Pocketful of Literature: Week 1 with a Kindle
Recently, my mother sent me a lovely gift—an Amazon Kindle—as a staggeringly early birthday present.
I've long been intrigued by the notion of electronic books (one of the first personal publishing efforts I attempted was to develop, along with my friend Tim O'Brien, dice-and-paper roleplaying game books specifically for .PDF release), and have been considering a Kindle or Sony eReader for a while.
(I rejected the Nook out of hand; my one experience handling one in the store was not successful; the test unit didn't work and the form factor didn't appeal to me at all.)
I've used the new Kindle pretty heavily for the last week, and it's a damned nifty device.
The unit is compact and comfortable to hold (though the inclusion of a semi-rigid case has helped), and the display is easy enough to read. The type size is adjustable, though the option to change the font to taste would seem a logical option, especially for typography nerds like, well, me.
Battery life is considerable, particularly if you turn off the wireless access when not downloading/synching files; I wouldn't mind the option to toggle a backlight, though the design aesthetic of the Kindle would find such an option anathematic. Barring that, a lighter default background (the screen is essentially a pale grey, not dissimilar to that of a 1980s digital watch) would help improve contrast.
Overall, the form factor is great, though I have some quibbles with button placement; I'd prefer the "next page" and "previous page" buttons beneath my right thumb, particularly when using the rigid case. I am frequently hitting the "home" button which resides where I'd find the "previous page" button most convenient.
My biggest gripe with the unit is Amazon's ridiculous inability to allow me to "gift" a Kindle book.
Each Kindle has a unique e-mail address, the ability to receive files (via wireless networks or Amazon's own Whispernet apparatus), and the user maintains control of who can and can't send files.
There's no way, currently, to, say, order a Kindle edition of book for my Mom (who also has a Kindle), and have it delivered to her electronically; one must purchase a gift certificate, send THAT, and then the recipient redeems it and downloads something.
The inability to order and deliver specific content to the Kindle seems like a gaping flaw in the design. I can order and deliver an ink-on-paper book as a gift for someone via Amazon; why is it harder to instantly deliver a digital book from the same place?
At the outset, while I see the value of digital content -- be it webcomics, ebooks, or other such items -- I was concerned that a Kindle or other e-reader would become a toy I'd grow disinterested in after prolonged use.
I'm happy to say that's not the case; I've read more fiction in the past week than in the prior two months.
Also, my family and a friend all have registered our Kindles to the same account, which means we have an instant electronic book club; one can append notes to the text, sync them to the other readers, and create instant discussions or the spine for a more concrete discussion later, which has to be the feature I find the most compelling.
Naturally, it also has me thinking about mobile devices and comics. The iPad is an intriguing toy, though I find it less satisfying to use than most Apple products; Amazon provides a pretty effortless system for disseminating content to their device (as my bank account, suddenly depleted by my clicking and downloading books with abandon); there's no good, centralized place to download comics; each major publisher seems intent on backing their own horse, meaning, inevitably, users being forced onto multiple platforms for viewing their comics, or one side or the other losing the race and becoming the digital comic equivalent of the Betamax.
(Or, HD-DVD, for you whippersnappers.)
I doubt the iPad, in its current incarnation, is the ideal medium for digital comics (as its really a crippled laptop with a touchscreen), but I'm eager to see what people do with that format, that concept.
Interesting, to say the least.