Kindle 2: iCool

I was already in love with the original Kindle. Now with Kindle 2 and the new iPhone app my love affair is now epic.

For my money, Kindle 2 is the Don Draper of eReaders. The Sawyer. The Eric the Vampire.  In short, it is sexy, cool, and incredibly functional.

Like many readers these days, I dwell somewhere in that happy land between tech geek and Luddite. But it’s also fair to say that I come at this from the perspective of a spoiled 20+ year Mac-head in that I expect electronic stuff to work in a user-friendly way. No complicated programs. No work-arounds. 

So, with that said, I’m not  approaching my unofficial Kindle 2 review by talking about DRM—a big, big topic, indeed—since there are others out there far more educated (and, okay, interested, too) in the issues surrounding it than I am. I’m going to write about Kindle 2 from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to deal with the technical stuff and expects to turn on an eReader and have it work—comfortably and as advertised.

The Kindle 2 does that. Magnificently.

What I love about the Kindle 2 I also loved about the original:

  • No computer interface is required.  Books can be downloaded in about ten seconds directly to your Kindle—or your computer if you prefer.
  • It’s comfortable to hold.
  • The type is easily adjustable and the screen is easy to see in any light.
  • It’s incredibly simple to transfer text files and PDFs almost instantly onto Kindle.
  • The iPhone app—my God, the iPhone app!

And then there are the intangibles. I love the immediate gratification of having a book delivered to my Kindle—no matter where I am—and ready to read in seconds. I love the fact that I can read one-handed or even no-handed since Kindle rests easily on the couch in front of me. And, yes, it’s true, in just a few short months with Kindle, I’ve found that I far and away find reading on the device to be more comfortable than reading actual books.

And, as a lifelong bookie, that is a very big statement, indeed.

But how does Kindle 2 compare to the original? It is bit longer and far thinner and, even more importantly, missing a few of the kinks. The forward and back buttons are less prone to accidental paging. The “ink” resets noticeably faster when you turn a page—a nice improvement—and the device turns on and recovers from sleep mode less clumsily than the original.  There’s also a new sort of joystick configuration that works a bit more easily than the old sort of clicky thing (hey, I said I wasn’t a tech geek), but I don’t see it as a big improvement in functionality.  As for the much bally-hooed (and kvetched about) Text-to-Speech function, it’s just not a big deal.  The voice sounds less robotic than I thought it would, while still sounding pretty mechanical.  I can’t see myself listening to it for any length of time nor do I see why the Author’s Guild thought it was worth the fight. 

And then there’s the brand new iPhone app!  My God, the iPhone app! Announced with virtually no advance word on Wednesday, this new app allows you to read Kindle books on your iPhone and iPod Touch and is so simple to use it took me just about two minutes to download the app and begin reading my first Kindle book on my iPhone.

I agree with Dear Author that the app is rudimentary. However, I’d also argue that both Apple and Amazon see the iPhone as a compliment to the Kindle in that it’s ideal for reading in places like a grocery store line or the subway. (The iPhone is just too small to work for me as a comfortable solo eReader. I’ve tried.)

And then there’s the automatic sync feature!  My God, the automatic sync feature!  The two devices are now so in tune that after reading on your iPhone or iPod Touch, your Kindle will automatically take you to the last page read—no matter which device you last used.  And, no matter how you look at it, that is just totally cool. 

In fact, the cool factor for the new app is off the charts. Friends of mine were buzzing on Wednesday, with everybody raving about how simple it was to get up and…well, reading. And all of us agree that this fantastic new application gives us hope for bigger and better stuff to come.

So what isn’t so great?

  • Kindle 2 doesn’t come with a cover.  That’s just cheap, especially since old Kindle cases won’t fit.
  • Books aren’t always released on the pub date, sometimes coming a few hours or even a few days late.  But, in the few months I’ve been using Kindle, I think Amazon is getting better and better about this.  There’s also the fact that many older books aren’t available, but when you add in what’s available on Fictionwise, an increasing number of romance bases seem to be covered.
  • Pricing is hinky and subject to change.  As everybody knows, the ebook market is evolving and, undeniably, publishers and Amazon need to work this out already. The $9.99 promise for NYT bestsellers, however, is something I’ve seen them stand behind.   And, just like everybody else, there is no way I will pay more for an ebook than a hard copy book.

