I write this with dismay, honestly. Despite some major faults, the Kindle does digital book reading, loading, and buying so well, and works so well for me, I’m using the Kindle. Not even the Sony Mercedes ebook reader could lure me away.
Every time I sit down at my computer, I find out about a new way to read, load or access books on the Kindle. I can sync books purchased at Amazon across six devices at this point, and I can email files to my device anywhere. Because of the way I interact with books (lots of them, in different formats, moving around towards me, all the time, pretty much always) the Kindle is the easiest and most versatile device for me.
That said, I fully recognize that (a) many folks loathe Amazon, (b) the Kindle doesn’t work as well if you’re not in the US because of digital book international rights asshattery, and (c) there are other options that would work better for different readers, particularly if you like to borrow books from the library or like to shop at different places for books – or like to go to your local Barnes and Noble store, in which case I near the Nook enables you to get free chocolate. If my local BN didn’t give me hives with the size and immensity of it, I’d consider the free chocolate option.
Anyway, back to Kindle 3. I am dismayed that the Sony, even with the file organization, didn’t work for me. I want to be lured away from Amazon’s store. I’m happy to buy .mobi files elsewhere, strip the DRM and put them on the Kindle, even though that means I can only read them on the Kindle, and not on my phone, computer, iPad, Hubby’s phone, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, and sock drawer. But Amazon’s Kindle 3 does so many little things so easily that my ability to be on auto-pilot with this device makes it essential and hard to relinquish.
The Kindle three is smaller than K2, it’s thinner, and it weighs just a bit less. The Whispernet wireless network works in zippyfast time – I updated the name of the Kindle and changed the email address on the Amazon website, and the device was updated within 10 seconds. Now, I thought the Kindle network was Sprint, but my box said “AT&T” on it. Yet, even in the New York metro area, where AT&T blows, sucks and everything in between, I’ve had no problems.
A word about the packaging: when I received my Nook, I thought I was going to break it trying to take it out of the clear plastic claw it comes in. The Sony arrives in a box that seems like it wouldn’t protect the device, and when I ship one I have to bubble wrap it. The Kindle comes in packaging that is so amazing, it has Apple-style beauty and welcoming texture. You get that, “Oooh, what’s this?” feeling like when you open an Apple product. The Kindle packaging is all paper based and recyclable, and at the bottom it says ‘Certified Frustration-Free Packaging.” Open box, ahoy, Kindle. No clamshell plastic in sight. And I can chuck the whole mess into the recycling box. That’s awesome, Amazon. Thank you.
What do I like about Kindle 3? It’s thinner, smaller, little, graphite and different.
– I like the rubber back of K3 vs. the metal back of K2, which was so slippery I had to cover it with a sticker.
– I like the graphite color VERY much though one scrape revealed some not-graphite beneath the surface. It’s a graphite veneer!
– I like the rougher texture of the buttons, which make me feel like device is more secure in my hands.
– I like the rounded corners, which are very comfortable to hold in one hand.
– I like how little it weighs, and how easy it is to hold.
– I like the new buttons to turn pages, though I do miss the toggle, which I like better than the recessed square button on the front.
– I like having multiple ways to load the device: plugged in via USB, from the Amazon.com website, via email, or, as I just learned from Jane L, navigating using the onboard browser to my Dropbox and downloading my files.
What do I really like about the K3, and the Kindle line in general? Everyone has a Kindle story, a story of how they bought a book in a location where they never thought they’d buy a book. Why is that not their newest commercial pitch idea? My Kindle story? I read about a book in the in-flight magazine while an airplane was taxiing. I reached down, switched on the wireless to the Kindle, and downloaded a sample before the plane took off, and then read the sample in the air when I was allowed to do so. Took me all of 10 seconds. I’ve met several people who are excited to tell you what strange location they’ve been in while buying a book – at this point the bathroom is mundane. Plus, with book syncing, you don’t bring your Kindle in to the lavatory with you. You bring your phone and pray you don’t drop it.
For those who aren’t as familiar with the Kindle method of managing files, there’s one short review and one longer account I can share. The short review: Kindle file management sucks. It’s awful. It’s rudimentary and awkward and freaking annoying. Books you buy from Amazon and remove from your device are stored at Amazon, or “in their cloud,” which is different from “the” cloud because Amazon is about as much like a cloud as I am, unless by cloud you mean “air biscuit,” in which case you might see the analogy a bit better. Or smell it anyway. There’s legions of stories about books in Amazon’s Air Biscuit Cloud that have disappeared or moved or been not really supposed to be for sale oops, we’ll just take that back, thanks.
Here’s what you need to know about buying books from Amazon: you’re paying money for a book you don’t really actually own unless you download it, strip the DRM off it with some process that at this point involves neuroscience and a micron laser, and then store it somewhere else. If you buy books elsewhere, strip the DRM off the .mobi file, or are in receipt of digital files in .doc, .rtf, or .whatever format, and you convert them and put them on the Kindle, yes, you own those files and can move them around. But if you buy a book from Amazon, you don’t really own it. You get a lease on it. You can calculate the term of that lease for use using the following equation:
Take the name of the book and count the letters in it, then divide by the number of days between Facebook privacy setting updates that you have to change lest Facebook make pictures of your backside visible to the astronauts in the Mir space station, then take the derivative of that number, multiply by the cosign of pi, and that’s the term of your time to read that Amazon digital book. Maybe. Macmillan and the Good Lord willing, creeks don’t rise, etc. etc. etc.
