Gadget Lust: Kindle e-Book Reader

by Brad Isaac on May 25, 2008

Am I lusting after the right gadget?  kindle Help me decide if Amazon Kindle e-Book reader is for me or is it going to kill my productivity…

I think I’ve made it plainly known that I love reading e-books.

Since the year 2000 I’ve been reading novels, how-to books and biographies on Pocket PC devices.  Pocket PCs are great for reading in short spurts – especially in bed because of their backlit screen.  You don’t have to worry about waking the Mrs. while reading. 

However, the trade off is the text is small (probably eye straining) unless I up the font size.  When I increase the font the type decreases the screen real estate.  Thus, I might only be reading 1 paragraph before having to turn the page.

Many of the early reviews of the Kindle say my Pocket PC headaches are solved.  And this review makes me want to drop the money today.  But I don’t want another gadget just lying around if I can help it.  Maybe you can help me decide if it’s right for me

PPC Productivity and Vocabulary Building

Another major benefit of the Pocket PC and Mobipocket reader (which happens to be the underlying technology of the Kindle) is it’s dictionary option.  I purchased an Oxford dictionary which turns any reading session into a learning session.  As I read and come across a word I don’t know, I immediately tap and hold and choose look up.  Then I get a definition immediately.  From there, I copy and paste the word and definition to my Supermemo flash card program. 

Although this is cumbersome to an extent, it works well for building my vocabulary.

Also, there’s something to be said to having all your tools in one place.  If I can manage my task list, calendar, email and read an e-book from the same device that’s good right?

PPC Reading Downsides

  • Screen real estate - As mentioned, you don’t have the screen real estate for say reading for an entire afternoon.  I’ve often felt some eye strain after reading for longer stints.  Also some books I wouldn’t even attempt to read on the Pocket PC.  Technical manuals on programming are a good example.  Reading code is challenging enough.  Having it roll on for 100 pages makes it nearly impossible.
  • Fewer Selections - What is frustrating to me is hearing about a book I’d love to read and it not being available for Mobipocket reader.  That is where the Kindle seems to have a huge advantage.  Where many of the Pocket PC Mobipocket books are Romance novels and Adult erotica, Amazon has captured many more professional titles including most of the bestsellers list.  More selections mean more reading.
  • Short Battery life - By most everyone’s measurement, the Pocket PC gets very short battery life.  Try 6-8 hours one one battery charge.  A lot of it has to do with the back light eating up the energy.  Some of it goes due to the WiFi radio.  The Kindle boasts the possibility of weeks on one charge.

Perceived Advantages of the Kindle

Since I do not own a Kindle, I can only go on what I’ve read.  Here are the advantages that the Kindle seems to boast.

  • Screen real estate of a paper book – The Pocket PCs screen is so small that I don’t read certain books because in increasing the font size, I lose the amount of text that is displayed on the page.  I wouldn’t have this problem with the Kindle.
  • Clearer typeface – Although I can enable ClearType on the Pocket PC, ClearType looks blurry to me.  So I don’t use it.  Everything I’ve read about the Kindle from independent reviews says the typeface is brilliant.
  • No LCD flicker – I haven’t noticed LCD flicker on my Pocket PC, but they tell me it’s there.  the flicker contributes to eye strain and potentially headaches. 
  • Less eye strain – Having clearer reading, no LCD flicker and larger screen real estate means less eye strain.  Thus, one could expect a
  • Larger selection of titles – A several time a month problem I have with the Pocket PC Mobipocket reader is the lack of titles.  I don’t read any Romance novels or adult erotica, but those appear to be the largest selection of titles.  Amazon has a great advantage here in their ability to deliver hundreds of thousands of titles.
  • $10 Price Tag on Books – Many of the Mobipocket books are priced at retail.  Meaning I can go up to Barnes and Noble and buy the same book for the same price of the e-Book.  I never liked that because where paper, binding and floor space cost a lot of money, electronic bits cost very little.  They could at least cut the price substantially.  But Amazon has set up a price plan where you can buy current titles for $9.99.  Buy 30 books and you’d conceivably save enough money to pay for the device itself.  It’s a good deal, but something about it makes me wary.  Although the $10 titles are a great deal now, I wonder how long will it last before they raise the price on all the books? 
  • Built in dictionary – This is a wash because I’ve got the same Oxford dictionary installed on my Pocket PC.  But it’s good to know I won’t have to buy another one.
  • Battery life – Where a Pocket PC with an extended battery lasts 6-8 hours, the Kindle will last perhaps a week or more.  Not that I’d be reading that long non-stop. 
  • Free built in EVDO wireless Internet – Another wash for me, I have more Internet than I need, including EVDO via Bluetooth tethering on my cell phone.

