So I finally bit the $379 bullet (actually $416.69 after taxes, shipping, and the OCTOVO Faux Leather Kindle Sleeve.) I am now a proud owner of a 9.7 inch diagonal 19 ounce grey-scale ebook reader.
Here is my product review of the Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 9.7" Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally – Latest Generation. If you read my earlier blog post on the subject, I compared two Kindles to the cheapest iPad. The review included the Kindle 6" and the Kindle 9.7" (first generation.) So I took my own advice (sight unseen not including videos) and purchased the Kindle as a book reader. Note that I did not buy it to surf the web, read PDF’s, or newspapers. So in this review, I will cover my full experience, as a book reader and for the other stuff I just mentioned that I have been playing around with over the past few days.
For full disclosure, my company is an Amazon Associate and around a decade ago we did pull in around $50 bucks or so from links of recommended technology books in the past.
My impression so far is mixed. I do like the pure ebook reader capabilities. I started out by downloading Kindle for PC (free) and purchasing a book "In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manafesto" by Michael Pollan. I am also reading one of his earlier books, the Omnivore’s Dilemma in paperback form. The great thing about the Kindle for the PC is that it remembers where you are when you open it back up. I downloaded the software on 4 other computers (3 Windows computers and a Mac.) Whenever I opened that computer, it downloaded the book from the "Archive" and jumped me right to the correct location so I could continue reading.
When the Kindle DX arrived, I opened it and started charging it with the simple and light USB cord that came with it. Since I used a different Amazon account, the device didn’t know about the Michael Pollan book I already purchased, so I went into the Kindle DX settings and reregistered it to my account that I used to buy "In Defense of Food." Within a few minutes, the ebook was there, right at the correct page so I could continue reading. One of the main reasons for purchasing the Kindle DX was for the free global 3G network access. No fuss with Wifi passcodes, SSID’s, or payment plans. Just pure 3G EVDO connectivity (over Sprint I believe) with no, I repeat no contract. I’m spending enough on my cell phone, home phone, internet, and other plans and frankly I do not want another plan. Apple advertises two plans ranging from $15 to $25 per month. But that quickly adds up to $200 to $300 a year. Within a few years the plan becomes more expensive than the device.
So what exactly does Amazon give you for free? Well, so far I have not purchased any ebooks from my Kindle, but the fact that I did not need to do any manual effort to synch the book I already purchased (no cables, no Wifi fuss, no sync software) was a beautiful thing. Also, I have purchased a $10 monthly subscription to the Harold Tribune which is automatically delivered to my kindle every day except Sunday (weekend edition shows up on Saturday morning.) The funny thing is when I purchased the newspaper subscription for the Kindle, I could only have it delivered to a single device, so I chose the DX. Amazon keeps track of the different Kindles associated with the account (my Kindle DX, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for PC 1, for PC 2, etc…) I tried manually downloading it on my PC (an option when your 3G is either too slow or you are having issues) and adding it to my Kindle for PC repository. Unfortuatly it appears the DRM (digital rights management) encoding must have prevented it from being read from any device other than the one subscription is registered to deliver to, because the Kindle for PC refused to open it.
So books can be purchased using Amazon and read on multiple devices around the house, but newspapers can only be read on one device. That is the first limitation I found. Remember, I didn’t purchase the ebook reader to read periodicals like newspapers, only to replace traditional books. But so far, I have read a few articles and find it adequate for newspaper reading. I may or may not continue my subscription with the Harold. I just wanted to play around with it to understand how the device handles newspapers.
After the newspaper I tried loading some PDF’s from books I had purchased, such as Bill English’s MOSS Admin Guide and the Best Practices, plus a few other PDF’s of technical materials that I have gathered. Reading these were challenging. First of all, there is no indexing, so it is hard to jump to a particular location in the book. Also, if you rotate the book vertically, it is just big enough to read the font, but when the Kindle DX is rotated horizontally (landscape) only half the page shows up, so the font is easier to read. So not great but adequate. Probably fine if you are going to read the PDF from beginning to end, but painful if you need to use it as a reference and jump around.
The next thing I tested was the Basic Browser (found under the Experimental menu.) This was painful. It does provide a very raw text only with limited graphics access to web pages, so maybe if I were reading a spec published on W3C it may come in handy, but the browser is quite terrible for a number of reasons. The primary reason is navigation. The tiny joystick nob required to move around and click hyperlinks is very awkward, slow, and actually painful on my thumb. I do have a previous injury that exacerbates it but, regardless, it is not a good browser. It is labeled "experimental" and rightly so. One thing I think is nice, is the connection to Wikipedia. I am a heavy user of Wikipedia, and since their content is very text heavy, it lends itself well to the Kindle’s browser. It may come in handy to do some quick research on a topic while reading if I’m nowhere near a computer.
Finally, the highlighting and typing interface and general menu system took me a while to get used to and figure out. Something that is quite easy in the Kindle for PC has so far eluded me on the Kindle DX, is the ability to bump up the font size. I’m sure it is in there somewhere and I’ll eventually RTFM to figure it out, but I have not stumbled on it anywhere in any of the settings menus.
The battery life is very impressive. I leave it on and use it at random times over the past few days without charging it and it still has half the battery. The cell reception here is not very good, but I haven’t noticed any issues waiting for content to arrive.
So here is my vote, using the scholastic A to F ratings:
A for ebook reading
B+ for newspaper reading
C+ for PDF technical book reading
D- for web browsing
C- for general navigation
A+ for battery life
A+ for free wireless global Internet access with no hassles
A for the OCTOVO sleeve which I found to have the best reviews on Amazon. Simple, light, and protective.
So my final vote as a simple replacement for paper based books for casual reading, I give it an A+ (A for ebook reading, A+ for battery life, and A+ for hassle-free connectivity.) Now comparing it to the iPad and bringing the web surfing into play, that is a topic for next time when and if I get my hands on a read one and not just write about specs, videos I’ve watched, and hearsay.
One thing for sure, once I get an iPad, the first app I will download will be Kindle for iPad so I can compare the two plus any native ebook reading software that Apple ships with their device.
More information on the Kindle DX can be found on Amazon.