Skip to content

Kindle review

by Brandon on March 28th, 2010

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to buy an E-book reader.  I really only considered two options, the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle (specifically the “Kindle 2” model).  I’d briefly seen each in person, but hadn’t had time to really look at or play with either of them.

The Investigation

I started out by reading up a bit on both devices.  I read complaints about performance on the Nook, but also saw mention that an update was released which improved the situation significantly.  The specs told me that the Nook was slightly thicker and ever so slightly heavier, but otherwise roughly the same dimensions and basic capabilities.  In theory the color touch screen and Android-powered nature of the device made it appealing.  In theory.

So one afternoon I took a drive over to the B&N store in Bellevue to take a good look at the Nook in-person.  My first impression was that the industrial design looked cheap compared to the Kindle 2 I’d seen.  I played around with the device a bit, and found the page-turning speed acceptable but not exactly impressive.  Navigating the device’s various functions seemed relatively cumbersome, but I didn’t have a basis to compare this to the Kindle at the time.

As I was looking at the demo device on display, a salesperson asked if I needed help and tried to tell me how much they’d like to get a Nook of their own.  I inquired about the return policy, and was told to wait while they called down a manager to talk to me about the device.  The manager (or supervisor, or whatever she was) was very enthusiastic about the device, but I was put off a bit by her pitch.  First, she told me there was a 15% restocking fee if I returned the device (I forget if it was a 14-day or 30-day return policy).  She said this was “standard for these kind of electronics” to which I replied that the Kindle did not have such a fee and neither did stores like Best Buy and Fry’s.  I also inquired whether there was a web browser on the device, and she said “no but the Kindle doesn’t have one either.”  I pointed out that the Kindle actually does have a basic browser, and she insisted it was only the Kindle DX which offered this feature.  Of course, I quickly confirmed using my Droid that she was indeed incorrect.

Given all this, I decided to leave B&N without one, and a couple days later I ordered a Kindle.

Kindle

The Arrival

I ordered the Kindle late on a Thursday evening, and decided to take advantage of Amazon’s same-day delivery option, a concept which nearly blew my mind, to have it arrive on Friday.  Sure enough, it arrived at my building Friday afternoon.

Unpacking the Kindle is a delightful experience.  The device arrives pre-programmed with your Amazon account.  There was no registration process of any kind, it was as if this device knew me and was anxious to be my new reading companion.  The Kindle store was already populated with book recommendations based on my Amazon history, and the device happily sync’d the two books I’d purchased on the Kindle for iPhone app a few months before.

I was immediately glad I’d chosen this over the Nook.  Amazon had clearly put significant effort into building a complete end-to-end experience with minimal friction to purchasing and reading books or other content.  In some respects, it even seemed they’d outdone Apple, who many consider to be the king of this kind of execution.

The device looks and feels solid.  The plastic feels more expensive and higher quality than that of the Nook.  The size and weight are pretty much ideal for its purpose.  The button placement is well thought-out, and the labels make it trivial to pick up and start using.  They duplicate certain buttons (like “Next Page”) and seem to have considered all the different ways you might hold the device when reading on a park bench, in bed, etc.

Navigating the device may not be as delightful as an iPhone, but it’s easy to figure out and get around.  Common tasks are easy, what feels a little clunkier are secondary tasks like selecting text within a document – but it’s still easier than it seemed on the Nook.

The display updates slightly faster for page-turns than the Nook, which seems just fast enough to not be annoying when reading.  That is, the Nook is only marginally slower, but it seems to cross a threshold where it starts to feel slow.

Web Browser

The Kindle web browser is very basic, and given the performance characteristics of the hardware and lack of a pointer, it’s not hard to see why.  Typical web browsing tasks simply won’t work on this hardware.  That said, I think the basic browser is quite useful, and mainly for one application: Google Reader.  Now, to be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time actually using this in practice… but the short time I did spend using it, it felt quite usable and useful.  I imagine I will use that regularly in the future, unlike most any other web browsing functionality.

