Its official: I’m an ebook convert. Not having an Ereader until recently, it took me a long time to get around to giving it a shot. I was skeptical, sure that the digital format would take something away from the experience, and reduce the joy of reading. I love books; I love to read, I love having books around, and what they represent. Despite a several year slump of hardly reading novels at all (while still consuming online content and magazines voraciously), I haven’t lost my appreciation. I could live in a personal library. I love wall spaces lined with bookshelves full of books. Sitting down near a window or outside in the hammock with a printed book just holds a certain appeal.
Having hundreds of books on a handheld device surely would not be as satisfying. Except that it is. I still love my shelves full of books, but the actual reading experience of an Ereader is fantastic. I love it. After just a few books on an ereader, I find it’s slightly aggravating to go back and read a physical book. I’ll still do it, but the convenience and ease-of-use of the Ereader has completely won me over.
Kevin agrees with me, as we ended up with two ereaders. We bought a Kindle Paperwhite (with the frontlit screen), and liked it so much, we ended up aggravated at having to take turns to read at night before bed. My parents took pity on us, and bought us a Kindle Fire as a gift. Now, we’re both consuming books as fast as we can read them. I’ve read more books this year (and we’re only half way through) than the last five years combined (I’m really, really lazy about going to the library, and not willing to buy physical copies of everything I want to read, so we used to just not have new reading material available). (Also, Goodreads has helped fuel my reading binge enormously, and keeps my to-read list full.)
So which Ereader is better? Here’s my 2 cents:
First up, the Kindle Fire:
The Kindle fire is more than just an Ereader. It is a limited tablet pc that runs on a modified Android OS, and has a full color screen (that’s pretty nice). Thus, its major advantage is that you can do a lot more than just read books. I find that I use it to browse and look things up on the internet quite a bit, but it also plays media (music, movies, audiobooks, etc.) as well. It does quite a bit more than that as well, but the internet has done a great job of listing all the things the Kindle Fire can do, so there’s no point in trying to cover that much information here. I probably won’t use most of it anyway, so for my purposes, here are the ups and downs so far with regard to how I actually have been using it:
+ Full color screen is great for everything besides reading books, and is not bad at all for reading
+Silk browser is pretty good. I like having internet access, and use this quite a bit.
+ The user interface is good. I like it. Its well organized and easy to use.
-Form factor feels heavy and bulky. The paperwhite is a pleasure to hold, and doesn’t cause fatigue during marathon reading sessions. The non tapered edges on the Fire are surely cheaper to make, and help keep the price fairly inexpensive, but this thing is kind of a brick.
-Buggy Buggy Buggy. So many problems. The fire only mounts to my computer as a drive if I use one particular USB cord. No lie. I couldn’t get the fire to mount, and when I googled for answers, I couldn’t believe what I was reading until I tried it. I swapped the USB cord I normally use (and works for all other micro USB devices) for a different one, and the fire mounted just fine. Swapped back, no dice. What the heck is that about.
-Then, once I transfered some ebook files to the Fire, some of them didn’t show up once I disconnected. When connected, the files show up in the directory, but won’t display on screen. I made a copy (so now there are two instances of the same file, with one file name as “Copy of xyz,”) and now the file shows up. What gives.
– DRM!! ARGH!!! We like to store the ebooks we already own on our network drive, so we can easily load files onto whatever device we want, and so they are always backed up (Kevin and I switch ereaders occasionally, so we need to move files between the two). The Fire seems to think some of these files are copyright protected, and won’t allow me to read them. One of the files that gave me trouble is a public domain copy of Les Miserables, so I know damn well I am not violating copyright, not to mention a file we had previously downloaded from Amazon (therefore, not stolen). If you get all of your ebooks from amazon, and download them wirelessly, it works fine (it should, as Kindles are Amazon devices). But screw that, that means I would often have to pay again for ebooks I already have.
-the silk browser, while generally pretty good and quick, often has problems with scripting and embedded media. It also has trouble with the widgets on the blog for whatever reason.
-battery life. For a tablet, its acceptable, which obviously uses a whole lot more power than an e-ink device. However, for an ereader, the battery is limiting, unless you are at home and can plug in all the time.
-DOES NOT READ .txt files, WTF AMAZON. Seriously. The Kindle Fire does not read text files. This is amazingly stupid.
-Locked down devices in general. Amazon’s insistence that you register, and obtain all content through them. I don’t seem to be able to side-load apps. In fact, there aren’t really apps available. That’s a shame, cause the fire could be more like a real tablet, despite it low cost hardware.
In sum: Based on my experience, and reviews from the pros, the Kindle Fire is pretty decent for the price, but is largely wasted potential. If it weren’t for the buggy usability issues, I would like it a lot more; it should be great for how I actually use it. Despite my complaint about the form factor, I do not want a full size tablet. Probably a Nexus 7 would be a better choice for me, but the fire integrates with Amazon (and our prime account) very nicely, is probably easier to use for those a little intimidated or new to this tech (more like apple products are), and is pretty much the cheapest tablet available.
So what about the Kindle Paperwhite?
I love the paperwhite. I can recommend it without reservation. It pretty much only does one thing, which is be the best ereader ever, but it does that one thing really well.
E-ink is pretty much like magic to me. I do not understand this display technology at all. However, it looks fantastic, and is very nice to read text on. The contrast and resolution are much better than the regular kindle, and the front light is a brilliant addition. (Quick explanation: the most common screens on electronic devices now are back lit LCD screens. The light is behind the screen and shining through, like your computer monitor. The paperwhite is an E-ink screen, not LCD. Its some magical different display technology. On the paperwhite, the light is actually in front of the screen, illuminating the surface. Its very well done, and looks distinctly different than a back lit screen. I really, really like it).
+Physical design: Nice form factor. Good size and weight. Easy to hold, does not cause fatigue. Feels nice. Good material choices.
+Great screen for reading: Front lit E-ink makes the screen easy to see and read in all lighting conditions. This has got to be the best display technology for reading. Its better than an actual book.
+Easy to use. Touch screen only is excellent, which surprised me. I thought for sure I would want hardware buttons, but no. The interface is great (admittedly, it does require some brief instruction before use, but once explained, its dead simple).
+Battery life. This thing lasts forever and a day on a charge.
+reads .pdf and .txt files well, in addition to the ebook .mobi format.
+I have all the books I could ever want to read with me whenever I want.
-No color display.
-Is only an ereader. Does not make coffee. Oh well. (I don’t drink coffee anyway, so its cool.)
In sum, if I just want an ereader, I would buy another Kindle Paperwhite in a heartbeat. I love that piece of technology. If I want an ereader, plus other functions for content consumption only, I will shop for a tablet of some sort, maybe 7″ or maybe 10″, I’m not sure. I would not buy a Kindle Fire, unless they fix its numerous problems. To be fair, I’ve been using the fire to read every day. Once the books are on the device, the Fire works fine for just reading books. If you only purchase your content through your amazon account, download it wirelessly, and store it only on the Fire device itself, the Fire is great. However, dealing with the fire otherwise is frustrating, and generally, the Fire fails to live up to its other promises.