Thursday, 28 April 2011

Kindle: first thoughts

After some prevaricating I decided to take the plunge and acquire a Kindle.

The screen is really quite strange, in a good way. It looks closer to paper than a standard screen and, naturally, is purely black and white. The controls are a little smaller than I’m used to (I have no mobile telephone or Blackberry) but easy to get the hang of.

The guide does explain things clearly but is a bit repetitive and probably twice as long as it needs to be. The inclusion of two dictionaries (a corrupted colonial version and an accurate English one) is a simple but excellent feature.

Initially, I’m going to use it for reading the first draft of a story I’ve been writing. That might not sound like a spectacular use of a pricey gadget, but given the alternative is printing off hundreds of pages and then daubing them with four highlighters and a biro it’s pretty handy and saves a lot of space.

I’ve downloaded an MP3 (Queen’s excellent but less well-known ’39), a picture or two and the first six chapters of my aforementioned story. Music-playing falls under the Experimental heading. It’s a crude system but a reasonable addition. Pictures get diminished in size, sadly, by the conversion process, but they still look quite nice. My chapters (originally Word documents) keep some formatting (the titles are larger and underlined) and lose other bits (indented paragraphs and speech is just left-aligned now, and the justified body of text is likewise).

The screen is substantially easier on the eye than a standard PC or TV screen. Text can be varied in font and size, and two people (one man, one woman, both tedious) can be prompted to read the text. Terms can be searched for within a document or all documents, or a definition sought from the dictionary.

There is a web browser but it’s rather clunky. It’s ok if you want to check something quickly but if you’re planning on doing much more then it is insufficient. [In fairness, this really isn’t the Kindle’s point].

So, what are the advantages?

Space is the big one. It’s very thin and no larger in breadth and length than a standard paperback. If you’re a frequent flyer or buy numerous books which would be just as good in an electronic format, it will probably prove value for money.

It’s also convenient, and in many instances cheaper than getting physical books. This won’t affect most people, but for me personally it’s quite nice reading my stuff on a Kindle rather than spending ages (I have an old printer) printing stuff out and then reading and marking it with highlighters.

I only got it today so I need to do a bit more with it (downloading an e-Book or two, most obviously) before reaching a firmer conclusion, but so far I’m quite liking it. I also need to work out how to either make my story formatted so I can just transfer files directly to the Kindle, or alter them so that when the automatic Kindle conversion e-mail comes back the formatting isn’t half-lost.


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