I have just received my Amazon Kindle and thought I would give my impressions of what the device for use in Australia.
Firstly I should explain my motivations in buying a Kindle.
The first reason is that I, like many people, have a file on my computer called “to read” which just fills up and virtually never get read. Most of these are pdfs or Word files and I thought that the Kindle might mean that I get them off the computer and onto a device that is easy to read on. I also have a library of pdf reference books that I again need to get off the computer and actually read!
Second reason was that I like both the environmental benefits of not having a paper copy of a book. I’m sure you’ve seen the email signature that tells you how many litres of water it takes to make 1 sheet of paper. I have also seen some research on the energy requirements, and paper is higher than steel per tonne produced, which really surprised me! Well imagine being able to reduce that.
Thirdly, I have relatives coming over from the UK and the ability for them to read the UK papers is a big cost saving and convenience for them rather than buying international versions from local shops.
Lastly I would like to read more books and this might give me the ability to do so.
The ordering process on Amazon is seamless as usual, and a Kindle account is created for you so that you can buy books etc without having to enter your credit card. This is a great convenience and I guess we won’t worry about security at this point!
Converting files was a lot easier than Amazon made it sound. There are a few options: –
- Amazon have a paid for service where you email them files and they convert and send them directly to your Kindle. This is the service you hear about most often, and I’m not sure why. I can only ever see using this if I want someone to email me a document when I am out somewhere (hopefully on a beach).
- Amazon also have a free service where you email them files and they convert and email you back a link for you to download them to your PC/Mac. This seems ideal, as if you have emailed them, you are going to be at your computer and you typically get the file back in under 5 minutes!
Using this service the conversion of pdf’s (Kindle doesn’t natively support pdf’s) was ok. With technical books there were some issues, but they are certainly readable.
When the Kindle arrived (30 minutes after the tracking told me it was still in LA) packaging was nice. Understated, almost playing on the environmental side but at the same time giving an almost Apple quality feel. You don’t want to keep the box like you do with an Apple product, but at the same time it’s very nice.
First impression of the product is really the screen. When you take it out of the box, there are some instructions on how to get started. At first glance I thought those were printed on the protective film, but they were actually on the screen! Graphics look incredible, very detailed with no obvious pixels. Yes, the screen really is stunning. I had seen mixed reviews of this feature, but I’m guessing that the people who don’t like it, may have a problem with contrast perception as the light grey background with black text is certainly different from the pure white of an LCD. However, as there is no backlight, it just doesn’t have the harshness of a monitor, and you really do get the impression you are reading a printed page.
I dutifully plugged the USB cord into my iPhone charger and left it for 4 hours. After that time the orange charge light was still on but I thought that it should be enough. Once I started to use the device though I was finding that the controls were very laggy. You seemed to have to press the next page button way too hard and sometimes it just didn’t seem to work at all (see later when this was resolved). I also noticed that the battery indicator was still showing that it was plugged in, which it wasn’t! After about an hour I started getting battery warning and shortly after it locked up with a “Battery Dead” type message on the screen.
My next option was to plug into a different charger and see how that went. Bad was the answer as it still wouldn’t boot up and the charge light kept going on and off. Frustrated I sent an email to Amazon support assuming that mine must have a fault. Their reply was: –
If you have a computer available, please try charging your Kindle using an existing USB port. Many 3rd party charges are not able to sufficiently charge the Kindle.
It worked, but I have to say that does give me a few problems, in that I have all sorts of USB chargers and seemingly none will work. I really don’t want to have to drag a laptop round with me just to charge a Kindle. Also the advertising saying that you can use it without having a computer is just not right, if you need a computer to charge it. I guess here that there is a good market for a 3rd party charging product.
Note here that the version I received did not come with a US power plug, so I couldn’t even use that and a converter. It seems that some may have judging by other reports.
After that little disappointment it did charge and rebooted. The good news was also that this seemed to completely cure the lag problems I mentioned earlier. Buttons are now responsive enough so you can just roll your finger over them and the page turns (yes I still think I’m reading a book).
I have now used the Kindle at night and during the day in the house, and at a McDonalds sat outside. The screen is very legible and you really do forget you aren’t reading a book. Usability wise I would say a big thumbs up from me.
