Tuesday, 21 September 2010

iPad vs Kindle – According to Mark Jaquith

I’ve never found myself struggling which to pick, much in the same way that nobody is ever torn between having tea and going sky diving. They are different devices, for different purposes…With the Kindle, you won’t be thinking about increasing your Fruit Ninja high score, or frantically checking and re-checking your e-mail. You’ll be in the only state that is appropriate when reading a book: completely lost in it.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Kindle 2.0 USB Cable Died, Not Charging

My Kindle‘s been dead since yesterday. My initial thought was that maybe it no longer liked being charged from the USB hub. I plugged it into the wall and the charge light didn’t come on.


Thankfully, it’s USB so I’ve got plenty of cables lying around to test.

I grabbed the USB cable from my Nokia e71, and the Kindle’s charge light is orange.

UPDATE May 06, 2009
I’m on the phone with Amazon’s Kindle Customer support right now. It’s not as immediately friendly and helpful as the “It would be easier to help you if you called us.” email made it sound.

Even before I described the issue, I had to justify who I was (irrelevant to starting the conversation) – that’s always off-putting and opposite from how people actually interact face-to-face.

Now I’ve been transferred to a Kindle Specialist (I thought that’s who I called originally). Once she picked up – it was resolved very smoothly in less than a minute.

Nice work Amazon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pragmatic Programmers eBooks now in Kindle Format

I’m a big fan of buying Pragmatic Programmers books with their the accompanying PDF. Yesterday, I popped over to their site to check for updates and noticed they’ve added .epub and .mobi (Kindle) to their electronic publication format options.

Such a huge win, thanks to everyone at Prag Prog that made this possible.

Now, perhaps I can suggest including a hyperlink in the ebooks for auto-updating. Thanks 🙂

Monday, 23 March 2009

Glad I’m Not the Only One Parallel Reading

“I got a Kindle just over a week ago. It has changed the way I think about reading. I have a couple dozen books on it and I go back and forth between them in a way that I have never done with books. I am in the process of reading about six books in parallel and I love the way the Kindle allows me to read what I am in the mood for at that moment in time.” – Fred Wilson

Fred’s experience accurately describes my Kindle relationship as well. This is why I’m convinced the Kindle has more in common with television than physical books or other mobile devices. The biggest problem I see w/ the Kindle is that there’s only one significant ‘broadcaster’. 🙂

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Kindle 2 as a New Electronic Medium

I do an awful lot of reading that isn’t on “books”[1] and Amazon Kindle has quickly become where I send PDFs by default – just like audio and video files get sent to iTunes by default.

And, after a couple weeks with the Kindle, I’m confident it is a new medium requiring a new interaction model [2]. An easy measure of this – I’m dusting off my Marshall McLuhan collection.

On McLuhan’s Hot & Cool Media spectrum, the Kindle 2 is cool (biasing maximum participation) where the iPhone is hot (biasing minimal participation). Meaning the Kindle makes it easy to get swallowed up for hours where as the iPhone is better for short engagements [3]. This is why Amazon’s Kindle iPhone App is only a win for selling more Kindle-formatted books – the iPhone’s brightness and glare makes it a horrid reading device.

Jakob Nielsen just published his thoughts on the Kindle.

I agree with two of his points:

“UI is not up to managing the realistic-sized book collection” – Jakob Neilsen

My Kindle currently contains 75 titles. That’s 60 more than the interface would prefer [4]. The page-based title management interface is clumsier than the iPhone’s page-based app navigation – simply because the Kindle doesn’t allow arbitrary grouping or support scrolling, so there’s no way to arbitrarily organize your electronic publications for easier navigation.

“For good Kindle usability, you have to design for the Kindle.” – Jakob Neilsen

Yes, as I mentioned up top, the Kindle is a unique device with a unique interaction model – for publications to communicate effectively within the Kindle – they should be designed for it. Until publications are designed for the Kindle, the best experience will be reading publications that are not typographically significant, e.g. straight paragraphs of text.

I disagree with Neilsen’s argument that the Kindle doesn’t work for non-fiction [5]. While it may not work for the conventional back-n-forth pagination he describes, that’s no reason to dismiss an entire category of writing. Especially, when we already agree that the most usable publication on the Kindle is one that takes advantages of the Kindle’s strengths – search, hyperlinks, etc. Additionally, non-fiction books have a greater chance of becoming obsolete than fiction books – making the easy updating feature of electronic distribution to the Kindle very attractive (Pragmatic Programmers, call me and let’s talk about your Beta book program).

For example, after my initial reading of them, the bulk of my interaction with physical non-fiction books is scanning the index for the topic I’m looking for and turning to the corresponding pages. The Kindle searches across its entire library, easily saving quite a bit of time.

The Kindle 2 feels very much like the early days of podcasting – or even web design – where we’re all figuring out how to maximize this new medium. I like it.

UPDATE 20 March 2009:
I just realized telephones were never designed for long periods of use. In fact, early telephone carriers wanting their service to be used for emergencies only – actually discouraged long term use. One more way the Kindle is more like television, less like iPod.

1. More than anything, I think the Kindle will force us to redefine ‘what a book is’ as much as HTML did (concidently the .mobi format the Kindle recognized can be written in HTML).

