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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kindle - the Best-Selling e-Reader in the World

Kindle, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology

Click on Kindle Wi-Fi @ $139
Click here to see the Kindle w Free 3G+Wi-Fi @ $189
Click here to view the Kindle DX 9.7" Display Free 3G+Wi-Fi @ $379

[Includes USB Cable for Charging. For International Shipment]

From a first time Kindle buyer - by C. Vincent

First off, I am a first time kindle buyer, so this review will be more geared to those buyers thinking of entering into the kindle market, not a comparison of past editions.

My first impression of the Kindle DX was that it was actually very small compared to what I expected. The entire device is slightly smaller (in height and width) than a piece of paper, with the screen taking up approximately 85-90% of the front. This was actually a nice surprise, since I wanted something very portable, but good for magazines/research articles. After seeing the size of the DX, I think a K2 would have been way too small for what I want. At the same time, the device is very hefty. Picking it up, it becomes almost tiring to hold up in one hand for too long (another reason I think this one is better geared toward short articles instead of extended novel reading). It has a nice solid feel to it, but for some reason I was expecting it to be lighter.

The kindle only takes a couple of seconds to power up and immediately goes to the last article you were reading. A row of buttons are positioned on the right, which let you go to the main home page, go to the next page of an article, previous page, bring up a menu, or go "back". There is also a small four-way joystick to navigate around (which also has the ability to be pressed for selections). The joystick is very sensitive and easy to navigate with, although not overly sensitive that you hit things by mistake (at least very often - it has happened a couple of times so far).

For those in the market for an ereader and can't decide between the Kindle and another device, I can tell you what made me go toward the Kindle: Whispernet. It is a free, no subscription based service that comes on all Kindles. You get free access to the internet anywhere Sprint reception can be found. You can purchase books/magazines/newspapers anywhere, and have them in less than 60 seconds. You can access the web, check your web-based email, look up directions, find weather reports, movie times, etc. Although the Kindle terms say that normal web browsing might result in extra charges, my assumption is that this clause will just cover amazon if they choose to charge for web in the future. As of right now, everything is free. The Web Browser is very rudimentary and does not show pages very well. Even most pages designed for mobile phones showed up badly for me, although some were okay. The browser is very slow, but could really come in handy if some information was needed and no internet was available.

I have tried several blogs and magazines, as well as the native pdf viewer and all seem to produce well formatted articles with crisp, clear pictures. Lighter pictures tend to show up better as darker pictures blur together if they do not have enough contrasting elements. The one problem I have noticed with the pdf viewer is that some text/elements can end up being very small and hard to see. The pdf viewer is stuck on one size, which is slightly smaller than most pdf's are intended to be viewed at. There is no way to increase font size, and the only way to zoom is by rotating the display. This zooms in on the top or bottom half of the screen. Rotating to a landscape display actually helps that problem a great deal, but some sort of zoom feature would have been nice. You can search in pdf documents or go to certain pages, but it is impossible to annotate as the Kindle lets you do in normal document files. Pdf documents can be sent to the Kindle DX via usb cable or through a special email that is set up for the device. However, documents that are sent via email are charged a small fee (I was charged $0.45 for a pdf slightly larger than 2MB - I will use the usb cable from now on unless it's absolutely necessary to use email). Blogs I have subscribed to have continuously updated over the time I've had the DX... it is nice to have a constant stream of info to read even when not in the position to surf the web. Most blogs and magazines are subscription based with costs ranging from free to $1.99 or more for the more popular ones. This fact turns many people off since blogs can be found free on the net, but the convenience of having them constantly updated with no internet connection required and brought to you in an easy to read format makes them somewhat worth it in my opinion. Having read through some and watched constant updates while writing this review, I think I will be more likely to keep the blog subscriptions even more than the magazines subscriptions. Most blogs and magazines give you a 14-day trial to see how well you like them before committing to a purchase. They can be organized into separate articles/sections, and are easy to navigate.

