Recently I received a Kindle 2 (not the same thing as a Kindle DX.) The E-Ink display is really cool. The screen looks great when read in bright light. It doesn’t need any current to maintain the screen image (like an Etch-A-Sketch) so battery life is very long. Kindle runs the Linux operating system with Java for the UI.
Kindle is great for reading novels and long-form articles. I read A Study in Scarlet in about two hours and forgot I wasn’t reading from a book halfway through.
I got a trial subscription for the New England Journal of Medicine and found that the experience was better than I expected, but not great. Reading the Perspective and review articles was better than reading them on a web browser, but research articles were difficult, especially because any tables or figures are very difficult to read. You can zoom into a figure slightly with several arduous clicks using the 5-way tool, but the result is not worth the trouble. The image at the top of this article shows what NEJM looks like on a Kindle, and a screenshot dump appears to the right.
After experimentation with some medical and non-medical works, I have to say that Kindle is terrible for reference works because:
- Substantial latency to user input, particularly cursor movements. Next and previous page are the fastest commands.
- It’s difficult to select links from a long list (such as a table of contents or search result) using the 5-way cursor device.
- There’s no good interface for magnifying pictures and tables. I kept touching the screen before I remembered that there is no touchscreen on a Kindle.
Jakob Nielsen talks about some of these points in his Kindle 2 usability review.
I loaded my Kindle with a variety of classics from various free e-book sources.
While Kindle 2 does not read PDFs natively, you can translate any PDF to Amazon’s Kindle format for free.