Friday, November 18, 2011

Why I love the my Kindle but think the new ones suck

I am a huge Kindle fan.  I have loved them ever since the original Kindle 1 which looked like the love child of blackberry and tiger electronics.  E-ink makes reading long documents and books not feel like a chore to read, unlike LCD.  I am able to easily make notes that are saved to the cloud and searchable, download pretty much any book I want in seconds, get tons of public domain and Creative Commons licensed books, and I honestly think I read a bit faster on it.

To me the kindle isn't just about replicating a book in digital form, it is about improving on the book and brining some of the oldest technology we have into the 21st century.  But I am baffled by the latest Kindles.  To me it looks like they are a step in the wrong directions, it is like they are trying to be more like books instead of trying to transcend them.


First I want to talk about the cheaper one just called Kindle.  At first I was impressed with this device.  It was light and thin which are two of the top things I look for in gadgets.  The screen was nice and responsive.  At $79 how can you really complain?  Then I tried to type something and learned this was not the kindle for me.  It is frustrating to type anything but the most simple of words.  Maybe you could get used to it but I doubt it.  This makes one of the chief things I love about reading on a kindle.
With real books I was taught from an early age to not write in them.  I am sure I just had some stern librarian at my elementary school or something.  To this day I am rather sparing in my written notes inside books.  With my Kindle this isn't an issue and I love marking up my eBooks.  I highlight all the time, I write all sorts of notes.  Since I am able to review all of this online and easily search my notes I think it is a VERY valuable feature.  Especially for nonfiction readers like myself.
The new Kindle basically destroys this and doesn't care.  Now I would imagine many people who are buying a kindle just to read fiction are probably not going to mind this lose.  But I feel this is just making the Kindle into more of a normal book.  I feel we should be giving people the chance to engage with the content they read in a deeper way with notes/tweets/sharing.  It is something that I didn't think I would do all that often with my original kindle, but now do all the time.

Kindle touch

I just don't understand the drive for touch interfaces on e-readers.  It honestly doesn't bring much to the experience and right now with current e-ink technology it is just a nuisance.  Ever since the introduction of the iPhone people have been trying to bolt on touch interfaces to everything they can with mixed results.  To my knowledge Sony was the first to release a touch e-ink device and it was terrible.  The e-ink was slow and the overlay they used to make touch work caused the text to be hard to read.

We have come a long way since then but I still maintain that touch is not right for e-ink.  The biggest reason is more to do with expectations rather than the actual experience.  You expect it to act like an iPad and it just can't do that (yet).  With the kindle touch there is enough of a lag to be annoying and the UI is sometimes unresponsive and confusing.  I am sure you would get use to this but it just isn’t a joy to use in the way I find my Kindle Keyboard to be.
Right now the Kindle Keyboard is the way an e-reader should be.  It allows you to not just read the book but to engage with the book on a level that I just don't feel a paper book allows you to do.  Sure this is much more important for non-fiction books but I think it is worth it.
If you are going to get an e-reader  please consider the Kindle Keyboard.  The newer Kindle might be cheaper, and the kindle Touch might be cooler, but the Kindle Keyboard is the only one that is a real kindle in my book