A few days ago, I was full of excitement as I purchased a new Kindle 2 e-reader. I’m reading quite a few books these days, and I made all the arguments, which I think are still good arguments, that I would save money by buying the e-versions of the books. And I could carry all the books in one place. And I can search through the books. I was pumped.
But then I actually started to use it. And here are the reasons why I’m returning it:
1. Doesn’t show standard page numbers. The Kindle uses a proprietary system called a “location number.” So instead of showing you that you’re on page “46”, it will show “112-58.” What does that location number mean? Who knows. Is there any correlation between that number and the actual page numbers? None at all.
If you’re just doing casual reading, then it’s not that big of a deal to know your exact page number. You’re just reading for pleasure, so it’s all good. But I recently started going back to school, and I have to do lots of academic reading and writing. The lack of page numbers becomes a problem when you get to the area of citing your source. If someone is looking at a footnote you wrote, they’d like to be able to see that you took the quote from page 97, as opposed to 335-23. This, for me, is the biggest reason why I’m returning it. Perhaps in ten years, it won’t be an issue to have footnotes filled with Kindle’s proprietary numbers. But for today, people still want to know the exact page number of your citation.
2. Not enough screen contrast. The Kindle uses special screen technology called E-Ink, which makes it easy to read for long periods of time. The only problem is that it’s a fairly dark-looking screen. At first, I thought it was because there wasn’t a lot of light where I was. But I found to be comfortable for my reading, I had to be directly below a light source. And you don’t have an option to make the screen lighter or darker (that I know of). This was a small issue for me. But found that the contrast in a regular book is much easier to read in.
3. Doesn’t automatically show footnotes. This is another geeky point, but it’s important if you’re reading academic materials. I happen to have the Kindle version, as well as the regular print version of a particular book in front of me. On one page in the print version, there are footnotes that take up a good fifth of the page: footnotes with contextual information on it. On the Kindle, there is nothing. At all. Of course, you’ll see the little footnote symbol at the end of a particular sentence. But if you want to see the footnote, you have to click on that little footnote symbol, but it doesn’t automatically show the same footnote as on a printed page.
And if you do click on a footnote, it will send you to an “endnote” section of the book where all the footnotes are. Once you’re there, you can’t easily click back to go back to where you were reading. So you can’t quickly glance at a footnote, and then go back to your reading. It’s a whole burdensome process.
For me, those are just too important of features. I’d rather just read from the physical book and have those things.
Here’ what I’ll miss about the Kindle 2, though:
1. The weight. It’s super light. It weighs 10.2 ounces, which is less than most books. The iPad, comparatively felt much heavier in my hands.
2. It’s form factor (shape). Holding it feels really great. It’s thin and super light and feels very natural.
3. Ease of advancing to the next page. I can’t imagine an e-reader that is easier in “function” to read from. There are two large buttons on either side to advance to the next page. It feels natural to advance this way, rather than clicking on a screen or swiping your fingers on a screen (sorry iPad users!). It’s also really easy and effortless to highlight on a screen.
4. Downloading books. It takes just about 60 seconds to download and begin reading your new book.
So, overall, I think it depends what you want to use the Kindle for and what you’re willing to put up with. If you have to do academic writing and reading, this is not the product for you. Organizations such as MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual are still in a tizzy over how to cite the Kindle properly. If you want to do it for relaxing pleasure-reading, then this might not be a bad option, if you don’t mind the dark contrast on the screen.
What about you? Do you have one? What do think? What is your favorite e-reader?
UPDATE: I ended up going with a Kindle 3 when it came out and I’m really enjoying it. Here’s the review I did on the Kindle 3.
[image by jinglefly]