Saturday 31 October 2009

Amazon Kindle Preliminary review

amidst a postal strike, illustrating how Royal Mail and their staff are tragically putting their own bsiness down the toilet just now, UPS delivers an Amazon Kindle. As you can see, every Kindle delivered to the UK comes with a free promotional English lady novelist. You just add water or something. I got Charlotte Bronte. Buy 4 Kindles and you get the whole Cowan Bridge clergy daughters’ school, complete with willowy maidens, bread and water and your own Semaphore kit. Just add Crinoline.

Anyway, I haven’t quite worked out how to access all the promotional stuff, but I have been reading a substantial book with the Kindle, Hilary Mantel’s excellent Booker prize winning novel Wolf Hall. The hero is pictured, left, with his own leather-bound reading device.

Some preliminary observations about the kit:
  • The screen is brilliant. There are five sizes of text, all very clear, and you can adjust the gaps between words as well as the size. I have been reading the smallest size perfectly comfortably. e-ink is very restful to read, and quite clear enough with a small reading light at night, for those who like to read their novels under the bedclothes overnight.
  • Content Delivery: The 3G mobile signal, which is slightly questionable in these parts on mobiles, is strong and good on the Kindle. Hilary Mantel’s substantial opus downloaded in just under two minutes.I didn’t think it would make much difference, but the whole acquiring of information is pleasantly smooth and uncomplicated. Buying a book in the conventional way from the Kindle store is also remarkably painless. You just do what you always did on Amazon, and the book appears within a couple of minutes by magic on your Kindle.
  • Controls, apart from the keyboard, are ergonomically sound and, although I am not proud of the fact, the left hand second control for thumbing through pages is immensely useful if you're reading in bed. Some operations take longer than others, but the general feel for most operations is smooth and non-kludgy. I wish there were a “history” shortcut back to the latest 100 pages read, like on the Sony Reader, though. Maybe there is...

  • The Keyboard is a bit more of a pickle, though it may be that those with more developed Blackerry Thumb would find it more convenient. I am not convinced an iPhone like screen based keyboard wouldn’t have been faster to use. It does however do what it says. Perhaps all such entry devices take a few weeks before they feel natural to use, but I suspect I would be finding the keyboard more ergonomic if I were a spider than as a human being.
  • Design of books themselves does seem rather easier than on my Sony Reader. I like the system for telling you instantly how far through a text you are (percentage, paragraph number and a bar that fills up), and the system is free of the rather annoying occasional random line breaks that I have hitherto experienced in e-Books.
  • Content: We Brits are currently allowed US content licensed for the UK market — a goodly but not infinite selection. It's funny what you can and can’t get in a Kindle edition just now. As someone who likes an occasional read in French or German, I do wonder when some of the publishing industry’s copyright walls will be readjusted to allow proper paid access across national boundaries — all it would mean for them is increased trade. I can currently get physical books from or, but not Kindle editions. Bah! Humbug!
Charlotte has now dissolved into the ether, to be replaced by a plan of the Villa Palladio. Not quite sure what that means.

I will, however, try and post a more detailed review comparing the Kindle experience to the Sony Reader one, sooner rather than later.


Philip Ritchie said...

Looking forward to reading Wolf Hall. Have you read C J Sansom's Shardlake series?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Considerable Sardlake fan, me, Phil. I even evangelised my mother in law for it! Did a review of one a couple of aprils ago, too:

I think it's amazing the way Sansom brings things to life, though the plot details are, of course, far-fetched. Deserves a good movie or two, I'd say.

I haven't read his thing on the Spanish Civil War, having been warned it was too depressing, but I'm sure I will before too long. Good example of something that ought to be available in the UK on a Kindle, but I don't think is.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I look forward to the comparison. After seeing some friends' Kindles I decided top opt for the Reader, in part because of the large quantity of pdf and rtf files already in my possession, and my not needing wireless. I find the screen a bit hard to read at times, and wonder if you find the same to be true in comparison with the K.

Philip Ritchie said...

Agree with you about Shardlake and Kate and I debate who could play him on film. I do think Sansom is perhaps a bit too jaundiced about the Reformers.

Kate has read Winter in Madrid and thought it was well written, however, she says it is bleak and the characters aren't particularly likeable.

Two books I enjoyed recently are le Carre's A Most Wanted Man which I blogged about here
and William Boyd's Restless with a post here

Thanks for the info about Kindle, not sure how I'd get on with it but after your review I'll see if I can try one out.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Tobias — congrats on yr latest book, by ye way, which is n my pile for November, and looks really helpful — I will try and get a comparatkve review out this month. I find I'm spotting little joys and sorrows of both every day in regular use. I will also snicker off to a Waterstones to check changes in latest Sony Reader, as the one I've got is a 505, and they have added touch screen since then. My biggest beef about both is some degree of frustration that the publishing industry don't just get their act together about formats.

Phil, my mother in law's reaction to Winter in Madrid was exactly the same as Kate's! Will check out yr LeCarré review, though, as it's years since I read any of his stuff. Interested in an interview on Radio 4 yesterday with Len Deighton. Will keep eye out for both at next school fete...

Interesting problem for Amazon is how to get Kindles into people's hands without storefront deal like Sony have with Waterstone's. Perhaps they're hoping that if they sweep the nation with them everyone will know someone who's got one. Bit of a punt, that, I'd think.

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