Perceived Disadvantages of the Kindle

  • No back light -  I have mixed feelings on this.  The Pocket PC allows me to read from bed at night without disturbing Kim.  If I get a Kindle, I’d have to use a light or buy a “book light”.  I’d probably opt for the book light, but still, that’s another gadget to keep up with.  Some people comment that the lack of a back light is an advantage because the flicker of LCD screens are stressful on the eyes. 
  • High price tag – $400 for a Kindle.  Whew!  Although Pocket PCs are expensive too, I already have one.  So for me (at least) I save $400 if I read from my Pocket PC.
  • Another gadget to keep up with – Bringing another gadget into my world means having another gadget to keep up with.  I probably would not carry the Kindle every day like I do the Pocket PC thus, wouldn’t have all my books with me. 
  • Fragile hardware? – Some comments and reviews point to the Kindle as having some delicate hardware.  Breakage isn’t so much a concern for me because I’ve been carrying fragile devices for years.  But if the Kindle is more fragile than a Pocket PC we might have a problem.  Accidents do happen.  I don’t want to be out in the cold when one happens.
  • No built in flash card software – As mentioned above, I clip vocabulary words and facts from books and paste them into Supermemo.  Kindle would mean I’d have to copy the text somehow to my computer and import it to my computer.  From there, I’d have to manipulate the text into flash card format.  This is something I could definitely do, but it would mean tripling the amount of work to get the same flash cards made.

Link: Amazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device 

So what do you think?  Do you own a Kindle?  If so, do you think it’s a good gadget for me?  Or will it kill my productivity?

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May 25, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Brad, tell me about it. On the one hand, I love the flexibility and wide range of capabilities that a Pocket PC offers. On the other, I’m infuriated at all of the things that it just doesn’t do well enough.

I’ve never really adopted ebooks for a variety of reasons, mostly being unfair difference in cost, unreliable DRM, no yet stable format, and of course, availability of titles.

What I typically do if I want to read a book on my Pocket PC is to go with a book in pdf format, normally a public domain title from a site like, and print it to RepliGo format. Of course, the company that used to produce RepliGo has decided to support Blackberry all the way, so no further support is available for Windown Mobile. The print client won’t even run on Windows Vista (at least, not on my machine.) Repligo is decent as you can scroll the book with your finger like on the iPhone, copy and paste words, highlight bookmark and take notes, etc.

My current device is an iPaq 6945 with a 3″ screen, so you can feel my pain.

Eric S. Muellers last blog post..Clutter- Why Do We Keep This Junk?

st May 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm

dood! we live in the age of ebay. you’ve heard of it, yes? ;-) buy the kindle. if you love it, you’re glad you bought it. if you decide it’s not for you, unload it on ebay at a loss of around $15, max. as they say in perth, no worries, mate. good on ya.

no, i’m not from australia. i just thought i’d spice up this reply for you.

did it work?

pffft. fine then! see if i try the spice next time. hmph.

st May 25, 2008 at 10:36 pm

by the way, i love my kindle dearly. it’s all they say, and more.

May 26, 2008 at 12:33 am

I use my PPC to read some fiction before bed. When it comes to reading, I don’t think having a smaller screen is much of an issue (until you get to the point of having only 6-7 lines per page, but the 20-30 that my PPC manages is fine for reading). The battery can be pretty bad, though I keep the charger on the bedside table. The habit ensures my PPC is charged each night and not left in the office, and the battery limitation keeps me from reading all hours of the day like the Kindle would ;)

Joel Falconers last blog post..ScribeFire – the Browser-Based Blogging Client

Brad Isaac May 26, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Eric, it looks like you use a similar e-book production method as me. I run mine through Mobipocket creator so that they are natively supported.

Sometimes, though, just saving a web page as html produces very good formatting. (I look for the “print this page” link for best formatting.)

Your reasons for not adopting ebooks seem to be going away with the Kindle though…

May 26, 2008 at 3:11 pm

It’s the two-devices-plus thing that gets me, every time I think about the Kindle. I already have a cellphone, PDA and fold-up keyboard. Yeah I could trade in two of those for a smartphone, but then the screen gets a whole lot smaller. That’s not good, as I not only read everything I can on the PDA, I also write books on it. I’ve tried to learn what I can about the Kindle, and so far, I suspect it’s not going to help me write my books.

But for now, the whole argument is academic for me, as the Kindle isn’t available outside the States. Boo. Hiss.

So I’m saved from fishing or cutting bait for a bit longer.

