Monthly Archives: April 2011

Kindle: From "Library Of The 21st Century" to "Landfill" In One Easy Lesson…

One dead Kindle eInk display. You can see a fragment of the old “screensaver” display at the bottom right.

I’ve hardly used my (Version 2) Kindle at all since I got my iPad. The larger, brighter iPad screen makes the Kindle display look positively Victorian. I installed the Kindle app on it, transferred all my books, set up synchronization so I could read on the Kindle if I needed to, then promptly forgot about it. It’s been sitting in a corner of our bedroom.

Well, today Tanya wanted to use the iPad. For some time, I’ve been meaning to get an iPad 2 – for this very reason – but haven’t yet got around to it. I thought I’d wait until the rush died down a bit. On reflection I should have tried to pick one up at the company store when I visited Apple in Cupertino a few days ago 😦

Anyway, there’s a book I bought a couple of days ago that I want to read, so I thought I’d resurrect the Kindle and make do with that for a day or two.

It hasn’t been charged in a while, so I knew I’d have to do that before anything else. I plugged it into the wall, waited for a while until I knew it would have a charge, and opened the cover to switch it on.

I knew right away there was a problem, even before I hit the power switch. In place of the full-screen screensaver image Kindle normally displays when you shut it down, or when it powers itself off after a period of inactivity, you could see only a fraction of the original image. The rest of the display was split into two rectangular areas, each a different shade of gray.

The Kindle support site on Amazon suggested that low battery might cause this problem. The suggested remedy is to charge the device for a few minutes (did that), then unplug it and reset it by sliding the Power switch and holding it in that position for 15 seconds.

The screen flickers for a few seconds – seeming to go through the XOR flashing familiar to anyone who’s ever turned a Kindle page, but then goes back to the same display as before. It’s as if the fragment of graphic is burned into part of the display, while the rest of the display has ceased to, well, display anything…

So there we are. Another useless piece of plastic for which I paid $249.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog will know I’ve never been very impressed with eInk, which I view as a technological dead end. Since it depends on aligning millions of tiny black-and-white balls in the display by physically turning them, IMO it’s a technology which cannot be taken far enough to give us the kind of display brightness, contrast, color and performance to which we’ve become accustomed.

Sure, it gives great, great battery life. But the 10 hours between charges on my iPad is not merely an Apple claim – it’s real, and it’s plenty for anything I’ve ever wanted to do. And it’s a great display – among the best I’ve been. The use of in-plane technology gives a crispness that belies its 132ppi resolution.

And for me that was a killer factor in iPad v. Kindle. I don’t have to pay the price of a sub-optimal display in order to get the battery life I need.

If the display can’t be left to itself for a while without degrading to the point where it’s useless, that makes Kindle completely unacceptable.

The Kindle’s still working. When I connect it to my MacBook Pro with USB, I can see the Kindle drive. All my books are still there. I just can’t read them any more because the display’s dead.

I’ll try one more thing: leaving it on to charge until the “charging” light goes out and I know the battery’s fully charged. Then I’ll try another reset. I’ll let you know how that goes, but I’m not hopeful.

UPDATE: The Kindle was charging as I was writing this. The charge light turned green, which means the battery’s fully charged. And the display’s behaving exactly the same. From “Library of the 21st Century” to “Landfill” in one easy lesson…

UPDATE 2: Called Amazon. They volunteered an immediate replacement, although my Kindle’s out of warranty. Great customer service, great service representative. A company can’t really do better than that…

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