Kindle in Canada: first impressions

11 12 2009

The Kindle and my first e-book purchase

Despite Farley‘s well-reasoned arguments on why buying the Kindle is a bad idea, the Inspector Gadget within me succumbed to the temptation and ordered the #1 bestselling, most-wished-for, and most gifted item from Amazon. My brain simply stops working and reverts to its basic geek mode when it comes to new electronic toys.

“New”, of course, is relative. Following the well-walked path set by the Chumby, the iPhone, Hulu, Pandora and Google Voice, the Kindle was also off-limits for Canadians until very recently, despite being available in 100 other countries, including Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Albania. I don’t mean any disrespect to those 3 countries, the point here is that we are next door neighbours to Amazon’s headquarters, so it puzzles me why it’s easier to get legal wrinkles solved in other continents than here.

Even when the Kindle finally arrived in Canada, on November 17, it was not fully featured: web browsing and blogs are not available North of the US. Not even the iPhone Kindle app is up for Canuck’s grabs yet, unless one’s willing to be a bit, err, adventurous. But we Canadians can always get the KindleCandle app for 0.99:

While you wait for the Kindle App in Canada...

Ok, end of rant.

A few months from now, when the elusive Apple tablet is finally revealed, I’ll regret this purchase, but for now, I’m actually very pleased with it.

THE GOOD

  • The screen is very readable, much better than I expected. I read about the e-ink a million times, played with the Sony e-reader for a few minutes, but only when you go through several pages on an e-reader you start noticing why it’s better than your laptop screen.
  • Battery life is really good. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the iPhone.
  • It’s much easier to carry and handle than a regular hard-cover. If you are a subway warrior, you know the importance of being able to hold a book and move to the next page using the same hand.
  • The dictionary feature is handy for folks like me, whose English vocabulary came mostly from reading Wolverine and Spider-Man.
  • I could spend days browsing Wikipedia in the Kindle.
  • Amazon finally gave in to a no-hassle PDF support. Competition, we love you.
  • Being able to clip excerpts and annotate your favourite paragraphs change the reading experience. No more dog ears or chicken scratch.
  • Ability to download sample chapters of books for free.
  • Text to speech is a nice touch, but I don’t see myself using it much.

THE BAD

  • The contrast of “e-printed” text and the gray background is not as good as the old black text on white paper.
  • The screen is smaller than it needs to be. That physical keyboard is a waste of real estate.
  • PDF reading is still poor: you can’t zoom in or annotate.
  • Colours, or lack there of. It has that first generation iPod feel.
  • The first 2 books I tried to buy were not available in the Kindle store: “The Wisdom of Crowds” and “The Cult of the Amateur”.

THE DREAM (or: is that what they call the iTablet?)

  • Touch screen, no buttons, gestures
  • Colour
  • Comic book viewing
  • Web 2.0 features: sharing reading lists, recommendations, annotations with my network
  • Bookshelf-like interface
  • Voice recording for commentary/annotations

In summary, I give the Kindle thumbs up for now, at least until the next Apple event, when Farley will I-told-you-so me.


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18 responses

11 12 2009
Alan Lepofsky

Why buy a Kindle over a netbook? (I’m not arguing the choice, just curious)

11 12 2009
Aaron

Hey Alan,

I don’t see them as substitutes, but depending on how you use them, they may be. The Kindle’s metaphor is still that of a book. I can’t imagine myself standing in the subway holding a netbook with one hand. Also, a netbook battery does not last 2 weeks, the LCD screen is much tougher on your eyes and the netbook is heavier and clunkier. Finally, the netbook is not connected all the time globally, unless you have one of those expensive data plans. Having said all that, I admit I can’t read a full book in the computer screen. If you feel comfortable with that, the Kindle may not be the right choice for you.

12 12 2009
Won Jun Choi

Oh my. I had US edition 6 inch Kindle last month, and I sold it after owning it for 6 weeks as it was not supporting PDF. I had an option to use Kindle-Readable converter from PDF file; but it cracked the view and that was very disappointing after searching & try-n-error-ing “How to fit PDF to be read in 6 inch Kindle2” on YouTube over 2 hours.

Now Amazon Kindle2 Global is supporting it. Hmmmm,
but I am not sure if I would buy 6 inch again.

My experience was similar as yours.
I loved the battery life of Kindle2, but
1) Even Global Kindle 2 was not supporting Korean (they were supporting Japanese)
2) Can’t do color highlight
3) It actually felt heavy after holding it for awhile.
4) The screen size was too small

and

5) I am used to VERY High Quality Paperback Very White background (every Korean books are), though I do also read many Books in English.
I was actually very surprised of American Paperback’s paper quality when I first arrived US 10 years ago. In Korea and Japan, the paper quality is Grade A+ true-white. Surely my experience of reading on Grey-background was far of the past. It was like you have been watching Color TV, but now you were forced to watch Black&White Analog.

12 12 2009
Aaron

Won Jun, you got me curious to see how the books look like in Korea and Japan. One more reason to visit both countries one day.

