Kindle II Review: Individual All Around Competition

Book CoverBottom line: the device itself is a marked improvement over Kindle I. Does it beat Sony 505 or Sony 700? That remains to be seen. Obviously there are a ton of reviews out there, but as someone who is currently playing with two Sonys and two Kindles (kinky), let me share my impressions.

First, the big fail:

Remember One of These Things is Not Like the Other? Yeah. Play along with me at home:

Yeah. It’s a mondo expensive device and I have to PAY EXTRA FOR A COVER?! EPIC FAIL AMAZON.

I’m honestly scared to put it in my purse, and am fearful that my keys or my phone, even when I’ve slid it in the pocket of my neoprene laptop case, will crack the screen. I’m revolted that I am fearful of carrying the device, and am really unimpressed with Amazon for resizing the device then demanding that people pay extra for a “designer” case. Heads up Amazon: that was dumb.

A note about the page turning button location: I rather liked the fact that the buttons to turn the page were so long on Kindle I, though I wished they weren’t tilted and so incredibly sensitive. The wide area of places I could choose from to turn the page meant that no matter how I held it, most of the time it adapted to me. Both the Sony 505 and Kindle II limit the places in which you can turn a page, and in doing so limit the ways in which I can comfortable hold the device – and if you’ve ever been squished in a bus seat because you and the person next to you are both wearing enormous puffy winter coats, you can understand why one might need to hold an ebook reader in a rather funky position. Kindle II is intelligently designed such that the buttons click inward, but they are a lot smaller, and limit the manner in which I can hold the device.

Kindle I also had a series of dots across the bottom of each ebook file which would increase in size (hur) as I read and give me a clue as to where I was in the book. Kindle II? No dots! And the pagination system is weird on both devices, so I’m never sure exactly where I am in a narrative. Those dots have often made it an easier decision to stick with it when I’m not entirely enthralled with a book.

But in terms of usability, everything else is pretty much improved. It’s a lot harder for me to inadvertently turn a page, and I love the one-finger slide sleep/wake instead of having to hit two buttons simultaneously. The text is highly defined and the contrast is excellent. I turn the page and the ink redistributes marvelously.

But?

But!

The lack of a case only compounds the existing frustrations I had with the Kindle, most notably that the exclusivity of the content means that I can’t bargain shop and put my cheaper purchases on the Kindle unless I’m willing to crack that mess up, DRM-wise.

My other gripe about Kindle I and Kindle II is that Amazon may be responsive to specific customer service inquiries about books and refunds, but the suggestions email has never yielded a response to any of the queries I’ve sent. A list of features I’d like added that still aren’t present on either device include the ability to manage the content of my Kindle from the Amazon.com website. I’d like to add and remove files from a screen on Amazon.com, and not just by manipulating the content manager on the Kindle itself.

I also dislike the standalone isolation of the sample files because if you download and read a sample, and then buy the book from the device, the full text of the book does not come with a bookmark indicating where the sample ended, allowing you to pick up where you left off. I thought with the Sync feature on the Kindle II this problem would be addressed, but in my experiments with sampled then purchased content, it was not, and I was forced to click a billion times or find the correct search terms to skip ahead to where the sample ended and the rest of the book began. The samples and the full book files are separate documents and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in merging them once one has purchased the full file, either.

I do love knowing that I can email a document to the device without having to worry about remembering to download an ebook file and then move it over to the device once I plug it in. Being able to charge it in an outlet and know that it was still possible to add content wirelessly is a major bonus, as is the access to the Amazon.com bookstore at any time, provided I have a wireless signal. With the arrival of the Kindle for iPhone the capacity for reading across several devices and keeping track of reading progress means that if you don’t want to be seen carrying your Kindle into the bathroom for an extended visit, you can carry your iPhone in your pocket, read, then pick up on the Kindle later.

