Can the Kindle Spark E-Paper?
In reviewing the Amazon Kindle, it is necessary to split the review into two parts: analysis of the device and of the e-paper it uses.
I have read three novels (the “John Carter of Mars” series), two magazines and one newspaper on the Kindle. Here are my reactions to the three experiences:
• The e-book experience is excellent and enjoyable.
• The e-newspaper experience is fair, but the visuals, photos and charts are nonexistent, and that colored my reading and expectations.
• The e-magazine is a complete flop. All that was delivered was straight text in a flat format. What distinguishes a magazine from other formats, among other attributes, is the design element. The Kindle magazine experience is entirely devoid of style and design. This was either an oversight by Amazon or just plain, uninformed laziness. I must assume they received appropriate XML files from the magazine publishers, which should have contained all the elements of proper magazine page construction. Just a little more effort on someone’s part and the magazine reading experience could have been better. Now is the time for publishers to start strategizing how they will reconstitute their franchise and their files into a pleasant e-paper experience.
The e-paper in this device exceeded my expectations. E-paper, like real paper, does not have under-panel, background lighting—it has no light emission at all. Instead, it works on ambient light or reflective light, just like real paper. The refresh rate, or the time it takes to change pages, is perhaps even shorter than the time it takes to turn a traditional page. The type is crisp and wonderfully variable. The substrate background is acceptable, but could be brighter and whiter, more in line with the Sony Reader.
The bottom line is that the Kindle’s e-paper experience is a resounding success and will only continue to improve.
The functionality also will improve over time and is not bad for a first edition. It comes with a QWERTY keyboard that is easy to use and enables the purchase of titles while on the road. Another great feature is the inboard dictionary. You wouldn’t believe it, but “John Carter of Mars” has an even more extensive vocabulary than BoSacks.
I have several issues with the design and instrumentality. Unlike some other reviewers, I did not find the Kindle ugly, but neither is it of a compelling design like the iPod. Plus, in the designers’ zeal to make page-turning easy, they made it too easy. There is little room on either side of the Kindle to hold it comfortably without accidentally changing pages. Another area warranting improvement is the leather cover/carrying case, in which the Kindle is not secure. Call it paranoia, but I was constantly worried that this $400 device was going to drop out of the case onto the floor with a crunch from it and a yowl from me.
With all that said, I loved the overall experience of e-paper and this new device. I would bet that the revised version will fix all the mechanical idiosyncrasies. For now, version 1.0 of the Kindle is sold out, and that bodes well for Amazon and the fledgling e-book industry.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.