Also a word about Amazon customer service: Though I haven’t had any problems with the Kindle eReader itself, one book failed to download completely. I contacted Amazon and had a refund within 24 hours. Better still, within a few days, I downloaded the book again—this time fully and completely. The way I see it, you can’t ask for more than that.

I’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating:  Monopolies are never a good thing and Amazon’s strategy to control the ebook market is not without some serious red flags—though the announcement on Thursday that Barnes and Noble purchased Fictionwise will certainly put a dent in the company’s ebook domination.  But, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve cracked it by delivering a user-friendly device that offers what I want in an eReader.

Will it get better?  Sure.  But count me as a happy Kindle convert and an enthusiastic part-time proselytizer.

-Sandy AAR

Note:  If you purchase a Kindle 2 by clicking on the link in this post, All About Romance will receive a small commission. 

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32 Responses to Kindle 2: iCool

  1. Tinabelle says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your rave review of the K2, Sandy. I agree with so much of what you said, in general, about Amazon and the Kindle reading device. I have owned a K1 since May and absolutely love it. Unfortunately, economic reality will prevent me from buying the K2, but I will continue to enjoy the ease of use that Kindle offers. It is a MAJOR reason why I chose the Kindle over other readers. I am a dyed-in-the-wool lifelong Mac user,too, and was not willing to convert everything because other readers were not compatible with a Mac.

    The DRM issue is a sore spot for many of us ebook users, but it is an industry-wide problem, not something unique to Kindle. It would be nice to have more options for purchasing books. I am not very tech savvy and my eyes glaze over when I start reading about all of the conversion and work-around procedures. It sounds way too complicated for me! Fortunately I have been able to get MOST of what I want to read in a Kindle format from Amazon.

    Enjoy your new K2! BTW, I always purchase my Kindle books through the AAR link, so I hope that you are receiving the “commissions.”

  2. Lea/AAR says:

    Although I own the original Kindle, and have no immediate plans to upgrade to Kindle 2, I remain thrilled with this ebook reader for reasons you listed, Sandy, as well as the readability of the “ink” with no back lighting. It is extremely kind to those of us who experience eye strain due to lighting issues.

    I finally found the courage to start downloading books from sites other than Amazon and it is a very simple process. I have not yet tackled the DRM issue (and see no need to at this time) since the books I have downloaded from other sites haven’t been restricted in that manner.

    When I heard the news that Kindle was available on my iPhone, I immediately shared the news with my iPhone addicted daughter (who does not have a Kindle). Within minutes she too was reading a Kindle book on her iPhone. I hadn’t realized that this application is available to all iPhone users even if you do not own a Kindle. And she is enough of an iPhone lover, that she will read an entire book on that device.

    Thanks Sandy for these words. It’s good to read such praise for a device that has worked so well for me and been a delight as well.


  3. AAR Sandy says:

    Tinabelle, I think lifelong Mac users have less tolerance for work-arounds which just seem like a lot of work to me. My eyes glaze over, too, when people start to explain them to me. We expect stuff to work when we turn it on– and that’s not unreasonable.

    Lea: I, too, find it really easy on the eyes and I’ve read for hours in varying kinds of light without any kind of strain. Add in the hands-free reading things and it just adds up to a more comfortable reading experience for me.

  4. Renee says:

    Hi, Sandy, I enjoyed your review of the Kindle 2. I am an owner of a Sony reader and it, too, has turned me into a lover of digital books. When you made the comment about a potential Amazon monopoly, I thought about the fact that through Amazon’s marketing campaign many don’t realize the many non-Kindle readers available in the marketplace. Each of these readers have pluses and minuses that may make them a good choice for a reader and viable alternatives to the Kindle. For example, some of the advantages to the Sony version are that it allows and supports downloads in PDF, MS Word and Adobe formats and doubles as a MP3 Player. It also has in its newest version a touch screen and side lighting option which is great if you are trying to read in bed and not disturb a spouse. The sony reader does not allow for wireless access like the Kindle which is a drag but I think it is a viable alternative to the Kindle if people are researching ebook reader options.

  5. Anne Marble says:

    It looks so cute! By the way, have you tried getting the Kindle to read books with weird names aloud? I’d love to know what it does when it comes across odd names in paranormals or historicals. I have a hard enough time with those names.

    P.S. B&N purchased Fictionwise and I didn’t know about it? That’s what I get for not getting on-line last night. I hope they don’t mess up the company as the support people are great. And I hope I’ll be able to use my B&N discount card at FW.

