Monday, February 25, 2013

Me and my Kindle

I have owned a Sony eReader for a few years, and though I love the eInk display, my reader was pre-WiFi.  Buying books for it was a multi-step process that involved hooking up to a computer. I really like the stylus and the ability to easily load rtf documents and annotate them paperlessly (can you say "editing"). I seriously looked at simply upgrading to a newer Sony.

In the end, it was the lure of Downton Abbey that pushed me to Amazon. (Cue the collective gasp from the Amazon-fearing masses). I don't work for Amazon, but I don't hate them either. I've been a Prime member since the beginning of Prime. I've been buying books off Amazon since the late 90's. Amazon is a service that I am happy to use.

So, Merry Christmas to Me. I bought a Kindle Fire HD 8.9".

I also bought a nice (but not too expense) stand cover (in pink, since I cover all of my gadgets in pink--yes, really).

My review so far? A solid B+

Pros:
The screen is pretty. Shows and movies display beautifully. The audio is crisp (though I'm usually in headphones to keep from waking kids).

I was skeptical that I would really like it for e-books, but I'm coming around. I don't much care for reading on my phone or laptop because the screen size (and overall machine size) aren't ideal for me. I do most of my reading before I fall asleep for the night, when my eyes are tired.  With my phone, I have to set the font size big enough that I get like four lines of text at a time, and all the scrolling bugs me.

The Kindle is easy to hold, either in a chair, sitting up in bed, or sitting on the floor while supervising the kids' cleaning their rooms. It is big enough that you see an entire page or two at once--far better than the 2-3 lines I can get on my phone. My eyes aren't complaining, and I've read several full-length books.

Access to Amazon Prime material is heavenly. Seriously, I can watch TV shows again! I'm loving Downton Abbey and Falling Skies right now--Firefly and Army Wives are also in my watch list. The price is right, too.  We also have a lot of content availalbe on-demand through our cable provider, though I'm seriously considering cutting back on our channels there because we just aren't using them (and probably upping our internet connection speed to compensate for the services we are using).

We also recently set up an Ultraviolet account to collect the "digital copies" that come with some of our disc movies.  That plus the Flixter app means I can watch non-Prime movies that we own on my Kindle when I'm not at home.

I can easily check out books from my public library. They use Overdrive, and there are quite a few books that come through in Kindle format. The library website goes through Overdrive which then sends you to Amazon to finalize the download. It sounds more complicated than it really is on-screen. The Amazon portion of the process is really smooth, though I have a few gripes with my library's website (but its free to me and taxpayer/donation-supported, so I really can't complain too much).

I should be able to check out ePub books from my library and use a different reader app, though I haven't actually done that yet. Maybe I will report-back on that aspect later.

Cons:
The app store is not that great. After owning an Android phone for years, I'm disappointed to see how few options are in the Amazon market. Out of the box, the Kindle doesn't work with the Google Play store, which has a lot more apps. I have "side-loaded" a few APK's direct from other websites (like DropBox), so I'm not completely limited.

The newer Kindle has a front-facing camera. Great, except that there is no camera app (without doing some goofy workarounds, or buying something). A special offer I claimed shortly after Christmas did provide a few bucks of app market credit, which I used to buy a camera app. But it takes pictures in mirror-image (because it's front-facing). And it doesn't work well with bar-scanning (which I'm used to using inside GoodReads for adding books) because it reverses the image so the barscanner can't decode them (maybe there's a workaround?)

The on-screen keyboard and I don't get along well. I cannot hit the spacebar with any reliability, making it a pain to type much.  This is probably a user-problem.  And I might just go buy a bluetooth keyboard.

The Silk browser crashes on me a LOT.  Maybe it's the websites I'm surfing? I don't know. But it is really really annoying. I haven't yet tried to find a different browser (I don't know if there's one in the app store or not...I thought not). Also, I did have to configure the settings to always load the full version of websites--otherwise most sites know you're running a Kindle and/or Android and shuffle you to their mobile versions (which never look right on such a big screen).  But there are some components on full-featured sites that just don't work on the Kindle (Flash seems to be fine, but some other components, possibly ActiveX?, show up as a puzzle piece instead of content).

Magazine subscriptions are not quite "there" yet on the Kindle:

Several of my print magazines come with free tablet editions, so of course I tried those out. I have gripes about specific implementations of several of these (e.g. Better Homes and Gardens app makes me continually re-login to see new editions, even when I check the "remember me" box).  I do have one magazine that gets auto-delivered via Kindle's whispersync, and I can manage the downloads the same way I do ebooks. I vastly prefer that method to the custom apps.