I will say this: if you’re the type of person who reads a lot of newspapers, or if you read magazines and the type of written content that changes daily, a Kindle is ideal for you, and Kindle II, with the extremely thin profile and the improved click buttons is a great option. That said, it is not the option for me. I am fearful to carry it because it seems to delicate and in danger of epic damage in my bag, and I still haven’t found a case within my price range that works for me. The ease of the Whispernet and the familiarity I have with the device properties after using a Kindle I for almost a year now are not enough to convince me to keep going with my use of Kindle II as my full-time eBook reader.

And since I began using the Sony 505 with the light case and the Sony 700 with the embedded light, I notice when low light or high glare situations make me wish I had an on-board light for the Kindle I or Kindle II. If I had to choose, and, well, I do, since I’m judging the Olympics over here, I wouldn’t pick the Kindle II. It’s a marked improvement, but the lack of ability to bargain shop coupled with the high cost (for now) of a case to protect it from The Hazards in my Bag don’t make this device my favorite.

 

Categorized:

General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    ev says:

    Do I smell a Sony Convert?? Come on over to the Dark Side.

    I know the instant download feature of the Kindle is a plus for many, but for me, not so much. I am an impulse buyer. My hubby would divorce me!! Secondly, I get an employee discount on a lot of books for the Sony from Penguin, so that makes it nice. They actually have a lot of romance!

    The fact that Amazon couldn’t be bothered to provide a cover for such a high priced item scares me. It makes me wonder what they will make you pay for when the Kindle III comes out. Wireless access?

    Now I am trying to get my itouch to dl a book to it. For an emergency it’s not a bad read.

    And convincing hubby I need a Blackberry before I leave. haha

  2. 2
    Lisas says:

    Well, that was halpful. In a way :) I never owned either Sony or Kindle but was considering the new and improved Kindle II. My main gripe is the price – on the device itself and on the books. I bargain shop a lot, and for now, nothing can beat used paperbacks and my local library. So I’ll wait and see.

  3. 3

    After I broke my ebookwise, I had a good look at what readers were available, and what were on the way.
    I ended up buying another ebookwise, and treating myself to a new 10 inch netbook instead. I didn’t spend that much more than I would have for the Sony 7 series.
    I also have an Ipaq 4700, which has a 4 inch screen, clear and with a backlight. Oh yes, and a touchscreen.
    If I win one, I’ll love it. Except that the Kindle only works in the US because the Whisper network has licensing problems or something and isn’t available in Europe. Epic fail right there.
    I’m waiting for touchscreen, colour and a backlight, or front light to become standard. Oh yes, and the price to come down. Or for the new Plastic Logic reader which has me drooling.

  4. 4
    Sandia says:

    I’ll probably continue to be a rabid Kindle addict because I live for the streamlined purchase process that Amazon put in place.  Just like I never cared that my iPod purchases had DRM, I don’t really care that I can only read my Kindle purchases on the Kindle (and now iPhone).  But I do find the lack of the dots to be disturbing.  I use that CONSTANTLY – also, did you know that you can still skip along the book to take a peek further down in the book if you click on the row of dots?  Once you click on the row of dots, you can use your number button to navigate to parts later in the book for quick peeks.  If that isn’t in Kindle2, I would hope there’s something similar that can help me move through a book quickly. 

    I don’t think I’ll be upgrading until a new Kindle comes with a larger screen though.

  5. 5
    Sandia says:

    Lynn, the Kindle works physically outside of the US.  But because of the licensing issues associated with Digital Content (just because I’ve licensed you to sell it in the US doesn’t mean I’ve sold you the European rights), Amazon can’t sell it to non-US residents.  They determine this by whether you have a US based credit card.  That is definitely not an epic fail on Amazon’s behalf but rather an indictment of the publishing industry’s approach to e-content still.

  6. 6
    Conni says:

    I’ve been pondering whether to gt an e-reader at all, lately. I love reading, and I think it would be cool to carry tons of books with me (to travel, say.) But I’m leery of the DRM issues with Kindle, and I use Macs at home, so the Sony Reader is a non-starter.