2. The iPhone/iPod Touch are new extensions of the existing mobile communicator models – not new mediums themselves.

3. Makes the Kindle more like television and the iPhone more like film, intriguing given Steve Jobs’ ownership in Pixar.

4. The traditional iPod navigation has the exact same problem – finding any individual track becomes difficult and time-consuming within even a modest library.

5. 85% of my Kindle library is non-fiction, technical PDFs.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Kindle 2.0 – 2nd Impressions

180px-amazbuck rio800

Dave’s “Decade of Ebook Arguments” post took me back a decade, to my first portable MP3 player – the Diamond Rio‘s 800 1

If memory serves, the 800 had 64Mb of storage2 – just enough audio for the walk from the apartment for the L ride into Loop. Not even enough for something new on the way home. I still have fond memories of manually copying files onto it from Panic’s Audion3.

I don’t remember feeling like the Rio changed my life.

I do remember thinking it was pretty neat for offering a small, small, glimpse into a what could be. Like future predictions of personal air travel, video-phones, or the Monsanto House.

The Kindle 2 has a lot in common with that old Rio 800.

The Kindle also shows us a future world – one of of direct-to-reader digital publishing and digital distribution. Dave’s post also brought to mind all the indie ‘zine & comic publishers I knew decades ago. They would have killed for the Kindle’s distribution channel.

But, like the Rio, the Kindle (and ebook readers in general) don’t have the ‘changed my life’ quality Apple is regularly able to ship4. There are 3 huge deficiencies I see with the Kindle after living with it for nearly a week:

  • The typographic capabilities are too basic. Simple conventions like italics, blockquotes, and a great number of typefaces would make the reading experience far more book-like (and actually usable for technical reference ebooks).
  • Navigating the Kindle is kludgy and unsophisticated. I mentioned this in my initial Kindle review. It’s annoying to navigate. It shouldn’t be annoying to navigate.
  • Getting new, free, independent stuff onto the Kindle isn’t as easy as it needs to be. No, I don’t think iTunes’ podcast directory should be used as a model – there are far simpler and equally sophisticated ways to handle this.

If there’s one reason why I’m happy with the Kindle, it’s that I’m a sucker for the glimpses into the future.

1. At the time, I was working for a startup funded by Diamond Multimedia.
2. Fast-forward to today, and on a normal week I download hundreds of Mb of audio from independent producers that’s only distributed digitally.
3. Still the friendliest, nicest, and simplest audio player for the Mac.
4. As you know, none of Apple’s products are first-to-market, and why I don’t expect to see an Apple-branded eBook reader any time soon.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Kindle 2: 9 First Impressions


Amazon’s Kindle 2 arrived today. It’s the 3rd mobile internet device I’ve picked up this year, and a few hours in, I’m more pleased with it than the other two.

My initial impressions:

  1. The monochrome screen is gorgeous, and looks almost textured – as if there were a digital compliment to letterpress.
  2. The slim, flat, form factor and white case make me want to treat the Kindle like a piece of paper. It seems OK with that, comfortably setting where ever I put it, ready to be picked up whenever – just like book or more accurately a newspaper. Like a newspaper, it feels comfortable in one hand with a cup of coffee in the other. I now have no guilt about dropping our Sunday newspaper tradition.
  3. The navigation elements are slow and sticky. I’m never quite sure if I pressed the Next/Prev Page button hard enough – for the ‘click’ and the on-screen reaction seem to be off by a beat. The joystick is nearly flush with the face of the device and square (square?) with sharp edges, making it just uncomfortable and kind of painful to use. So far, using my thumbnail seems to be the least awkward way to manipulate it. Oh, and it doesn’t fly across the screen – it’s more stumbles from active area to active area.
  4. I’m already annoyed by the famous-author-portrait screensaver. I’d much prefer the screen to be black when not in use, especially considering sliding the power-switch toggle is an easy and explicit gesture that I want it to wake up. (If you know how to turn off the screensaver, please post it in the comments, thanks.)
  5. The reverse-text-on-page-turn is a jarring reminder that I’m reading an electronic device. Dramatically minimizing any chance you’ll get lost in the story. Remind me of a time when cars couldn’t drive faster than horses. Hopefully, this will go away (I’ll stop noticing it and the next revision will use a more subtle indicator).
  6. OS X does recognize the Kindle as a drive. Excellent – I wish the iPods were this accommodating. Then, I was disappointed to discover PDFs need to be converted before the Kindle recognizes them. I found Lexcycle’s Stanza – works fair for converting (good for documents, useless for presentations) – and loaded up my library of Pragmatic Programmers PDFs.
  7. Amazon’s ‘Recommended for You’ is built into the device and should be classified as a national economic stimulus package. Unlike every other commerce venue – including Apple’s iTunes Stores – it’s far easier to make the purchase within the Kindle thank to not.
  8. Overall, the least interesting thing to me is the Kindle as an “eBook” reader – though I finally feel like I have a comfortable device to read PDFs on. I’m far more interested that the Kindle has a free, persistent 3G wireless connection, a full QWERTY keyboard and a very basic browser (javascript is off by default). I find it both terribly amusing and annoying that, long webpages on the Kindle are navigated with next/previous page buttons – instead of scrolling.
  9. The mobile versions of Cullect and Twitter are completely usable.


” The iPhone UI, right down to its flowing scrolling on its touchscreen, is elegant and happy; the Kindle is klunky and irritating.” – Jeff Jarvis