  6. Katie Mack says:

    Sandy–I have resisted moving away from holding books in my hand simply because the feel of a paperback novel is one of my favorite childhood memories, and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy reading a book on an eReader. But after reading your rave review, I have to admit that I am reconsidering my old-fashioned Luddite tendencies.

    I also have to say that even though I don’t own either an iPhone or a Kindle, that sync feature you mentioned is totally freaking awesome! It’s features like that which make me consider converting.

  7. Danielle D says:

    I love my Sony Reader — I love the fact that I can download all my ebooks that are in the PDF format not only on my Sony Reader but also my iTouch.

  8. AAR Sandy says:

    Renee and Danielle D: I’ve read much about the virtues of the Sony reader and I know many love it.

    Anne, I’ll see what the Kindle does to funny names and report back. Generally, I’m not nuts about the feature. It’s a toy. Anybody who wants or needs an audio book will…well, BUY an audio book. I don’t get the Authors Guild problem.

    Katie: I resisted, too. One thing that pushed me over the edge was reading somewhere that it’s not an eReader, it’s a library. I was out today and stuck for 10 minutes an pulled out my iPhone and read. I love that I’ll never find myself stuck without a book again.

  9. Cindy says:

    One quick Kindle Horror story…
    I’ve had mine for about 14 months and like it for travel especially. “How great to take one little Kindle on the plane instead of a bag o’ books” (I thought)
    Then one day while I was reading my Kindle (at home, thank goodness) it froze up. Wouldn’t even turn off. I emailed Amazon and received help quickly, but I had to completely recharge the Kindle, then restart. It worked, but goosebumps went up my spine. What if this had happened over the Atlantic! What if I DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO READ ON THE PLANE! Not sure I’ll trust my Kindle again without a backup book at hand.

  10. Brenna says:

    Danielle, there lies the problem. For those who completely rely on the Kindle and tout its being “independent” from a computer, what happens when something major happens to your Kindle and you need to have it repaired? You’re virtually left with nothing till your Kindle comes back. And believe me, electronics eventually die down. My Sony Reader had a major problem with the display since I dropped it two times. Since it was out of warranty, I ordered a new PRS 505. Unfortunately it was out of stock and the with period could take 7-14 days. I have just purchased two ebooks that I have been waiting for months, Promises in Death and First Comes Marriage. I was in Chapter 2 of Balogh’s book when the problem occurred. Fortunately, while I cannot use my Reader, I have the ebooks in my computer. The Sony comes with desktop reader software and I also have the Adobe Digital Editions. So I was able to continue reading via my small laptop. And no need to strip any DRM (not that I know how to do it). On the other hand, while you can download a Kindle ebook to the computer using the USB connection you cannot read it there. You have to transfer it to your Kindle to be able to read it. Unless you are prepared to strip the DRM first, w/c is not suppose to be legal, you have no choice.

    For those of you who rely completely on Amazon to do everything for you and just use the wireless feature of your Kindle, I suggest you try to get out of your comfort zone and explore other possibilities. I’m not suggesting changing your reader. Most readers have almost the same function and there are actually very few differences, if one would just take time out to understand how an ebook reader works. But you need to play around with your Kindle and its USB connection, look at various desktop reader out there and shop around. Letting Amazon control everything down to your conversions may be easy, but as in all things, while there can be an upside, you can be sure there will also be a downside. I’m not a techie myself but I found out that I actually love a challenge of getting my Sony PRS 505 to work “outside the box”, so to speak. I even tried to learn how to do HTML files because I wanted to edit some of my unsecured files to work seamlessly with my reader. I’m also thinking of compiling all of the prayers that I like and make a prayer book which I can then convert into RTF using MS Word and load into my reader so I always have them with me.

  11. Brenna says:

    Just to say that it should have been to Cindy that I was replying to and her Kindle Horror story and not Danielle.

  12. AAR Sandy says:

    I am starting to get the feeling that there is some kind of Sony vs. Kindle death match brewing. People seem to feel very passionate about the device they chose. I certainly do.

  13. AAR Sandy says:

    Cindy, how scary! I haven’t had any freezing problems with my Kindle but I think I’d approach them the way you do with a laptop. Remove the battery and restart. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the iPhone app. I’ll never again be without a book or a backup device.