Tracy — who actually IS from Perth, Western Australia, and never, ever says “How ya goin’ mate?”

Tracy Cooper-Poseys last blog post..Money…a great tool for Anchored Authors

May 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Brad, true, my arguments do seem to be going away from the Kindle, but my wife’s patience for my gadgets has just about reached the breaking point. It’s about time to learn to live with what I have. I may look into Mobipocket. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Repligo is decent, but again, no further support is planned for it outside of the Blackberry. I have a lot of pdf ebooks and other material I’ve downloaded over the years, yet nobody has ever produced a decent pdf reader for the Pocket PC. I looked at Adobe, which hasn’t updated their PPC client since Win Mobile 2003. I distinctly remember that version being absolutely useless. PocketXpdf hasn’t been updated in several years either, and doesn’t seem to want to run on my 3″ square screen. I’ll check into Mobipocket.

Brad Isaac May 26, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Tracy, maybe Kindles will be available in Australia when they are at the 2.0 version.

st Yes I’ve heard of eBay. I use it all the time :lol: Glad to hear you are enjoying your Kindle investment. I’m mighty tempted.

st May 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm

You’ll love it when you get it. Don’t forget the “savings” that you get with regard to:

1. reduction of clutter
2. being green (fewer trees come down in order to make the book, no energy used to ship the book in a truck to the warehouse, then again to you via UPS, etc. etc.)

B. Riley May 27, 2008 at 11:20 am

I have to say there are a couple things that stop me from buying a Kindle.

The biggest hurdle is the availability of books. If Amazon decides not to make the book you want available on Kindle, there is NO WAY to read the book on the Kindle.

The other is the fact that it’s a first gen device, and it will likely be much improved on the next go-round. Plus, I LOVE Speed Reader Plus on the PPC, and I can’t do that on the Kindle.

May 28, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I have a website where you can find the perfect light for your Kindle. The light is the Flex Neck Tech Light:
Ideal for e-Readers, laptop computers, PDAs and keyboards. This flexible reading light has a fully articulated neck that can be aimed wherever you need light. The two bright LEDs cast a broad, even pool of light that’s easy to aim, and the neck holds them just where you want. Perfect for stylish reading in bed, travel, study, and of course digital books and e-readers.

You can purchase it directly at

Brad Isaac May 28, 2008 at 3:12 pm

@B. Riley, don’t forget, you can always scan your books into the Kindle. Of course, that’s a major chore that is very time consuming.

My son is looking for some stuff to do around the house for money and I am thinking I might hire him to scan some of my marketing books so I can read them on my device.

SRP really is something isn’t it? It’s a great piece of software.

June 18, 2008 at 8:55 am

I bought the Kindle. I returned it. DRM on content that is really read at most a couple of times (e.g. fiction) is the big killer for me. The more i hold onto it, the more non-resaleable, non re-readable content i would be accumulating.

how many times can you read Snow Crash in a lifetime for instance?

You might enjoy the unboxing and reboxing photos i took:

Brad Isaac June 18, 2008 at 9:39 am

I think the thing that bothers me most about DRM is that even with it, publishers don’t want to release enough titles. Let me break down a scenario for you…

Suppose Kindle’s DRM had been hacked or cracked.

Picture if publishers stayed the course and instead of releasing only 150,000 titles, they released 1,500,000 titles. That would be a flood of books on the marketplace.

There would, in fact, be hacked copies floating around the net. But, the sheer volume of books would make finding and acquiring these titles nearly impossible for the average or moderately skilled pirates. It would be like searching for a particular grain of sand in a sandbox.

st June 18, 2008 at 9:49 am

>>The more i hold onto it, the more non-resaleable, non re-readable content i would be accumulating.<<

How is it different for plain old books? Paper books and Kindle Books are just as non-re-readable as each other. Resell your copy of Snow Crash? That’s a bit of hassle to recoup about $2.00.

March 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

As far as concerns over the lack of available ebooks for the PPC, keep in mind that until Amazon got greedy and decided to corner the market with Kindle, it sold a wide selection of ebooks in lit and pdf formats that you could buy and read on your PPC, Palm, or phone.

Tony LaRoccas last blog post..Dear Google News: Stop Shilling for the Kindle, Already!

Brad Isaac March 13, 2009 at 9:52 am

Yes, I used to read all my books on PPC. But the selection was always abysmal – and it’s almost the same with Kindle. However, they do have far more titles – it’s my odd specialty reading that results in lack of material :(

April 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm

The main reason for me to use Kindle is a battery life. You can literally read for weeks without recharging. It’s very cool when travelling.

Brad Isaac April 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm

That’s true, as long as you turn off wireless ;0)

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