Living With The Kindle…

Now I’ve had my Amazon Kindle eBook for a few weeks, I’ve changed my opinion of it a little.

No, it’s still not a great reading experience. The flashing page turns drive me bananas. And the contrast is still poor. My favorite places to read are in bed and in the bath. When reading in bed, you need a really good strong light. And if you happen to turn to the other side, the slight drop in light level makes the Kindle almost unreadable. Gray on gray, not black on white.

I’ve found I can get it set up quite well in the bath. There’s a little fingernail brush in our bathroom that has a groove on the side that the Kindle just fits. That takes the screen above the level of the faucet I lean it against, so I can read “hands-free”. No danger of dropping it in the water (which I assume would be fatal). I just reach up and hit one of the Page Turn paddles when I need to.

Speaking of dunking it in water and other dangers, I’ve dropped the Kindle off the bed a couple of times. The flimsy battery cover came off, but otherwise it seemed no worse for the experience.

Where the Kindle really has advantages are in portability and lightness, battery life, and book purchasing. I’ve never run out of battery while reading – although once it wouldn’t let me download a book because it said the battery charge was too low to run wireless connectivity.

Portability. The lightness makes it convenient to carry.

Book purchasing is, as I said in my first impression, outstanding (at least when you’re within wireless range). The other day I wanted something new to read on the plane. So at the airport, I fired up the Kindle, switched on wireless and bought two books on my Amazon account. They were downloaded in about a minute and I was good to go.

No, I still don’t like the reading experience much. But the convenience of the device means I’ll put up with it as an acceptable compromise until a better screen comes along. I’ll buy more Kindle books – especially since the prices are so fair. Impulse book buying really works on this device.

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3 thoughts on “Living With The Kindle…

  1. Noam

    Hi Bill! I’m a graduate student in the Design and Technology program at Parsons, and I’m very interested in the whole screen readability issue…especially as it relates to eink devices.A few months ago I got to spend some time with an Amazon Kindle (laid up in a hospital with a broken arm from snowboarding). One of my biggest gripes about the Kindle is the poor default typeface it uses. Okay, maybe not poor, but inappropriate. PMN Caecilia is a lovely humanist slab serif when set in print, but it doesn’t work so well as a screen font! I wonder what possessed them to use it instead of a dedicated screen font like Georgia and the like. It occurred to me then that even a typefaced designed for computer display may not be the answer here…since by computer display, CRT/LCD/OLED monitor is implied, and the kindle is using a fundamentally, physically different display technology. From close-ups I’ve seen of e-ink screens, the micro-capsules that make up the pixels of an e-ink screen aren’t on a neat orthogonal grid, but are in fact somewhat irregular. I suspect that their method for sub-pixel addressing must differ from the LCD technologies that ClearType takes advantage of. In any case, designing type for epaper devices is one likely direction my thesis research will go. I’ve been thinking about font rendering engines and layout as well (how cool would it be to have LaTeX runnign on a Kindle?), but the general gist of my pursuits is “E-ink for all its faults is emerging as the dominant display technology for ebook readers, how do we make type look beautiful on it?” To that end, I’d love the opportunity to discuss matters typographical and technological with you. I know you’re a busy man, but I’ve encountered few people as passionate as you about the digital reading experience, and I’m hoping my research will lead to a significant contribution to the field. If nothing else, any books, articles, websites or other resources you could recommend would help me immensely!I’m recording my research and musings at:http://www.noamberg.com/thesis/blowrg/

    Reply
  2. Bill Hill

    Hi Noam:Be glad to talk to you about this. Why don’t you send me email? I’m billhill@microsoft.com.Designig fonts for eInk devices is an interesting topic, although with resolution ~170ppi, you’re getting close to the point where print fonts work fine.Also, a lot of what we’ve done to improve readability onscreen (with and without ClearType) used font hinting. So you’d need a good TrueType rasterizer running to handle the hints.Anyway, if you email me, I’ll hook up a discussion group of some of the real experts I know,best wishes,bill

    Reply

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