    Lynne, what’s your experience with ebooks on a netbook? Is it a pain to get the right programs to read on?

    This whole series of eReader Showdown! is fascinating. Thanks, Sarah!

  7. 7
    Jill S. says:

    I’m loving the show down.  Still haven’t bought my ereader.  Every time you lean one way or the other, so do I, LOL.

  8. 8
    Terry Odell says:

    I’m going to hang onto my eBookwise for a while longer. It may be clunky, and void of lots of those bells and whistles, it does what I need it to do. I can read books on it.  In the dark. I can switch hands if need be and the text flips. I can upload my own content and read (and mark up) my WIPs.  It remembers where I am in two separate books and brings me right back to that page.

    And the customer service folks were superb when ditz that I am, I set the device too near the edge of the counter in the salon restroom and it fell flat on its face, cracking the screen.  For a nominal fee, they sent me a brand new one.

    Someday, perhaps, I’ll move to the new sleek and shiny. But not yet.  There are still enough books I haven’t read from the eBookwise store.

  9. 9
    shuzluva says:

    I have an eBookwise and I’ve let the battery die. I just can’t stand the entire downloading/plug in + total lack of content from Fictionwise. It drives me bananas. I’m holding out and continuing to watch the ebook wars.

    In addition to my Fictionwise/eBookwise gripes, we may be going MAC in my house in the near future so I’m going to wait and see. Especially since the dollars are going to be spent on a new OS, which will require all new accessories.

    Please, Sarah, keep up the good work. It is really helpful to see the positives and negatives of all of the devices.

  10. 10

    Lynne, what’s your experience with ebooks on a netbook? Is it a pain to get the right programs to read on?

    Nice when I’m travelling or sitting at my desk. Not as obtrusive as the big screen. But mostly, I use the ebookwise or my Ipaq, as they do exactly what I want them to. Portable, backlit, adjustable font so I don’t have to go glasses-hunting, and easy to set up.

    Lynn, the Kindle works physically outside of the US.  But because of the licensing issues associated with Digital Content (just because I’ve licensed you to sell it in the US doesn’t mean I’ve sold you the European rights), Amazon can’t sell it to non-US residents.

    It works, in that you can upload books to it from your computer. But you can’t buy them through the network, because it doesn’t exist in Europe, and isn’t likely to. I don’t know if Amazon plan to put it on a different network in Europe, but the big price is partly justified by the ease of use. Which isn’t available in Europe.

    We do have the Sony and the Cybook here (Waterstones carries the Sony and WH Smith has the Cybook) but I’m not completely sold on them yet. For the price, which is £200 for the Sony. I paid $100 for my ebookwise, plus postage (that has licensing issues too, but I got it through a friend) and £250 for my new netbook, a Medion, which is a rebranded MSI Wind. I use it mainly when I travel.

  11. 11
    Rosemary says:

    I bought a Sony Reader two weeks ago, and it was after much dithering between the Kindle and Sony. 

    It’s looking more and more like I made the right choice.  Sure, I hate reading PDFs on it, but I’ll just start downloading html & converting it to word and then using calibre to convert it further.

  12. 12
    joykenn says:

    Frankly after much debate I bought the Kindle 1 only to have the K2 show up a couple of months later.  Now I’m glad I bought when I did.  I shove my K1 into my purse and don’t worry about the screen so its always with me for downtime reading.  I also like being able to get the books electronically and getting the samples first is EXTREMELY nice—like browsing the first few pages in a bookstore to see if I like the author’s tone and writing style.

    I’m going to stick with my K1 as long as it lasts.  Given the lifespan of consumer electronics is about 2 years I figure there will be a new generation of ebook readers out about then.  Maybe someone smart will manage to merge my cellphone into my ebook reader.  The screen of the iphone is too small for extended reading comfortably for me.  I get enough on the K1 page to read without wearing out my fingers and getting eyestrain from shifting pages.  Thanks for the great review.