That’s the biggest problem with Amazon: you don’t really own your books, and they’re stored in Amazon’s Air Biscuit.
On top of all that, the Amazon Air Biscuit is difficult to navigate and cumbersome to use. And when you migrate from one device to another, there can be problems. When I received Kindle 3, I hooked up K2 and K3 to my laptop to move the files over. I was in a hurry and wanted to set it up with the latest books I’d placed on K2, and didn’t want to download them individually – and to my knowledge there is no way to move a bunch of files out of the Amazon Air Biscuit all at once. In addition, some of the files I’d emailed to the device and those were obviously not going to be in the archive.
The emailed files transferred fine with no problems. But when I tried to open a book I’d already read, one that I’d downloaded from Amazon as part of a free promotion on K2 and moved physically over to K3, BOTH of which are on my Amazon account, I received the following message:
This item cannot be opened because it is licensed to a different user. Delete the item and download it from your Archived Items or purchase a copy from the Kindle Store.
What the hey now? I did buy this book. From the Kindle Store. On my account. And I only have one user account with Kindle (and, like, fourteen billion different locations to which I can download a file at this point). So what the hell went wrong? I really, really don’t want to have to click and download a bunch of individual files out of the archive, and thought bulk-moving would work. Apparently not.
What fixed it? Changing the name of K3 and K2. Once K3 had the name and email address I used for K2, those free download files worked just fine. VERY odd. And a total accident that I figured it out.
The Amazon Air Biscuit is also crappy in terms of how books are presented. You can’t sort by pub date or purchase date in the archive, and you can’t read or see a blurb in the archive listing.
The individual description page of books I’ve purchased contains precious little information and nothing additional is accessible without wireless connection to reach out to the Kindle Store and get the rest of the data. That’s bothersome in a big way, since I suck at remembering titles and plots together, and constant look up which book is which when I’m reading digitally. Is it really that difficult to include a description in the metadata that’s included on the book file housed on the Kindle?
And finally, the lack of file management outside of the device itself is ri-freaking-diculous. Unless I am using the Kindle software on the Kindle itself, and moving files one by one, I cannot organize my files in bulk or move them en masse into collections. What the ever loving hell is that? I ran this picture with my review of the Sony Touch, and really, it demonstrates so clearly what’s wrong with the library management on the Kindle using the Kindle software. I know NetGalley is working on a solution to the Number Name problem, but Amazon does not seem very interested in hearing about their file management issues and fixing them.
Oddly, the Amazon customer support is goggle-eye good. Your eyes will bug out if you use it. I can get someone on the phone within seconds to help me work through a problem, and I’ve had Kindles that were broken or not working right replaced in 24 hours. I’ve had excellent support on both new and refurbished Kindles, and I’ve never had a problem calling and telling them that a book was poorly formatted or just plain ugly on the Kindle and immediately having the book removed from my account for a full refund. It’s a very, very big plus, especially if you are the type of user who is not tech-savvy and does not know, and does not want to know, how to use a device like a Kindle.
The actual reading experience isn’t so different from the K2. The graphite body, I think, highlights the increased contrast, which I loooooove, looooooooooove, LOOOOOOOVE with every one of the points of magnification of my eyeglasses. The eInk contrast is so improved, I have no regrets about upgrading. If you have a Kindle 1, and are thinking of upgrading, I think you will be very happy if you upgrade.
I like the weight of it, the texture of the buttons and the back – not having the slick metal back made me very happy indeed. I do miss the toggle bar, as it was easier to use without looking at it. With the indented square with thin bars that move the cursor up, down, left and right, I’m having to look to make sure I’m pressing the right thing, and not about to accidentally hit the middle of the button, which functions as an enter key.
I also have to look and confirm the locations of “menu,” “home,” and “back,” though I expect I’ll have them memorized soon enough.
The thinner page turn buttons are way, way thin, and I have to check to make sure I’m at the right place when I’m about to start turning pages, sort of like checking the position of your hands before you play the piano. The on/off switch is SO loose, I feel like one good nudge and it’s going to come off. It wiggles like a loose tooth. But I love that there is a light behind it that tells me it is on or off – it glows green when the device is on.
So why, when I load so much content onto the Kindle that ISN’T from Amazon, did I ultimately go back to the Kindle? The multiple venues of loading content wirelessly made it much easier to use, and if I’m attentive I can manage collections, though the method to do so on the device sucks out loud. If the question is File Organization and Shopping Options vs. Ease of Loading, I am going to go with Ease of Loading every time, simply because of what and how much I read. If I find a book I want, one click or one forwarded email, and it’s on the Kindle – I don’t have to think about it.
That said, I am not the same reader you are, and I don’t interact with and manage my books the same as everyone else. When I’ve been asked “What device should I buy?” I almost always start with the reading habits and the tech-savvy of the person asking. If they read frequently and are not tech-savvy, I recommend the Kindle, and to a lesser extent the Nook—and I don’t recommend the Nook at all for anyone who has arthritis in their hands. That bottom LCD would be very painful after a few hours. I don’t have arthritis and it bothered me.
I’m going to continue the Digital Reader Reviews this week (or very soon) with a review of the Kobo, but in the meantime, I want to welcome the Kindle users of any model to share why they like their Kindle, and what works for them.
ETA: Christina Dodd sent me this link on how to set up RSS feeds and online content via Instapaper and Calibre to deliver to the Kindle automatically. VERY cool.