There is a text-to-speech function that can be used in most books (Random House published books excluded because of a lawsuit brought against amazon). The sound of it seems a little old fashioned with an extremely computer-sounding voice, but it is a nice addition. You can also play MP3's, but don't expect extremely high-quality sound. The Kindle DX has a earphone jack on the top of the device, or small speakers on the bottom of the device for these funtctions.

A keyboard is present at the bottom of the device. It has a QWERTY format, but with the numbers located on the top row of letters (a shift button selects them). It is fairly easy to type on in my opinion, but takes a little getting used to. The buttons are small, rounded and don't take much to push. For this reason, it is difficult to tell if you hit the button acurately or not, and often times you find you hit wrong keys by accident. The Kindle actually tends to be a bit wide to easily type if you have small hands like me. Larger hands should do fine.

As for the screen, the e-ink is easy to read, easy on the eyes, and it is crisp and has a nice resolution. Highly detailed pictures showed up nicely as long as they weren't too dark. The only complaint I would have about the screen is that it is very reflective. I need to make sure I'm not around any bright lights before reading. Otherwise, the glare interferes.

SHOULD YOU BUY THE DX?: Well, I think that comes down to what you want to read. The DX is a nice reader (although expensive!). It is probably the perfect size for reading magazine articles, journal articles, and newspapers. The articles come out as being crisp and easy to read, and having them constantly delivered to you is great. I think the device might be a little on the heavy/large side for continous reading of books, so for that, I would probably go with the Kindle 2 instead. For textbooks, I think the verdict is still out. Being able to flip through the pages of textbooks and quickly find information still isn't completely replicated by the Kindle. However, the search features of the Kindle could prove to be invaluable in studying, and there's no doubt the kindle helps in areas of portability. The DX replicates figures and images nicely, but in some textbooks, color is vital. That could be the downfall of the DX when it comes to Textbooks.

CONS/FOR FUTURE KINDLES: There's quite a few things that prevent the DX from being perfect, but maybe they can be added into future editions. First and foremost: Folders/Organization! Right now, all articles/blogs/newspapers/books get clumped together in one big menu. Why is there no way to organize these and place them in categories? This would be a huge improvement and would take very little effort. Also: Color. As I just mentioned above, color is a huge part of many textbooks, articles, etc. As soon as the technology is ready, a color kindle will be a huge improvement. A memory card slot was included in the first Kindle; however it was removed in the second and DX. This needs to be added back. Especially for those of us with large pdf libraries, we need the extra memory slot. Not to expand the memory so much as to just give us a portable way of getting articles onto the kindle. As of right now, you can be charged to have articles sent to the Kindle, or we can be near a computer. Why not add the memory card slot back and give us one more option? A better web browser, some sort of side-lighting for nighttime reading, touchscreen, thinner, and lighter are other suggestions I can think of to strive for.

UPDATE: So, after using the DX for a while now, I have come to absolutely love it. Unfortunately, so has my girlfriend, so I don't get to see it much anymore.

A few small things have come to annoy me though, so I would like to point those out. First, the screen rotation is becoming more and more annoying. I find the screen rotating on me many times when I don't want it to. Slightly changing the position of the device suddenly leads to the screen being rotated, and then it takes another few seconds of shifting it around to get it back the way you want. There should be a way to turn screen rotation off if you know you won't want it bothering you for a while. A simple setting could then be turned on again for normal use. (UPDATE: Apparently, you can disable the auto-rotation. User A.Nichols wrote in the comments: "Push the button with the Aa (to change font size) and you'll find the option to set change screen rotation from Auto (default) to portrait. I found the screen rotation to be annoying also when reading, it's easy to accidentally change the angle.")

Another thing that has come to bother me is the screen lag. Very often, it's as though the screen sticks after you push buttons. You push them again and again, and then the screen finally unsticks and you fly through 3-4 pages. It's difficult to tell if the device didn't register the button you pushed or if it's just running behind. Unfortunately, this has resulted in my purchasing a book that I didn't mean to (amazon was nice enough to remove the charge though). Usually you get a "Would you like to cancel your order?" immediately after purchasing on the kindle, but this time I guess I pushed too much and flew through that screen too.

Even with these small issues, I can't put my Kindle down. It is the best money I have spent in a long time.