my friend edith was also in the same place - she and i chatted incessantly about what the future would be like with the Kindle. It was a bright future.
I ended up getting it around mid january 08. The first book I read was Terror by Dan Simmons. That is a serious business book. I had started the hardcover of the book earlier in the month and finished it on the kindle. That was my test. It was successful. Although i hated the fact that kindle pages and paper pages don't really line up - the experience was the same. I was able to read fast and was able to forget about the buttons and terrible design of the kindle (like Zach Klein said - it looked like the consumer electronics version of the Pontiac Aztec).
After Terror, I read the appropriate Diamond Age by Neal Stephenon. I felt that I was closer to the "Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" than I had been before. I was reading books on an electronic device that was hardy, easy to use and quick. I was able to give it a seemingly unlimited amount of content and could use it for quite some time without a battery change. Like I said above - it is awesome.
Around this time I discovered the dark and scary underworld that is ebooks on the internet. There is an awesome community of people surrounding ebooks. They are involved with liberating DRM'd ebooks, converting from one format to another, uploading mass libraries of free ebooks, cataloging ebooks, etc etc. It is awesome. If you are interested in free content - there is an almost unlimited amount of free content that is compatible with the Kindle available online. There is also an unlimited amount of pirated books too. They are harder to find and I feel terrible when I find them (I apparently would rather pay authors than musicians. hah). One thing i noticed while I was experimenting with ebooks - technical manuals and what not don't render as well as non-technical books. I think it has to do with the number of diagrams and tables. They don't render terribly - but often are not nearly accurate to what i imagine the author intended.
How you get the ebooks to the kindle is part of the magic. The kindle has what Amazon like to call the whispernet. It is, as far as i can tell, a sprint EVDO modem built into the device. Amazon uses this to wirelessly deliver content to your kindle that you buy from amazon.com. Once again - it is awesome. You click on a book in amazon and BAM - its on your kindle. You are not limited to using this JUST for amazon's content. You can do it with your own ebooks as well. All you need to do is register your email address with amazon and then send books to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. The books will appear on your kindle for a small cost ($0.10 i think). If you don't want ot pay for it, you can send the content to email@example.com and it will return the book in the kindle format. You can do this .txt, .pdf and .doc files easily.
The kindle file format is just the .MOBI ebook format. Which in turn similar to the .PRC ebook format. The Mobi file is a remnant from the Palm days. it is basically the Palm Database format that was used for various applications on the original palm platform. What this means is that all the ebooks that end in .mobi and .prc are natively compatible with the kindle. If you had purchased books for use with the mobipocket reader (an awesome ebook reader for windows), there is a good chance that they were .mobi files. You can copy those to the documents folder of your kindle (when you plug it in to your computer via USB) and they will show up in the book list without any work. This really opens up your options for cheap or free ebooks.
The trick then is to figure out how to convert pdf files and what not to well formed, well meta data'd .mobi files. This makes your kindle happy and allows you to continue to sort by author without having your email address be listed as the author.
I went a year reading just the Kindle. I read two paper books that were not available in a digital format during this time. It was interesting. I felt as though I needed to work out to lift the heavy hardcover books. The kindle makes you forget how heavy books can be. My arms are now wusses.
When the Kindle 2 was announced, i ordered two of them. One for me and one for Hiromi.
The kindle 2 is a huge improvement on the Kindle 1. It is thinner, better performing and a bit easier to use. It is not as easy to turn a page - but it is also not as easy to accidentally turn a page either. I like the new design. The optional leather case is amazing. It works VERY well. i was having to remove the leather case from the original when I would read it - i don't have that problem with the new one.
There are a lot of small software tweaks that have trickled their way to the Kindle 1 as well. They are separating out your uploaded content from the content that came from directly Amazon. I am also having a hard time finding things that are lost on the kindle. I suppose i could search - but i never think of that when I am looking for content. The interface on the Kindle 2 is much faster. The pages turn faster and the books load faster. The screen is amazing. I really like it. I don't like the fact that I can't easily turn off the wireless with a hardware switch. I liked being able to not interrupt my reading to turn wireless on or off.
All in all - the Kindle 2 is a huge improvment over the Kindle 1. If you are able to upgrade, do it. And then give your original kindle to someone close to you who wants one. That is the best plan.
Hiromi loves hers. I was worried that she wouldn't like it - but it turns out that it works very well for her. She likes the size and the ease of use. She took to it very quickly.
When I got my kindle 2 I was showing a couple of my coworkers some of the data about it. Specifically the whispersync stuff. I told them that I wouldn't be surprised if they released an iPhone app that allowed ebook reading on the Kindle. I based this on the success of the Stanza app. I stated to my buddies that I was only confused as to the strategy to release such an app, especially on how it could accidently stifle the Kindle 2 sales.
Then a couple days later the Kindle app was released. Like the Kindle - it is awesome. hah. With the Kindle app for the iphone and the Kindle, you are able to sync your placemarks on the books you are reading. You could read to a certain point in a novel while on your commute - then go to a meeting and pick up your iphone and continue reading from where you left off on your kindle. Then you coudl pick up the kindle and it would sync to where you left off on the iphone. That is cool. I tried it and it works. It is a bit wonky - but for the most part it works great. The only issue i have with the app is that it doesn't have ANY of the content that you upload via email. It is only amazon purchased content. Lame. I read a lot of "found" books and a lot of purchased books. An example is a series of books where 2-4 are in the amazon kindle store, but book 1 isn't. I find book 1 elsewhere and then buy 2-4. However, I can't read book 1 on my iphone. Only the kindle. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO. ;) I understand amazon's reasoning for this - and I don't expect it to change. I do wish i could push my emailed books into their cloud and handle them a bit better (with metadata, etc). I doubt that will happen.
If you read a lot and want a great reading experience, you should buy a kindle.