Net: I loved the original Kindle and the Kindle 2 is even better. Thinner, more durable, faster user interface and improved battery life. It pays for itself in 6 months if you switch from buying the paper versions of the Boston Globe, NYT and WSJ to the KIndle versions. If you click on the link below to buy one, 10% of the price will go to the nonprofit job training program Year Up.
Last summer my wife bought me an Amazon Kindle for our anniversary. I was so impressed with the device – and felt that it was so poorly marketed – I wrote a long email praising the product and sent it to everyone on my email list. I had never done this before for any product or service. I turned the email into a blog post and posted it on Collaboration Evangelist under the CHU Recommends section.
The post was titled 4 Reasons why the Amazon Kindle e-reader is one of the best devices ever, will help you lose weight, save money and lower your stress level. I won’t repeat all of the praise for the Kindle here; the main points I emphasized were:
- Although Amazon markets the Kindle as an electronic book reader, I find its real value comes from reading newspapers and blogs. The Kindle automatically and wirelessly downloads newspapers and blogs to the device. So anywhere in the country I wake up with the latest versions of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe and the 10 blogs I follow on My Kindle. You never need to connect the device to your laptop.
- It is very readable, even in bright sunlight.
- The battery lasts for days.
- You get new content by searching right from the Kindle, purchasing with “one click” on the device and are billed through amazon.com as if you made an online purchase. No need to enter passwords, credit cards, etc. on the Kindle. Books download in 60 seconds.
- It’s incredibly light, about as heavy as a Blackberry.
- It’s a great value, as long as you cancel your paper subscriptions. Although the Kindle 2 is slightly more expensive than the original at $359 and the cover is sold separately for $30, it is still a great deal. Breakeven is less than 6 months if you switch from paper to Kindle versions of three newspapers. Books cost about $10; blogs are around a dollar a month.
As great as I thought the original Kindle was, the Kindle 2 is greatly improved. Major improvements include:
Much thinner. About half the thickness of an iphone (even without the maddeningly fat iphone booster battery).
Much more durable. The battery cover on the original comes off easily. This one doesn’t. Note you can’t change the battery on the Kindle 2, but you don’t need to as it lasts for days.
Sleeker, cooler design. Think ipod touch vs. 80 gig video ipod.
Improved user interface. The addition of a joystick controller improves ease of use. My favorite improvement is shifting the stick to the right advances to the next article, something that required multiple actions on the original.
Problems with the new version
The only complaint I have with the upgraded Kindle is it seemed harder to read when I first used it. Thinking it was just my aging eyes, I asked my colleague Nicco Mele if he thought it was more difficult to read. “Yes!” he exclaimed, obviously relieved that he wasn’t imagining the same thing I saw. To get a third opinion, I took both models to Kinkos and ask them to scan the same page side by side. Here’s what I found:
If you are reading this on a small screen, you may not be able to see the difference, and note, the scan appears much darker than the real screen, which looks very close to black type on white paper. Although the Kindle 2 (left) has slightly less contrast, due to the increased grey scale that makes black and white pictures appear more clearly (which I don’t care about because the pictures are not great and only come in B&W – an easy trade off for weight and battery life), that’s not what causes decreased legibility. The surprising finding is that the spacing between lines on the Kindle 2 is much tighter, which makes it more difficult to read. When I first looked at the side by side scans, I thought the Kindle 2 was set to a smaller font, but after measuring and counting both word count per line and lines per inch, I realized the problem was tighter spacing.
Although in hindsight I am embarrassed about this, I actually returned my first Kindle 2 because the decreased legibility bothered me so much. I reversed my decision after a couple of weeks because I realized how much I valued the increased durability, improved size and faster scanning of articles using the joystick. After a few days, I couldn’t remember that the Kindle 1 was easier to read. Maybe it was my 52 year old eyes after all?
Last point – Amazon is still missing a huge opportunity by not building in the capability to email articles to clients, colleagues and friends. When I find something I want to share, I have to go online, find the article in the newspaper or blog, get the link and then email it. How many more Kindle’s could Amazon sell if instead of a standard email, non-Kindle users received an email with “Sent from my Amazon Kindle. Click here to learn more about the Kindle” in the signature line? Although a great improvement over the original in many ways, the Kindle 2 is still not Web 2.0 ready.
Postscript – Amazon recently shipped the Kindle DX, which features a 9.7″ screen, larger than the 6.0″ screen on the Kindle 2. I was with John King from Perot Systems at a Year Up Board Summit last week. John is even a bigger gadget guy than I and as soon as he saw me, he whipped out his brand new DX and let me play with it. I am not going to review it, as there are several good reviews available including this one from Gizmodo.com, but my initial reaction was it was too big. I like the existing size and – almost – everything about it.
If you click below to buy your Kindle 2 from amazon.com, 10% of the proceeds will go to Year Up, the innovative nonprofit job training program I have been involved with since its beginning in 2001.