Angry Robot

Kindle 2, A Month Later

It’s been a month since I got the Kindle 2 and I’ve now read a few hundred of what we used to call ‘pages’ on it – apparently now you call them ‘locations’. So I thought it would be worth reporting back in.

Again, I was thankful every day for the slim size of this thing compared to the monstrous hardcover it immediately replaced. The next bonus was that I was carrying essentially as many books as I wanted at the same time. I don’t often feel the need to reread part of King Lear, but I suppose now I can. It would be very nice for frequent travelers – if they let you bring it on the plane I guess.

The screen: beautiful and far superior to reading off a backlit screen OR from a cheap paperback, but not superior to a nicely-printed hardcover. Also, the fixed font still seems restrictive.

The wireless capabilities of the device are mostly liabilities in Canada. The coolest wireless features (email your kindle documents, surf the web, auto-grab news feeds) are not available here, so you’re really only using wireless if you want to buy books from the kindle, or if you’re syncing your last-read position with the iPhone app (which is now available outside the US, BTW, and is awesome). For that, you get a pretty substantial battery drain – at least two weeks with wireless off turns into only a few days with wireless on. So I’ve taken to only turning it on when needed.

I have found Calibre to be quite cool. OK, it needs an interfacelift – it has the rugged bad looks of a java app. Also, it’s pretty slow. But feature-wise it impresses. You can convert pretty much any source (rtf, lit, pdf, doc etc.) to kindle format. It has a bunch of free news feeds pre-set up, including many newspaper sites. On your kindle, these look remarkably like the official newspapers you would pay $15/month to receive automatic, battery-killing wireless delivery thereof.

The two cool things I have to mention: one is instapaper’s kindle export. The auto-email to kindle doesn’t work here, but you can manually export your instapaper articles all at once and drag them onto the Kindle USB-stylee. Talk about “read later”, and in style. The other thing is I came upon the link to Annabel Scheme the other day, a novella with a free ebook version. It’s PDF which works on the kindle reasonably well, and the story is GREAT. I honestly wouldn’t have read 128 pages of PDF from my computer screen. That makes me think of a glorious world where I’m grabbing juicy morsels of lesser-known yet tasty author-fruit from the low-hanging boughs of the intertree, and slurping them down in e-ink luxuriousness, and some of the promise of said intertree becomes a little more real as its fruit gets more pleasant to consume.

There’s something very retro futuristic about the Kindle right now. Any black & white e-reader, really – under the shadow of the almost assuredly upcoming Apple tablet, or even of near-future advances in e-ink screens (colour screens, touch screens, combo OLED & e-ink screens), the objects seem, despite the permanence of the ink on screen, even more fleeting than gadgets normally are.

That said, I’ve found I’ve read a lot more since getting the Kindle. This could be a passing fancy, and perhaps the reading will subside once a shiny new gadget comes along (or Mass Effect 2 comes out), but for now, I can’t complain.