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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I deliberated over buying a Kindle in the past. My original objections still stand:

  • I can’t share books
  • The pricing sucks (it’s the same, or higher, than mass-market paperbacks; this makes no sense)
  • License transfer between hard copies and soft copies doesn’t exist

I still bought a Kindle. It’s tiny and it weighs nothing. I have so little patience for travel, and this is the ultimate way to bring a lot of books with me. It does not impact my travel envelope in any material way size or weight-wise.

I’ve now read about half a dozen novels and about a dozen novellas. In general, I find the experience of reading on the Kindle better than the iPad (which was miserable), but inferior to paper. When only the overhead reading lights are available on the airplane, there’s still enough glare and little enough coverage that it’s hard to read the screen. The self-illuminating case is not really an option, and is necessary if you want to be able to read in the dark with the thing. The self-illuminating case sucks (providing a bright top right corner and a decaying gradient of failure), but is better than most of the alternatives.

Battery life is good; it’s significantly worse with the reading light on, which gives some indication to just how efficient it is (and how small the batteries are) under normal operation. The device has randomly rebooted, locked, or just gone blank about half a dozen times, meaning about one major irritation per book I read. Page turning doesn’t bother me; you quickly get into a rhythm of moving your eyes to the top of the screen while it flashes. The lag before displaying a page with graphics on it is irritating, as you end up hitting the page advance a second time thinking it missed it, only to advance past the graphical pages. On that topic, the page turn buttons sort of suck. It would be nice to have some that are either larger, can be activated by pressing the side (not the face) of the device, or are available on the top or bottom edges. For whatever reason, my hands do not hold the device in a way such that they comfortably can hit the page advance buttons.

Screen resolution is impressive, but not exceptional. The rasterization and lack of clarity of individual glyphs is distracting, and makes reading difficult. It is evident at reading distances. Type rendering is not exceptional. Sometimes sentences seem to render diagonally, or random words paginate on an additional lines. Some books have their own typefaces; this is really fucking irritating. In some cases these may not be limitations of the device, but referring back to the “this costs as much as a paperback” argument, I expect at least paperback quality, and it’s often not there.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. The device is great, and I’m glad I have it. It is the ultimate travel companion. Being able to also use it for ad-hoc reading on my iPhone/iPad is nice. It still grabs attention on planes and things, but is not so uncommon you can’t be disturbed.

There’s a big aspect that sucks when using it for travel that should have been obvious, but didn’t occur to me until I was on a plane: You cannot use the device from when the door closes until you reach 10,000 feet. At a small airport where you’re going to push back and be at 10,000 feet in under 10 minutes, this isn’t a big deal. If you’re at a shitty airport with lengthy queuing and tarmac delays measured in hours (I’m looking at you, JFK), this means you may spend hours without being able to use the device. You also must turn it off and stow it once you pass under 10,000 feet on approach. For airports with nasty approach patterns (I’m looking at you, again, JFK), this can be north of 15 minutes. So, you end up needing to pack a backup paperback book or magazine if you want read while your Kindle is unavailable.

This is completely stupid, and more a product of (ignorant) airline regulations than anything that makes sense. With the radio off, the Kindle does nothing. The rules for stowing electronics during the critical phases (taxi, takeoff, and landing) are there to prevent projectiles, not because of electronic interference. A large hardcover book is far more dangerous than a kindle, in terms of airborne projectiles, but arbitrarily it’s been decided that electronic devices are the ones that have to be stowed and turned off.

Anyway, it’s just something to think about; pack a magazine or small novel for backup when you travel with a Kindle, if you like reading. If you’re on a medium or long-haul flight; this is likely to really be an inconvenience, but if you’re looking at puddle jumpers and multi-leg transcontinental, plan on spending a material portion of your flight not using your Kindle. Better regulations with the airlines (as I understand it, this is the airlines, and not the FAA, that causes this inanity) would greatly improve the situation, but I’m not really holding out any hope.

For normal reading around the house, I’ll probably stick to real books, but I’m happy with the purchase. It’s definitely worth the $190 to get one, if only for travel and the ability to add books on the road without adding space and weight. Get one.