  13. 13
    MichelleR says:

    I think of it as a batteries not included, GI Joe does not come with all the accessories seen here thing, actually more the latter.

    I don’t want a generic cover and want to pick out my own. Maybe a good idea would have been cover included, with several choices, but most rapid Kindle owners seem to go to a third party company like Oberon:

    http://www.oberondesign.com/store/kindle.php

  14. 14
    CheekyReads says:

    Thanksf or these reviews—I’ve been holding out on buying an e-reader until I’ve read some great side by side comparions. Yours are hte best I’ve seen so I’m very interested in following this!

  15. 15
    spicybrains says:

    I’m not sure what problems you have encountered loading non-Amazon content onto the K1/K2, but I have not had many problems with importing purchases made elsewhere (ah, my Portuguese-English/English-Portuguese e-dictionary and Portuguese grammar book)—the only problem was the grammar book was terribly formatted and I had to manually edit it to make it look purty, and that sucked hard.  (Being a reference book, it was full of tables and what not that just didn’t convert as nicely as I would have hoped. I haven’t had that problem with any fiction books.) 

    Also, while you can’t do full content management from amazon.com, you can still send things from your library there, from the virtual library thing—that’s how I moved my books over from the K1. I don’t know that I’d use the removing things from the kindle from amazon.com, because I am of the habit of removing books as I read them, and that’s just more convenient to do from the Kindle. I’m not sure why they don’t let you remove things from devices from there, because it seems like it would be as trivial as sending them.

    The $30 cover isn’t that bad – works much better than the original K1 cover did. Yeah, it’s $30 that I shouldn’t’ve had to spend, but, meh—better to spend $30 to get something that locks the case to the K2 than getting a free one that had to be replaced because of how frequently my Kindle would fall out. Or maybe I’m the only one that had that problem. (Also? I’m kind of used to the separate case shaft. Had to buy a separate case for my iPod, my laptop, my cell phone, my camera, and pretty much everything electronic that’s portable … didn’t really expect my Kindle to be different. It was nice the K1 came with -something-, but when I had to replace it, that little perk was negated.)

    And the dots were just replaced by a shaded bar. I’m not sure what the big deal is about dots versus a bar. It’s right there, at the bottom of the device, under the line that has “#% Locations [#-#] Total#”. It’s more subtle than the dots were, and I could see not noticing it.

  16. 16
    Kalen Hughes says:

    We do have the Sony and the Cybook here (Waterstones carries the Sony and WH Smith has the Cybook) but I’m not completely sold on them yet.

    I LOVE my CyBook. It was by far my favorite of all the readers out there (followed by the Sony). The Kindle is my least favorite (hate the color, hate the buttons, hate the limits of its proprietary buying system, pretty much just dislike it all the way around).

  17. 17
    Meezergrrrl says:

    Hmmm.

    I think you’ve just talked me out of the physical Kindle.

    I put the Kindle App. on my iPod Touch yesterday and am a happy camper with the app for regular reading.

    Technical stuff, on the other hand – stuff for work – SOWs, requirements docs, and the like… I want to put that stuff on a reader where I can annotate and mark it up.  I mark up PDF files on my computer all the time, and would like to be able to do the same sorts of things on a bigger, dedicated reader, if I get one.  And the only one that seems to be in the running as of now is the Sony PRS-700BC.  $400.  arrrgh.

  18. 18
    Andrew Perrin says:

    Kindle I also had a series of dots across the bottom of each ebook file which would increase in size (hur) as I read and give me a clue as to where I was in the book. Kindle II? No dots!

    Sarah, on my Kindle II, I see a thin line along the bottom of the screen (like the “thermometer” you see on PC operating systems) that gradually gets longer as I make my way through the book.