Next, each issue is huge and slow to download--like 300-500 MB PER ISSUE (yes, I buy mainly magazines full of glossy color photos--but I have a tablet with a beautiful color screen).  That's almost a whole movie. Also, I can't find cut-and-paste or screen capture features.  I would love to be able to scrap-book decorating or craft ideas, or recipes, individual articles, etc. But I can't figure out how.  My only option seems to be filling my entire (non-upgradeable) drive space with whole magazines and then hunting through entire issues.  Unless this gets improved, I'm probably sticking with print magazines for the ones I really truly want to keep reading--I can take scissors to them and only save what I really want and recycle all the junk. 

BTW, Print Magazine Publishers, if you are listening:  I am also buying fewer print magazines than I did a few years ago...I don't like all the paper hanging around my house, and I can find plenty of content on a variety of interactive websites (where I can get screen captures, at least on the PC, for things I want to keep).  Unless you want to lose me as a subscriber to both print and tablet, please work on your delivery method  and options to get at the parts of your content I want.

Summary:

I love the Kindle. I do not regret the purchase. I wish there were a few more features (a rear-facing camera, more app choices, microSD card slot, etc).  I seriously debated a non-Amazon Android tablet for the features that the Kindle lacks, but Amazon doesn't allow for Prime video streaming to non-Kindle Android tablets (which is dumb as I can watch videos on my XP-based netbook, but not my husband's Galaxy Tab).  My Kindle has Special Offers, and I'm fine with seeing those--have even taken advantage of a couple of them. Usually I ignore them :) I did not get the 4G version, though I could see some definite advantages to not being tied to WiFi (I could be boob-tube-ing it anywhere, not just at home! Probably best that I can't...). We have not tried the Free Time (my kids have plenty of electronic devices of their own, so I haven't needed to share My Precious Kindle).

2 comments:

Bethany said...

Hey :) how does Amazon Prime compare to Netflix? I'm debating ditching the TV for good, do you think this would be enough? I love my iPad, so not really in he market for another device, but it looks like I can stream to the iPad too. Not sure about kindle content, apple has been pretty bad about that, but I think most other things work. I think the best thing I did was buy the 3G version (4g wasn't apeven an option then). I use it all the time when traveling. I particularly love being able to pull up maps wherever I am. Does the kindle fire have an app for maps? My mother just got a tablet, but constantly threatens to return it because she can't figure it out. Also, can you use Dropbox or the like?

Kristi Lea said...

I've never had a Netflix subscription, so I'm not really a good one to compare there.

We have kicked around getting rid of the cable subscription, but I'm not sure we could quite get all of the shows that we do watch via a streaming service (which is silly when we don't really watch much TV at all). I am tempted to back it down a notch, but we might lose out on Disney (which the kids do watch a lot). Right now, we definitely pay for way more movie sources than we use (and we only get Stars/Encore family of channels thorugh cable). In addtion to cable and Prime, we also have a handful of movies that came with Ultraviolet digital editions, and I can stream those through one of the Kindle apps (nice when I want to watch a loud grownup movie without waking the kids up by turning on the big TV).

I think Amazon Prime can stream to the iPad (don't quote me..we have an iPod Touch somewhere around the house, but no iPads). I still don't understand Amazon's Android restriction. Not that Apple and Amazon play nicely with all of their goofy restrictions on each other.

I think I can install a mapping app (at least Google maps via side-loading), but the Kindle doesn't have a GPS antenna, so it's of limited use (that part is a bummer). I did recently see an Android app that would allow an Android phone (say, my HTC Evo) to share its GPS with another device...but that is way more complicated for me than just using Google Maps on my phone (my phone screen is fine for navigating).

Speaking of sharing between phone and Kindle, I also debated the 4G Kindle, but decided against it. I can set up my phone to share its data signal with the Kindle, so as long as my phone can connect, then I can use the Kindle's wi-fi. I think I've only done that once--a lot of places where I would have time to sit and read/watch something on teh Kindle also have wifi (hotels, coffee shops, library, even the school where my little guy takes speech lessons--their gymnastics place doesn't have an open WiFi network).

I do have Dropbox installed. I had to first install ESFile Explorer, then Dropbox (there are directions online, google them...it wasn't hard, and ESFile Explorer is handy for general disk maintenance).

I use Dropbox for storing what I'm writing, and I have an Office-like app on the Kindle that lets me edit MS Office format documents. So in theory I can write from my kindle, except the onscreen keyboard and I don't get along (I will get around to buying a bluetooth keyboard at some point, so I have real keys, then try again).