Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The New (3rd gen) Kindle

Yesterday I received my new 3rd generation, Wifi-only Kindle in the mail. So far it's been a bit of a mixed bag, relative to my 2-year-old original Kindle.

Good things:

  • it is, of course, smaller and lighter .
  • The contrast is noticeably better, and the quality of images is dramatically better.
  • Page turns are a lot faster.
  • The software offers some nice new features (notably, collections).
  • The wifi connectivity was easy to set up, including multiple networks.
  • The wifi-only version is finally reasonably priced (call it $140).
Bad things:
  • I can't find a way to set the sleep timeout; it seems like it's pretty short, and since I have a password set, that means I have to retype the password too often.
  • The first time I tried to download new (as opposed to previously purchased content from my old Kindle), the items got stuck in a "pending - 0%" state. I called CS, and they had me restart the Kindle (which takes about a minute; it's shockingly slow, for a dedicated device...). That unclogged it, but I won't be happy if I have to do this very often. I got the distinct impression from the CS guy that "pending first downloads" is a common problem.
  • To my surprise, I don't like the "arrow quad" for navigation as well as I did the old "roller strip". The roller was very fast, and since it used a display other than the main display (with a different technology), it was very responsive. Feedback from the new arrow quad is on the main (e-ink) display, which means it can't be very fast; and it feels glitchy; the quad is small enough that I find myself pressing the center "select" button inadvertently.
  • Related to the quad vs. roller - the dictionary lookup is different, too. On the old Kindle, you scrolled to the line containing the word to be looked up, depressed the roller, and selected "lookup" on the menu that appeared. All the words on that line were searched for. On the new Kindle, you actually have to select a specific word, which requires more careful navigation with the arrow quad.
It may be that some of the negatives (like the use of the quad) go away as I become more adept with the device - but it distinctly feels like a more complicated gadget. I fear that Amazon has fallen prey to feeping creaturism. The real beauty of the first generation device was that it was dead-up simple to use as a book. This new Kindle has more features, but may not be as good a book reader - and if it tries to go head-to-head with the iPad, it's sure to lose.

The main reason I got a new Kindle was for sharing; I've been really annoyed that, unlike a book, I've had no way to lend out books on the Kindle to friends. Now that I have a second gadget, I can loan out the old one. 

Given that up to six Kindles can share an account, I can imagine a group of friends, or even a book group, getting together to share books. I bet Amazon - and the publishing cabal - would hate that.

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