Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th May 2009 18:55 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless With the success of the Kindle I and Kindle II still fresh in its memory, Amazon decided to take its line of e-ink digital ebook readers to the next level with the newly announced Kindle DX. The Kindle DX is basically a supersized Kindle II, but it comes with a number of interesting improvements.
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Kindle Misconceptions
by sarahannalien on Thu 7th May 2009 15:27 UTC
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I had played with an original Kindle and decided that I didn't need a beta-quality device. I preordered a Kindle 2 the day they were announced, and I preordered a Kindle DX yesterday.

Let me see if I can clear up some misconceptions about the Kindle.

DRM: You can only buy DRM locked books from Amazon (there's a hack for other DRM'ed books but I've never bothered trying it.). However, you can ALSO buy or download NON-DRM books from anywhere: Gutenberg, Fictionwise, Webscriptions are a few that I've tried. The catch is that Kindle 2 wants everything in .mobi format... but to reiterate, NON-DRM .mobi files work just fine and are not locked to the device or to Amazon!

Files can be copied to the Kindle 2 using a plain old ordinary USB cable (which is also how it's recharged). You can also email files to an email address Amazon assigns to your Kindle, and Amazon then charges you a flat $0.10 for the wireless file transfer.

The pain in the neck bit is converting things into .mobi format. Amazon offers free conversion via an email service (with optional $0.10 delivery directly to your Kindle) which allegedly converts html, pdf, and txt... but I've had fairly bad luck with it. There's also a free Windows .mobi creator/converter that works pretty well, but, well, only works on Windows! And even when the conversion DOES work, it seems that you always lose a certain amount of formatting.

For reading novels or other plain-text books, the Kindle 2 is really quite wonderful. The battery lasts practically forever, so I can read all day without thinking about whether or not it needs to be charged. And the screen really is VERY much easier on the eyes than an LCD screen. You'll really have to use one for a day to understand the difference. And buying a new book from Amazon is really just too easy. You can search the Amazon Kindle store, find a book, download a sample, and then buy the whole book if you want it, all with a couple button clicks... and because it has the wireless service built-in, it works practically everywhere.

There's also an experimental web browser, which, at least at the moment, is free, and can be pointed at arbitrary websites. It's just not fast enough for random surfing, and the formatting is sometimes kind of iffy... it definitely deserves to be called experimental! But I've used it successfully with long Wikipedia pages, and it works quite well for that. As near as I can tell, though, you can't save pages for later review or anything like that.

The thing the Kindle 2 isn't very good at is technical stuff. Code listings in computer books get broken in strange places, making things difficult to read. This can be reduced, to some degree, by setting the font size really, really small... but this makes things harder to read, especially if you happen to be middle aged...

The Kindle DX stands a good chance of being wonderful. Copy PDF files to it over USB... and read them. Or email them to the Kindle for a dime. (The usefulness of this shouldn't be underestimated, because usually I'm at work and my Kindle is at home. And at work, we've already started talking about getting Kindles for the programming team. Email a pdf file to one of our internal mailing lists, and have it pushed out to all the team members automatically? An interesting possibility.)

Is it expensive. Duh! Of course it's expensive! For me, the benefits make it worthwhile, because I read a LOT of pdf files, and being able to read them more comfortably is a big win for me. If you can't handle the sticker shock, just wait a couple of years. I'll pay extra to get started now.

"But I can just read them on a netbook and it's cheaper?" No, sorry, no comparison... I *have* a netbook, and it's an apples-and-oranges comparison. If I'm going to spend several hours reading, the netbook is heavier, more cumbersome, and has an inferior screen. Yes, it's cheaper... but I'm paying for the comfort and convenience.

"It needs an SD card slot!" Well, I think so too. Sadly, the current book-management software in the Kindle isn't great, and I don't think I'd want to try to manage thousands of books on my Kindle. The built-in storage (2gig for Kindle 2, 4gig for Kindle DX) is probably sufficient for now. The Kindle 3 really needs better software... and an SD card slot!

I haven't tried any of the magazine or newspaper subscriptions Amazon offers, but have been considering it. I just have too much other stuff to read. Also, some of the stuff I want to subscribe to isn't available on the Kindle. Yet.

And a word on Amazon book prices: to be blunt, many of them are too freaking expensive! But that's not really a problem for me, as I've only bought a few books from Amazon, and don't expect to buy a lot. I just don't like buying DRM locked stuff. Ever.

So, to sum up, I have high hopes for the Kindle DX. Assuming the native PDF renderer works well, I think I'll be very happy with it.

For those of you who hate the Kindle: um, you might want to try one for a while. It's not perfect; I think we're still in the early stages of the true e-book era. But it's quite a lot better than some of you seem to think it is!

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