  14. Julie Kenner says:

    I, too, love the Kindle (I have a K1), and I blogged recently about why I’m bummed about the upgrade. ( Personally, I’ve never had the page turning problem, but I do have a gazillion and 5 things on my Kindle, and I wanted organization! I also hate the idea of getting rid of the SD reader (because of the gazillion and 5 things; my Kindle OEM memory was used up in, literally, a week).

    But, man oh man, the app sounds cool. I’m a Blackberry gal, though, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll do a BB app soon. In the meantime, I have mobipocket on the BB. Just for those grocery store waits.

  15. LinnieGayl says:

    Okay, I’ve been wavering between a Blackberry Storm and an IPhone for months. The Kindle app just pushed me over to the IPhone side. Wow!

  16. Renee says:

    Hi, Sandy,

    I don’t know if its a death match between the sony reader and the kindle :). I received my sony reader as a birthday gift because my family was going to get me the Kindle but it was on back order at the time and they had to have a birthday gift for me (otherwise, Mommy may have gone on strike :). However, I can appreciate what Brenna says about having my books on the computer if my reader ever malfunctioned. I’d be pretty upset if I had to wait to finish a book that I had started.

  17. Brenna says:

    Sandy, as for a death match, I’m not quite sure of about it though I understand the passion. It is always knee jerk to come out in praise of what one has chosen not only because, well, we chose that product, but that we have had experiences with it and can definitely talk about it, never mind that when we sometimes talk about the virtues of our chosen device, we don’t know that most of that particular virtues we are extolling are also features of the other unit and not only of the Sony but other ebook devices as well. What I’ve basically tried to point out, because I have had the experience of a unit breakdown, was that a dependence on just a single reader as Amazon is doing with the Kindle, is not practical. Not having a Kindle, I didn’t know that it did not come with a desktop reader (I thought that’s a prerequisite software that comes with every reader) until I read about it at a Mobile Read thread just a few hours before I posted my other post. Or that even if you downloaded the Kindle file via your computer, you have to transfer the file to your Kindle to be able to read it. Now I fully understand why the main issue some people have with the Kindle is that it “locks” you up with Amazon. Though of course, thanks to the ingenuity of men, there is always a way out of it, if you are willing to make the effort. And if you can afford it, you could buy another device like the ipod Touch or iPhone or an extra Kindle as backup. Unfortunately, that is not an option for everyone.

    I probably would have purchased the Kindle 2 since my display conked out on me just 7 days ago and the Kindle 2 has started shipping. When I bought my first device, Kindle 1 was not out yet, though I would still have gotten a Sony because of its classy design, physical size and the more varied formats it offered for unsecured files than the Kindle did, if I had the opportunity to choose. However, in this case, I did have an option to choose now. Kindle 2 wins when it comes to pricing of ebooks for me. For some, the instant download is a must, but it is a feature that I can forego because I am working with a computer all the time and I spend more time with it than with a reader so buying with a computer is not a problem. But I do not like the idea of not having my own backup of the things that I purchased separate from my Reader device or that Amazon is the one holding them for me. So, I’m glad I stuck with the Sony again and not the Kindle. As for the look, Kindle 2 looks way cooler than the Kindle 1 but the Sony has always had a lovely elegant, classy look and the red one is just way cool.

    Renee, yes I was extremely frustrated because I was so used to the size of the reader device versus a laptop. I have actually stopped reading the Balogh ebook because the first chapter did not pull me in that much. I can wait for my reader device to come and read it then, which I can happily say is finally on its way. But I simply could not just wait for my device to come before reading J D Robb’s “Promises in Death” so I had to use my computer.

  18. AAR Sandy says:

    Julie, I woke up one morning with an iPhone app and I’m hoping you will wake up one morning with an organization app — which I agree doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

    Brenna, you did seem pretty passionate, but I was more referring to the building rhetoric on blogs. Kindle seems to be getting trashed and some of what I’ve read is not true — for instance, Kindle 2 certainly does come complete with paging dots and Amazon customer service has always been top notch in my experience. If Sony sent me an Reader to evaluate, my tune might change, but when it comes to spending my own money, a company that disses da Macs disses me. I’m glad you’re happy, Brenna. I’m happy, too.

  19. Casey Lindsey says:

    I just gotta say I love my kindle and the cheap books.

    My taste is a bit rough but I enjoyed “The Misogynist” by Emily Downs.

    It can be a bit vulgar at times. Be warned. But it’s cheap.

    She is the bestselling author of “Lisa Loves Girls”

    2 books for under 2 bucks. THe kindle will own publishing.

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