One gripe with the browser was the inability to re-order bookmarks.  Or at least, if you can re-order them, I couldn’t figure it out.  Instead I had to delete all the built-in bookmarks (about a dozen) which is a slow enough process, just to get Google Reader to be at the top.  Given that the browser is labeled as an “experimental” feature at this point, I can’t really complain too much.

Verdict

At this point I’m pretty confident I’ll be keeping the Kindle.  At first I thought maybe an iPad or similar slate PC might obsolete it, but now I’m not so sure.  The iPad, for example, is about twice the weight of the Kindle.  I don’t think that’s going to be comfortable for extended reading sessions.  Once I get to try an iPad myself I’ll try to update this post with my impressions with regard to its usefulness as a book reader.  Until then, I’m happy to recommend the Kindle to any avid readers or gadget freaks.

8 Comments
  1. Chris Rippel permalink

    I own a Nook. A colleague of mine has a Kindle.

    I think Brandon’s review above is fair for writing in March 2010.

    I agree the Kindle hardware appears sturdier than the Nook. The Kindle originally sold for $360. Amazon.com dropped the price to $260 to compete with the Nook. So purchasers of Kindles are getting $360 hardware for $260. So the Kindle seems like a better hardware deal than the Nook.

    One thing not mentioned by the reviewer is that Kindle’s speakers are twice as big as those of the Nook and sound much louder. My Nook requires hooking up a headset or external speakers to hear clearly. The Nook sounds fine with these additions, but the Kindle sounds fine without them.

    However, on April 24, 2010, Barnes and Noble updated Nook’s software. Page turning on the Nook is now, according to another source, one-tenth of a second slower than the Kindle. This seems correct to me.

    Another site says Barnes and Noble offers more than twice as many books as Amazon. The fact that Nook reads epub formats seems to make more free e-books available than Kindle’s Mobipocket. In addition, the Nook’s software upgrade now has a Web browser works well which allows reading online html e-books.

    Finally, the Nook also has two games.

    I am happy I bought a Nook.

    Chris Rippel
    Great Bend, Kansas

  2. Good review – thanks. The Kindle 3, however, has changed the game as discussed at http://www.scottleckie.com/2010/09/kindle-3-a-game-changer/

    Regards
    Scott

  3. Thanks for the review, a lot of nice user experience info.

  4. Why is everyone comparing the ipad to the Kindle? They are two separate products, one of which is a specialist product manufactured solely for portable reading.

    If you want an all-singing, all dancing product then ipad fits the bill. It can’t compete with the Kindle though for extended reading periods, as you rightly point out.

    We need to remember why Kindle was produced. It is meant to resemble reading a paper book as closely as possbile – which is does very well indeed!

  5. Great review, one of the best Iv’e read, its a shame we are still waiting for the Nook here in the UK, barnes & noble keep pushing back the release, although to be honest I doubt amazon are too worried, Kindle is doing very well here.

  6. I am Chris Rippel’s colleague who owns the Kindle! I really like the review, and have just a couple of comments. I recently gave my Kindle II to a friend and purchased a new wifi Kindle. I like th new size, but do in some ways miss the number keys. Also, the new 5 way controller takes a bit of getting used to. It woks just fine, but I was used to feeling for the central “bump” and it just isn’t there any more. I have always used a leather cover on both my Kindle’s and really think it is more comfortable to hold them that way. I know they are heavier, but I think for me, it is the texture and the ‘feel’ that makes the difference. The new ‘pearl’ screen is definitely brighter. The download speeds are at least as good, and since I have wifi at home and at work, the lack of 3g service has not been a problem.

    All in all, I think that I will also be keeping my Kindle, but would not mind having an iPad to test my resolve! 😉

  7. I agree with Jim. We shouldn’t compare Kindle with iPad. That’s what I like about my Kindle. I can read books on it, and that’s it. I don’t get disturbed by email, twitter and all the other things that take my time when being on the iPad.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Kindle review | Desktop Computer Reviews

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS