Paul’s Kindle DX Review

 Posted by on 11 December 2009 at 8:00 am  Technology
Dec 112009

Diana has already posted her own thoughts about the Kindle, and I wanted to note that I have a vastly more positive opinion of my Kindle DX. The Kindle DX is the larger version with a 9.7-inch screen, whereas Diana’s Kindle has the smaller 6-inch screen.

For my purposes, the Kindle DX is nearly ideal. I use it mostly as a travel machine. It used to be that whenever I went on an out-of-town trip, I had to decide which 3 radiology journals and which two books to pack. But given the Kindle’s storage capacity, I can load it up with dozens of books and PDF files.

I have no major complaints about the e-Ink technology. The major positives include:

1) It is very easy to read in direct sunlight (as opposed to a backlit system such as a netbook or an iPhone).

2) It draws very little power (and hence the Kindle requires infrequent recharging)

3) It’s easier on the eyes than any backlit system.

The only relatively minor negatives to the e-Ink technology are:

1) The slower refresh rate when turning a page compared to a typical LCD computer screen.

2) The display is greyscale only (no color). For most books that’s a non-issue. It only really affects me when looking at medical articles, which often include color illustrations.

The Kindle interface is also generally fine for my purposes. The issues that bother Diana simply aren’t a significant problem for me. I don’t rely on the Kindle for notetaking. Nor am I bothered by what she regards as a “Heraclitean stream of words”. I’m in the process of also reading Tara Smith’s book Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, and have had no problems with reading it.

The three small UI (user interface) nuisances for me are as follows:

1) The inability to sort books and PDFs into folders.

2) The absence in some (but not all) Kindle books of markers that indicate how far one is within the chapter when viewing the progress bar on the bottom of the screen. (The reader can easily tell how far along he or she is with respect to the book as a whole).

3) The inability to alter the font size in PDF files. (One can easily alter font sizes in purchased Kindle books, documents converted using the Kindle free service, or any .mobi files one creates or downloads.)

If a PDF text is too difficult to read in portrait mode, I typically rotate the Kindle 90 degrees and view the document in landscape mode. The software enlarges the file to fit the full width of the screen (which is now along the long axis of the Kindle), but then only one half of the page is visible and one has to use the Page Up/Page Down buttons to toggle back and forth between the two halves of the PDF page.

Because I have the larger Kindle DX (9.7-inch screen), rather than the smaller Kindle (6-inch screen), most PDFs are easy to read in portrait mode. Only a few require shifting to the landscape mode.

I don’t use the Kindle to replace all reading of physical books at home. But when I’m away from home because I’m travelling out of town (or simply just leaving the house for a few hours but anticipate some downtime where I might want to read a book), then I routinely take my Kindle. It takes up very little space in my backpack.

I currently have over 100 books and 100 PDFs loaded onto my Kindle DX. Both categories include a mixture of work-related and recreational reading. About half of my Kindle content is free material (public domain books, PDF articles I’ve found online, etc).

I do think that if a company like Apple had designed the Kindle (rather than Amazon), then they would have done a better job with the user interface. But for my purposes, the drawbacks of the Kindle are relatively minor and are more than outweighed by its virtues of readability and portability.

It’s simply damned cool to have nearly the entire non-fiction corpus of Rand and Peikoff in one place, along with Tara Smith, Lord of the Rings, Dune, a dozen radiology articles, a few radiology, orthopedic surgery, and emergency medicine textbooks, PDF versions of unread Objective Standard articles, classic novels from Victor Hugo and other public-domain authors, and a miscellany of purchased fiction and non-fiction books.

And although there aren’t (yet) Kindle versions of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, most of Rand’s greatest essays from those novels are available in For the New Intellectual, including Galt’s speech, Francisco’s money speech, etc.

Note: I haven’t spent much time with the various Kindle competitors such as the new Barnes & Noble Nook or the various Sony Readers. But for two fairly detailed Kindle-vs-Nook reviews, see Walter Mossberg’s, “Nook E-Reader Has Potential, but Needs Work” (Wall Street Journal, 12/10/2009) and David Pogue’s “Not Yet the Season for a Nook” (New York Times, 12/9/2009).

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