Content however may be a different story in Australia in particular.To test what was available and the pricing I went into a local BigW and looked at their new and featured books and wrote down a list of any that I thought might be good. The list includes: –
- The girl who kicked the hornets nest
- The six sacred stones
- I can see you
- The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)
- The five greatest warriors
- The scarletta factor
- The Fiery Cross
Of these only one was available, which was very disappointing. It was a lot cheaper than a physical book, but we really need more content. The frustrating thing is that I know most of these are available in the US. Come on Amazon and publishers, get yourselves sorted out and embrace the future rather than clinging to your old business model.
I am hoping that I can buy in other formats and can use Stanza (see above) to convert to Kindle. However, I do have my doubts about this as this won’t work if the book is copy protected, and I’m sure they will be!
The content I did get was a newspaper and a few book sample. The newspaper is on a 14 day free trial (remember to cancel if you don’t want to be charged for it after 14 days). I have to say that although not the same as reading an actual paper, in many ways I like this better. It is more like a web experience with articles arranged into groups you can navigate through. I think for people used to a physical paper it may take some getting used to, but if you get your news from the web, it is great. There is no doubting the convenience too with the paper being delivered to you anywhere in the world! The one downside is that these aren’t cheap. I will probably not continue my subscription, but would if they were halve the price.
Book reading I can’t comment on too much. It really is just like reading a book with the added conveniences that it isn’t as big, it saves your place if you fall asleep reading it and you can set the text size and column width up just how you like it.
Overall, I have to say that I really am liking the Kindle. Even more than I expected. For me the big downsides relate to Australia, in particular: –
- Doesn’t come with and Australian charger and you can’t use a standard USB charger. You thereefore have to plug into a computer to charge.
- There is not enough book content on the Australian Kindle store.
There are things that I haven’t mentioned here including the basic web browser, which doesn’t work in Australia, wikipedia access which has been reported to work, but I haven’t been able to get going. However I am reviewing just as a reader for the moment and will hopefully get to those later!
*** UPDATE *** (after 10 days of use)
I have had my Kindle for about a week now and in general am enjoying it. However there are a couple of issues I have come across: –
– Septimus Heap book series was on the Australian store, I bought the first book and want to buy more, but it has now disappeared. I can only assume that Amazon didn’t have the rights to sell it in the first place which leads on nicely to point 2 below.
– The Australian Store just doesn’t have enough books on it. I am finding it hard to recommend the Kindle when the number of books I can get is so limited. I have bought 2 books so far and had sample chapters of about 5 more but you really have to choose by what you can get rather than what you want.
– I also have an audible account and should be able to play audible content. When I try it asks to validate the device with audible but when it goes to do this it tries to connect then fails. This means I can’t play audible content at all.
– I have tried converting quite a few technical pdf’s and despite my comments above, they don’t usually convert well enough to read. I really think they should have native pdf support in the Kindle, they have it in the DX, the iPhone has it, so I’m sure the device is capable enough. This would particularly help me (and many other techies) that tend to buy pdf books, and have a heap of pdf white papers we want to read on our computers. Having said that the problem is particularly when there is code in the books as it doesn’t keep the indenting, which makes it a nightmare to follow. Other books seem to convert okay, though native support would still be better (specially when there are side bars with additional info).
Having said all that, I am still enjoying reading on the Kindle, and it is making me read books socially rather than just work related topics.
*** UPDATE 25/11/09 ***
Updated software just coming through including PDF support. I will update this post when I have given it a try.
*** UPDATE 04/01/10 ***
I have finally tried the charging tip suggested by Andrew. It does seem to charge the Kindle quite happily if you plug into your printers USB input port (the one that reads the memory sticks on the front of the printer usually). It does lock the device while you are charging though, and I would advise turning the printer off before you pull the lead out, just in case.
Overall though I find charging through the printer more convenient than via the computer.
I should also mentioned the books I have read so far. These are: –
- Septimus Heap – Book One – This has now been pulled from the Australian Kindle
- The girl with the dragon tatoo
- The girl who played with fire
- The girl who kicked the hornets nest – The above series was really entertaining and is definitely worth considering. The writing in the first leaves a bit to be desired but the story is good and after this one the 2nd and 3rd books were good. There is also a variety of styles here the first being a bit of a mystery, the second a thriller and the last a court room drama. Personally I liked the second best.
- By reason of insanity – I really struggled with this one to about the 15% mark, from then on it has had me hooked. This is a courtroom drama with a serial killer and all sorts of things thrown in. It was only $2 when I bought it and once you get past 15% it is excellent. Looking forward to finishing it tonight.!