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Kindle, take 2

Okay, so after a few hours of playing around with the Kindle here’s some further thoughts on the device, in no particular order. 🙂

  • The display is clearly better than the one on the Sony Reader PRS-500 (first gen): faster refresh, better contrast. I imagine it is on par with that of the PRS-505.
  • The navigation metaphor is really interesting, and quite unique. There’s this metallic-looking strip on the side that identifies lines/paragraphs/sections (depending on context) and that provides visual feedback of operations that take time. In particular, it seems to draw the eye’s attention while the page is “flipping” which as I mentioned before is slightly distracting at first (but then is not noticeable). The strip is probably quartz-based (like the liquid crystal in digital watches) since it updates too fast to be an eink variant.
  • Specifically, the navigation metaphor mixes the physical with the virtual in a strange, but appealing way. There’s the idea of “moving” this almost physical marker (in the form of the metallic strip) to select what you want and then click or press enter to “activate” it depending on context. This is in contrast to the navigation Sony did in their reader, which uses the ink itself to mark selection and is clunky and slow. I don’t know yet if the Kindle’s navigation is genius or folly yet, but it’s definitely original, and it’s worked well so far.
  • The purchase system is so simple, it’s evil. 🙂 Just click, click, and you’re done. The book is there in seconds and you’ve spent the money (they do have a link in the final page that lets you back out of the transaction if you want, which is great). Between this, the auto-configuration (the device came pre-configured with my account out of the box) and wireless connectivity included and working out of the box, Kindle sets a new bar for out-of-the-box experience, even going beyond iPod (and I don’t say that lightly). Great job guys!
  • Speaking of out-of-the-box experienceMike was wondering what happens if you buy the device for someone else. Well, by default it’s tied to your account, but as soon as you buy it you get access to a page that lets you “unlink” the device and then you’d have to “link it” to the other Amazon account (not sure if “linking” and “unlinking” are the terms Amazon uses, I don’t think so :)).
  • Also cool is that you can link more than one Kindle to a single Amazon account, in effect sharing books across them, say for the whole family.
  • Web navigation is decent, if limited. Russ came over and we geeked out with the device for a bit, looking at the user agent (Mozilla-Compatible, NetFront) and other headers it was sending. Amazon is proxying the content, which isn’t a surprise. Net access is fairly fast (and free!), and Mowser works great on it! Faster even though in effect it’s going through two proxies (Amazon, then Mowser).
  • In Default Mode, the browser ignores CSS/styles, and it behaves more like a limited-capabilities mobile browser. But turning on Advanced Mode enables them. Oh, and you can turn on Javascript support too! (off by default).
  • Emailing content in works really well: just send an email to your chosen email address for the kindle with an attachment that is the document/images you want to send, and after a few minutes it shows up in the device. It’s also available, properly transcoded, in your Amazon online library. Really well done. There’s a $0.10 (10 cent) charge to do that, but you can also do the transcoding for free and upload the file manually through USB.
  • USB mode is simple: just plug it in, and it shows up as a disk, disabling any other functions in the device. You can dump PRC, MOBI, TXT, and Amazon’s own AZW files (whatever those are). As a quick test I downloaded the PRC version of Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” put it in the documents folder, and presto, there it was.
  • You can also download the AZW files from Amazon’s digital library to your PC and then manage them from there, adding them/removing them to the device through USB. Very interesting. Amazon is acting as a sort of automatic backup, but in theory you could do away with Amazon completely.
  • Oh, and yeah, some of the navigation keys in the border tend to be pressed a bit too often by mistake. Probably something I’ll snap out of, but if it was me, I’d make them not go all the way out to the edge, which exposes them more.

Phew! That’s it for now. Overall, a great little device, if slightly odd-looking at first, you completely forget about that in 2 minutes. Now to ponder the question of how to automate the process of converting content for it in an easier way…

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