  19. 19
    SB Sarah says:

    You’re right, and I didn’t notice it at all. Thanks for the heads up.

  20. 20
    Andrew Perrin says:

    Given that it almost looks like a text ornament, it’s very very easy to miss.

  21. 21
    J.C. Wilder says:

    Hey Sarah – do you mean you can’t just buy a .prc file from anywhere and drag and drop it onto the Kindle II?

    I have the Kindle I and I’m still addicted. I don’t have any interest in trading up because they still don’t allow for files and folders. For me that is the biggest issue. As it is its a pain to page through my books (I have 22 pages and that is my TBR pile!) and it would be a time saver if they’d allow me to group books by author or publisher.

  22. 22
    J.E. Mitch says:

    I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting an ebook reader and I just recently got into the Sony store near me to take a look at the Sony reader in person.

    How does the 700’s backlight do at illuminating the whole screen? It doesn’t seem like it would result in equal brightness, but I’ve only seen it at the display in the store. Does the light cover for the 505 work better than the internal lighting in the 700?

  23. 23
    Maya says:

    I have the Sony 700 and the Kindle 2.  I was all sorts of excited because the Sony had backlighting but when I use it, the battery life is sucked down in an hour to an a hour and a half which really negates the whole purpose of me wanting backlighting *sigh*

    But so far I’ve not seen a single other person complain about the battery life when using backlighting so now I’m wondering if I got a defective model.

  24. 24
    Kat says:

    I am new to the market and trying to do my research.  I was leaning towards the sony when I discovered that it wasn’t compatible with Mac.  Does anyone has some advice?

  25. 25

    Kat, Zita said on another thread:

    If you have a newer Mac with an Intel Core 2 Duo, you can download a really valuable bit of software called VMware Fusion. With it you make your Sony think your Mac is a PC. I have a Sony 505 and use it on my Mac easily.

    I’m waiting to hear back from other Mac/Sony users who’ve tried it out.

  26. 26
    Kat says:

    I will look into that.  Thanks!

  27. 27
    ev says:

    and I use Macs at home, so the Sony Reader is a non-starter.

    There’s an app for that.

    Does the light cover for the 505 work better than the internal lighting in the 700?]

    I like the cover for the 505 better than the internal light. We have both of them at home and I am considering getting the cover, if it fits for my 700. I think the cover gives it a more even light coverage.

    But so far I’ve not seen a single other person complain about the battery life when using backlighting so now I’m wondering if I got a defective model.

    It’s not you and I have been bitching since I got it in November. Which is why I hope the cover for the 505 fits (see above). I haven’t been able to pry hubby’s out of his hands long enough to find out.

  28. 28
    spicybrains says:

    Hey Sarah – do you mean you can’t just buy a .prc file from anywhere and drag and drop it onto the Kindle II?

    J.C.—I have not had any problems with dragging and dropping files within Windows.  HOWEVER: dragging and dropping with MobiPocket Reader (after it has detected the Kindle) does not work—it puts the books into the wrong folder. Other programs may be doing the same thing.

  29. 29
    J.C. Wilder says:

    Spicybrains wrote: HOWEVER: dragging and dropping with MobiPocket Reader

    I noticed that. BooksOnBoard had free copies of a Julie Garwood book so I got a copy and it took me a while to find it on my Kindle. Then I couldn’t open it because B0B is DRM happy and wanted a PID number the Kindle doesn’t have. So I waited until Amazon had the book for free and got it from them. :)

    I have slews of old ebooks and I’ve slowly been converting them to .prc or .asw for the Kindle. If I couldn’t do that on the new Kindle then I wouldn’t even think of upgrading.

  30. 30
    Anna says:

    I put the Kindle app on my iPod Touch yesterday (also available for iPhone) and it’s great.  I have access to the Amazon library, and when I download a book from my Mac it is transferred to the iPod in seconds.  It’s a great way to sample books.

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