Kindle 2: the temperature at which books burn

OK, that title doesn’t exactly make sense. I was also going to try “K2: The Book-Widowmaker”, but that’s even worse. Something something ‘books as kindling’ something something. Maybe “What are you reading for?” Well, here’s a review of the Kindle 2 from someone who doesn’t own, nor plan to buy, one. And why would I, when I already have this sweet iPhone?

Speaking of iPhone, Wired thought they’d simplify the design of the Kindle 2. Yikes. While it shows all the innovation of a giant iPhone with an extra button, it does get to the bare essentials: page left and page right. I can’t believe this design was newsworthy, since it’s just simple to the point of being simplistic, especially given the other things the Kindle can do.

Still, the omission of the keyboard does beg the question: how much typing does a person normally do in a book?

As for the utility of the actual Kindle, I would first ask myself if I read enough books in a year to make up the $360 price difference. That’s a huge initial cost — as Jon Stewart pointed out, “You mean you have to buy the books, too?” It is cool that there’s a web browser and free wireless internet out of the deal, but it seems like less a feature for the consumer than another venue for Amazon to sell you books. Why else would they give it away for free? I think of it the way Microsoft grants me an Xbox Live Silver account for free, which is an online account that only allows me to buy their downloadable content. How generous!

It also bothers me that the Kindle is a vertically integrated system. You aren’t buying a book, you’re buying software for the Kindle. Just like how the recording industry wanted you to buy your vinyl records all over again as CDs, it feels like Amazon wants to sell you your books all over again. One for your shelf, one for your Kindle. (Caveat: this from someone who buys iPhone apps and songs for Rock Band.)

Were it me, I would instead go with a netbook, since they cost about the same, have a better screen, bigger keyboard, software (they even come with a free web browser!), plus you can hack them any way you like. There’s even a great hack to put OS X on a Dell Mini 9 netbook.

Regarding the free wireless internet, you can always tether your netbook with your jailbroken iPhone, since you’re paying for that already. But that’s just the way I’d do it — instead of one slim thing to so a specific task, I’ll use three that, well… kinda/sorta fit.

Despite all this, the Kindle does fall into the Goldilocks zone for an e-book reader: it is just the right size to do something an iPhone is too small to do enjoyably and a laptop is too big to do conveniently. And that e-ink display is very pleasant to read. If it’s the right tool for the right job, then you should go for it. So have fun with your reading, I’ll be with the rest of the LA lizard scum out by the pooool!

By Tim

An animator, video producer, Lego artist, and author—I am moderately skilled at a lot of different things.

7 replies on “Kindle 2: the temperature at which books burn”

Kindle Schmindle. My iPhone has SimCity AND I can buy a fart noise generator in the App store. Where’s your god now Kindle???

I decided to go with a Kindle 2 because of a few reasons:

1) it’s designed for e-book reading, unlike a netbook. I’ve tried two different netbooks and while it works, it’s a pain. The iPhone is easier than a netbook to read books on, but the touchscreen doesn’t allow for easy note-taking.

2) the tactile keyboard allows for easy note taking. I read a lot of non-fiction.

3) battery life is crazy good: days vs. the iPhone’s hours

4) display for reading text is actually better on readers than on netbooks. E-ink looks like print–it’s crazy.

5) free wireless–would have preferred it had wifi, too, but 3G beats tethering to the iPhone–in my experience, it’s a hassle even for JBed iPhones.

6) Paying for the books may sound like a pain–and it is, but only if you buy them from Amazon. There are loads of free e-book libraries, most notably gutenberg.org

An e-book reader, like an iPod or iPhone isn’t for everyone. Will the Kindle 2 be as good as it looks to me? I’ll find out and keep in mind, before I ordered mine I made sure Amazon has a decent return policy. 30 days full refund.

@ThePete: The issue for me is how freely I’m able to use the content I purchase for it; if I don’t like the Kindle or something better comes along, I want to be able to dump it without having to dump my entire library with it. Is this unreasonable? Consider this: I can play the videos I download off of iTunes on other devices, but if I ditch my Xbox for a PS3, I shouldn’t expect to play my old games on my new system. The Kindle falls somewhere in between, but I would only be interested if it fell closer to the iTunes end of interoperability, like what you mention about content on gutenberg.org.

Other than that, it seems like a solid e-book reader; I prefer to use my iPhone because I read more websites than I do books (which is to say, uh, any) and I like the other capabilities it offers such as video and the app store.

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