Monday, December 27, 2010

kindling

I got a new tech-toy that I'm more excited about than any other new tech-toy since wireless internet or maybe ultra-cheap digital storage.

Ironically, I was finally convinced to buy a Kindle for the most un-tech of motives. With a one-month battery life and 8 ounce size, I can take a week's worth of reading material on a backpacking trip without making my backpack too heavy to lift. With the non-backlit screen, I can use it outside and with a dim red flashlight at star parties. And with 3G internet, with a new REAL (not just text and mobile pages) web browser built in, I can leave the laptop and cell phone at home way more often.

Ok, the price was a motive too. It's fallen in half since its initial release, and if I drop internet service on my phone it'll pay for itself in 19 months. I honestly don't know how amazon makes money. Obviously the idea is that losing money on the free 3G will be made up for by selling their proprietary format kindle books, but with a real web browser people will want them just for that and skip the books. Not to mention that it's insanely easy to fill up with, um, various forms of free reading material...

Even ignoring the kindle, I can't imagine what outrageously good bulk shipping contract they've worked out that the free 2-day shipping on everything (for students, at least) pays for itself in increased sales. And last week I discovered an arbitrage opportunity in returns: I accidentally ordered the wrong version of something, sent it back, and they reimbursed me fully plus $3 more than I paid for return shipping. Presumably they keep an eye on frequency of returns...

I think I'm perfectly fine with amazon taking over the world with google. But in case they don't, I figured I should buy one now before they drop the free 3G...

Anyway, I've been using this thing for a month now and have only discovered new good points about it that make me wonder why I didn't think this was a great idea from the start.

1) It is SO easy to hold and read. Just prop it on something and it stays "open" and you hit a little button occasionally to turn the page. One-handed operation in any crazy lounging position imaginable.

2) The text is very easy on your eyes compared to reading e-books on a backlit computer screen. E-ink is awesome. (Something to do while holding a fishing rod in the other hand!)

3) I am pretty sure I actually read faster on it than with a real book. I think it's primarily because I don't get lost in thought and accidentally read a whole page of text over again - only a tiny kindle-sized page. I also don't "read" without taking in the words for a long time before noticing it. The page ends too fast. But it also feels like the gravity pulling your eyes down the page is stronger on a little page that you can read in 5 or 10 seconds. If that makes any sense...

4) Searchable!

5) Notes, underlines, instant dictionary look-up - also all searchable!

6) I worried that without a physical book, my spatial memory that puts things in order based on where in the book and on the page it was would be undermined. But, with the little progress indicator at the bottom of the page, not at all. It's even better, I think, to see that you're 22% of the way through the book, rather than a-substantially-thick-portion-but-much-less-than-one-half.

7) So little and light! 8 ounces, can you believe that?

8) The pdf reading capabilities are much better than I ever hoped. I can put papers on it, rotate them 90 degrees to read half of each page on one landscape screen, and it is beautifully legible. I can't do math in the margins anymore, but that was always a pretty futile practice in such a cramped space anyway...

9) The web browser works so much better than on my phone. It loads the full, not mobile, page, and never "runs out of memory", as the phone did on about half of all pages. No more printing directions for the car or writing down library call numbers or phone numbers or addresses...

...hey amazon, want to pay me to keep gushing? :)

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