I just got my first Kindle four days ago. I was drawn to the Kindle over all the others I had heard about mostly because I liked the idea of their e-ink technology, which is supposed to look like paper. I also appreciated that amazon.com, a company that I know and trust, is behind the device. I figured the Kindle’s selection of “native” content would be excellent, too. I was especially interested in transferring my magazine subscriptions to a digital medium, because the magazines are more of a storage problem.
So, my Kindle arrived. I plugged it into the wall to charge and I set it aside for a day. I did not need to charge it that long; it’s just what I did. The following evening, I picked it up and started slogging through its tutorial.
My first thought was how grateful I am that I do not have to wipe my greasy fingers across the screen to turn pages or make the device do anything. Yes, of course I wash my hands before touching it, but I still have grease on my fingers, and so do you. I have an iPod, and I have to clean the screen a lot. The Kindle politely uses buttons, keeping your hands off the screen entirely, which keeps the screen cleaner.
However, the Kindle doesn’t actually provide you with anywhere to hold it. If I grip it like a tablet, with either hand or with both hands, my hands want to be right where the “next page” button is located (there’s one on each side), and I am constantly flipping to the next page before I’m ready to do so. Of course, this means I have to flip back to finish reading. It’s very annoying. I tried holding it up near the top, but that felt completely unnatural. Holding it near the bottom felt much better, but then I kept hitting the keyboard keys by accident.
Still, okay, though it would have been better if they had made the Kindle a bit bigger and left shelf room for the hands, I can probably learn to hold a Kindle well in time. It’s probably a learned skill.
I quickly learn, too, that the 5-way controller is really difficult to use. When I want to press a direction, I often wind up pressing the whole button instead. When I want to press the whole button, on the other hand, I have trouble doing so. This seemed like a minor annoyance at first, something that I would probably also learn to deal with as an acquired skill in time. However, when I went into the Kindle store to browse, my inadequate control over the 5-way controller mixed very badly with Kindle’s maliciously sneaky item description pages.
You see, on the Kindle, unlike in the regular amazon.com online store, when you open an item description page, the “buy” button is automatically highlighted. They could have landed the cursor on a more innocuous place, but of course they chose the buy button. If I should accidentally press the entire key by mistake, why, I’ve just bought the item I’m reading about. There is no confirmation! They do not ask if you’re sure. This is their evil one-click technology, which they pretend is a convenience to you. They do provide a link to click if you purchased by mistake, but clicking this link does not actually appear to un-charge your credit card. (It might just be slow, but if it is, it’s pretty slow.) Given how easy it is to misfire with the clicks, I’m pretty sure I won’t be browsing the store very often.
Meanwhile, as I read the tutorial, I learn another nasty surprise. It seems that amazon.com takes it upon itself to erase your magazine and newspaper issues once they are seven issues old. Sadly, I do not mean that they erase the issues on the main server (though they do that, too). I mean that they have decided to erase MY content on MY Kindle, without my permission, at an arbitrary seven-issue expiration date. They claim they do this to save room. I suppose that’s very nice, but isn’t it up to me to decide when and how to purge to make more room? I mean, isn’t it MY device? Apparently, the folks at amazon.com don’t think so. Now that’s just ugly.
Of course, I also learned that I can save a particular issue from deletion by clicking the “save this issue” link in the item’s description. I suppose it’s nice that there is a way to override their deletions, but I’m just livid that I have to. I have to go through and manually “save” each issue individually. Oh, and if I mess up with the 5-way controller after an issue is too old, I imagine I lose the issue before I can fix my mistake. I believe I paid for the issue, and that therefore this automatic deletion thing is equivalent to theft.
Well, anyway, I guess I won’t be getting any magazines or newspapers through the Kindle after all.
I’m still learning the ropes, of course, so maybe my opinion will change with time. For now, however, I believe that the Kindle is a pretty useless little device. It’s no good for magazines or newspapers at all. It’s lovely for books, but shopping for books using the device itself is too dangerous. I can use amazon.com directly for that, of course, but only if I shop from my computer at home. That’s inconvenient, and that means my Kindle will probably not contain many books, ever.
I will give Kindle the props it deserves for the e-ink technology. That screen really looks wonderful. It is as close to looking like real paper as you can get without actually being real paper.
Sadly, the device AROUND that e-ink fails. It just isn’t user-friendly enough.