Kindle Issues

After owning a Kindle Touch for a month or so, I’d like to clarify a few things about the device that weren’t really clear to me when I purchased it. Some of the information I found on the internet was vague or misleading regarding the Kindle’s abilities. Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experimentation on my Kindle Touch.

Web Browsing

This was perhaps the hardest issue to get clear answers on before I purchased the device. Here’s the real deal: you CAN’T browse anything except Wikipedia on 3G. No Gmail, no Facebook, no wiki besides Wikipedia. Yes, you can browse Wikipedia on 3G, but it’s slow. You CAN browse any website on Wifi. Obviously, you can browse the Amazon Kindle store and purchase books on both 3G and Wifi.

Account Sharing

You can share a Kindle account with multiple devices. This is particularly useful for spouses to avoid paying for two copies of the same book if you both plan to read it on your own device. However, there are caveats.

  1. First, the system will synchronize progress across devices unless you manually de-sync that book. This means that without the effort to de-sync, only one person can read the book at a time. You could also manually keep track of your progress, but that seems to defeat part of the purpose of having the book on an electronic device.
  2. Subscriptions CAN be shared, but they can only be auto-delivered to a single device. To access issues on any other devices, you have to find it under “Archived Items” and download it manually.

PDF Viewing

You CAN view PDFs. In addition, you can transfer them very easily by setting up a special @kindle.com address. After you set it up, you can just attach the PDF to an email and send it to that address, and the PDF will be delivered to your device. However, this transfer is free ONLY if you do it over Wifi. You can enable a feature that allows you to do it over 3G as well, but that costs a nominal fee for each transfer.

After the PDF is on your device, you can read it just like any other book. However, it will not automatically re-wrap and resize text. Each page in the PDF is resized entirely to the size of the Kindle screen. You can zoom and pan, but this process is tedious and you must zoom back out before moving to the next page. This can make reading PDFs with small fonts painful or impossible.

Newspapers

The newspapers range from $5-$20 per month for a subscription. Most of them provide 14-day trial versions. Generally, the papers I’ve tried do NOT include the comics or classifieds. If you cancel a subscription after being charged for a particular period, your credit card IS refunded the pro-rated amount.

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I got the ad-subsidized version, which means that it was $40 cheaper at retail. It displays ads on the home screen and full-screen while the device is switched off. You can customize the types of ads to a certain extent using the online account manager, and you can also pay $40 to remove the ads permanently.

Conclusion

I have philosophical disagreements with Amazon’s restrictive content licenses (that’s a topic for another day), so I can’t really recommend the Kindle for building an extensive book library, unless you’re only interested in reading the classics (most of which are available for free).

However, the device has proven useful for reading the newspaper ($12/mo for the Washington Post), which saves a lot of paper and doesn’t suffer (in my opinion) from the same content license issues since newspaper articles are pretty much single-consumption goods. It has also proven marginally useful for reading papers as PDFs, although the zoom issue is annoying.

Basically, the hardware has a lot of promise, but the choices made by Amazon have not really endeared the system to me yet. We’ll see how things develop over the next year or two.

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