Home > Uncategorized > Breaking in the Kindle Touch

Breaking in the Kindle Touch

The last two weeks have been a blur: a quick trip to Vegas for my brother’s wedding, then back home for a couple of days before driving to Minnesota for Christmas. Lot of great fun: the Vegas trip was especially delightful, because I went a la bachelor: no wife nor kids. I was a free man! In Vegas! Naturally this meant…well, nothing at all. Except traveling was lonelier than I expected.

What I really want to cover in this post, though, is my new Kindle Touch, which I found neatly wrapped and fresh from the North Pole (well, actually from Amazon’s warehouses, but they are a pretty close analogue to Santa’s workshop, don’t you think?). Here’s my take on the Kindle, in case you’re interested in buying your own.

Body: The Kindle is close to the perfect size, but not quite. On the one hand, the screen is great for reading–roughly the page size of a small paperback. It’s also incredibly thin, not much thicker than a dinner plate, and slightly heavier than a 2-disk DVD case. The backside also has a tremendous grip surface that makes it easy to hang on to–it won’t slip out of your hand. However, the small size is also a tad frustrating, because the sides of the device are very thin, and it can be difficult to rest your thumb on it, the way you might between the pages of a book. So I find myself juggling between a lot of hand holds; because it’s a touch, I also have to be careful about resting my thumb on the screen. Still, if it was wider, it would lose some of its convenience.

Screen: The screen is great–no backlight (obviously), and so it reads just like a book. Plus, you can adjust font and size. Not only that, but pictures come up in decent, B/W quality if you’re viewing a webpage or PDF (more on that in a bit). The touch-response is a tad slow, not as smooth as Apple products. Turning pages and other view-features (like zooming in, highlighting, etc.) feels a bit clunky and kind of makes you wish Steve Jobs had a chance to re-imagine the device. Still, I’m sure a bit of that lag and awkwardness comes from an e-ink screen rather than a traditional monitor, so you can’t complain too much. Also, the touch keyboard works pretty well–as good as any Blackberry or iPhone.

Multi-use: I’ve spent the last 3-4 nights up past midnight fiddling around with the Kindle and trying to see how to use it best: can it become my RSS reader? Can I use it to hold notes or lesson plans? Can I read PDFs on it and what’s the fastest way to upload them? I like the Kindle because it is what it is: an e-reader, not a phone or a mini-computer or a music player. Still, it would be nice to have some of the accessibility of, say, an iPod Touch. Amazon is moving in that direction: in their “Experimental” menu, you can listen to MP3s or browse the web through your Kindle–or have the Kindle read text to you in a passive, feminine voice like you’re getting GPS directions. What I’ve found is that the Kindle does quite well at handling many different types of documents: PDFs, for example, can be uploaded as they are or converted into text (though make sure it’s a quality PDF). Zooming is a hassle, but it can be done. You can e-mail yourself any attached text document and have it show up on your Kindle almost instantly, which can be quite handy. For instance, I had to shut the computer down today to make some repairs, but Janelle needed a recipe from the Internet. Rather than write it all down, I copied it to a text file, e-mailed it the Kindle, and she had it a minute lbter. It takes a few more steps than feels necessary (you can’t simply write text into the e-mail and have that show up) but it’s still pretty good.

Also, because it’s not a computer, it doesn’t have the same sync capabilities of other mobile devices. So while I figured out how it can send me all the posts in my Google Reader, it doesn’t mark those posts as “Read” when I scroll through it. I have found an easy web app that lets me send any article/webpage I find on my computer to my Kindle to read later, which is fantastic. I don’t like reading on a computer a lot, so this let’s me do my online reading with more ease and comfort. Big plus, right there. Also, if there are links in Google Reader or in other pages, you can click on them and the Kindle will go to that page (again, in B/W, e-ink). You wouldn’t want to do much web-browsing there, but it’s relatively quick and easy to move to and from that page.

Books and Reading: Ultimately, though, the big question is: can you read on it? Is it worth it? Why not just stick with physical books? I don’t think these things will make books obsolete–all things being equal, I’m more likely to grab a hard-copy of a novel than the Kindle version to enjoy. But things aren’t equal, and the Kindle has some huge advantages: thousands of books can be carried in a single device, you can get non-copyright material for free (this means any literary works from before 1920s are up for grabs), it’s lighter than most books. But I also find I read more with it: not only online material, like I mentioned, but other books that are pretty quick to come by. During one of my late-night test drives, I found a great deal on Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale and bought it right away. Seconds later, I was reading the first chapter. In a normal situation, say at a library, I never would have felt I had the time to pick up and read the book, or I would’ve thought, “I’ll never get around to it, so why check it out?” Kindle leaps over these sorts of limitations. Call it instant gratification, but ultimately, it gets you reading faster and more easily–and that’s nice.

So, yes, Kindle’s great. If you like to read a lot, especially older works, it’s very handy. I can’t vouch for the standard model, with a built-in keyboard (though it doesn’t have the same audio capabilities) or any of the upper-range versions, but the Touch is simple and yet useful. Just make sure you don’t have fat thumbs.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Aw Dallin. I’m glad you’re back writing again. I love your insights.

  2. Meredith
    January 2, 2012 at 2:41 am

    You must have been really good this year if Santa gave you a kindle 🙂 it was neat reading an in depth review if the kindle touch. It can do way more than I thought

  3. Liz
    January 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Agreed. I also got a Kindle touch… I need to play with it more, but I’m highly optimistic!

    Curious – what was the first book you downloaded?? I felt like that was a big deal for me for some reason… but in the end, it was a no-brainer (Les Miserables, obviously!).

  4. DLewis
    January 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I think it was Christmas Carol–I was already reading a hard-copy version, so I wanted to see if I would finish it on the Kindle. Not a big moment for me.

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