I agree that the Kindle is still not the reader I want. The problem now is that the reader I want does not exist, and the Kindle beats carrying a bunch of physical books for sure.

12 12 2009
Tom P

I don’t think I’ll join the e-book reader bandwagon until there is a universally agreed upon format. Electronic music players are only a viable option for me because I know I can always transfer my music collection (thanks to the MP3 format) to the next generation device. E-books still aren’t there yet. I can’t imagine having to repurchase all the hundreds of books I’ve gathered over the years. Current e-book readers are a publisher’s dream. They’re only leasing you the content and there is no used market.

12 12 2009
Aaron

Tom, I had the same position as you, I just got sick of waiting for the perfect device to come. My ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of space required to keep my content. I keep buying new shelves for books, comics, CDs and DVDs, but that is not a sustainable model.

Whenever the perfect e-book reader comes, I don’t see myself having to “repurchase all the hundred of books”. The ones I bought for the Kindle will remain with the Kindle. Not ideal, but 1 Kindle is better than 100s of books occupying shelf space.

12 12 2009
Ilya S

Great to hear, I am about to order Kindle International and will pick it up in New York.

How did it find Kindle worked with displaying txt and rtf downloaded from the web. Do you use calibre to trasfer among various format?

Cheers

12 12 2009
Aaron

Ilya, if you have a “New York Connection”, you may want to consider the Nook (out-of-stock, estimated to start shipping again in February). I found some books at Barnes & Nobles that are not available at Amazon (the 2 I mentioned in my post). Currently, you can’t download books in Canada using the Nook, AFAIK.

I did not try TXT and RTF. I basically convert everything to PDF either via the Mac or using PDFCreator, and transfer it using the USB cable (it’s just like another removable drive).

12 12 2009
benedictedelachanal

I like the idea of having so many books in one small machine, but I am waiting for a better design. An Italian design make over…
And I agree with you why in Canada it is always so difficult to get anything?

13 12 2009
Aaron

Anything but snow, you mean😉

13 12 2009
benedictedelachanal

bien sur! Snow, mosquitoes and black flies, the perfect trio to have peace.

14 12 2009
Tom P

I guess that’s fine until your kindle hardware eventually fails and then your books are gone for good.

14 12 2009
Aaron

I would argue that that’s a Kindle advantage over physical books. Physical books get old, their pages get yellow, they can get damage by humidity, coffee, your dog, and you eventually run out of space to keep all of them. The ones you buy for the Kindle are not gone after the hardware fails. You can just use the Kindle for PC, and will have access to all books you bought.

Of course, I’m not defending Amazon, or even trying to convince you to buy any e-book reader. I do think that the technology is still in its early days, and it may not be wise to buy them now. Hopefully, competition will eventually solve some of the problems you mentioned.

I never bought an iPod until the iPhone came. My old iPaq had a colour screen, played video and had free apps for download years before these features became available for the iPod.

I guess the technology adoption curve looks different for each person + technology combo. I was a late adopter for the iPod, and am a not-so-early adopter for the Kindle.

14 12 2009
Tom P

I’ll give you that the kindle saves space but in all practicality books easily outlast their owners. I have many books that are 150-200 years old and I have a several of my grandfather’s books. Digital copies can last a long time with proper backups and whatnot but the number of people who do that are very few. I’d be willing to bet that the average book will easily outlast the average e-book.

15 12 2009
Aaron

Hey Tom,

(I just found that we can’t indent comments 2 levels down in WordPress!).

Many books that are 150-200 years old! Who are you, the Library of Congress?

I always say (and really believe) that I learn more from people who do not agree with me, so while you have not convinced me, you did plant a seed in my brain. At this moment, I’m comparing something I’m very familiar with (paper books) with something that I’ve been using only for a few days. It may be interesting to visit this post in a few years and see if I’ll still be considering the Kindle a good thing or not.

15 12 2009
Tom P

I have a collection of books on education, including a bunch of teaching handbooks from the last 200 years. I find it fascinating that our focus, method, and goal for education has completely changed in the last century, and not entirely for the better.

18 03 2010
jenn

Hi Aaron,
After a beach vacation surrounded by kindles and having the opportunity to try it out myself, I’m *nearly* sold. The one thing I need to do before buying is browse the Kindle store as a canadian to get a sense of just how limited our selection is. For example, the book I read on the Kindle (The Girl Who Played with Fire) apparently isn’t available in Canada. But I can’t figure out how to setup the Kindle store to show me Canadian content as when I try and manage my kindle (which is how I think you set the region) it tells me I don’t own one so can’t!

Any suggestions?

18 03 2010
Aaron

Hey Jenn,

I suspect that book is no longer available in the Kindle store even in the US. I tried to access the Kindle store via a US proxy without logging me in, and still did not find it. Just to make sure, you may want to ask somebody in the US (at IBM that should be easy🙂 ) to go to kindle.com and try it out.

In any case, if I were you, I would wait 2 weeks to see the effect the iPad is going to have over the Kindle price. No matter if you are final choice is a Kindle or an iPad, the picture should be clearer then, even with regards to book availability and prices in the iTunes/iBook store.

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