Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Kindler, gentler way to read?

I no longer need a newspaper for "kindling."

I got my Amazon Kindle in the mail a few hours ago; newly available in Canada, the device is supposed to change the very way we consume books, magazines, and newspapers by allowing us to download them digitally, the same way the iPod changed the way we listen to music.

Having shipped from the U.S. in a record three days, the Kindle cost me $259 U.S., plus the other $115 U.S. for the "It's Garry Shandling's Show" DVD box set I ordered along with it, for a grand total of $10 million.

The first thing that strikes you when you tear open the box is how compact and light it is. It's eight inches tall, five inches wide, and weighs just 10 ounces - lighter than a paperback, and way thinner.

Then, you simply plug it in, and turn it on. There, at the top of the screen, it said "Kenton's Kindle" - pre-registered and ready to roll through my Amazon account. Cool. If you get it for a gift, you just register when you get it and, presumably, the name changes (or you use it in perpetuity under the name "Aunt Bea," I guess).

The next thing you notice is the screen. It's downright bizarre: no glare or reflection on its surface whatsoever. It doesn't look like an iPhone screen or a page out of a book - more like an Etch A Sketch than anything.

Having weaned myself onto an iPhone earlier in the year, I can't stop myself from touching the Kindle screen, which feels very strangely like paper. When you do touch it...nothing happens, except you feel stupid for touching it.

Although the screen isn't in color - I'm sure that'll be a feature in the next edition - the resolution is pretty great, resembling more a painting than a pixelated image:

After marveling at the pretty pictures, I went through a short tutorial, which explains how to use the buttons, and headed straight to the newspapers - the topic of many a recent post (no, I don't really believe that bad spelling is a good idea, but I'll blame Socrates and his blasted "method").

Then, I headed straight to the newspaper downloads and found the New York Times. I downloaded today's edition for $1.99, and there it was, about a minute later.

A monthly subscription to the Times is a mere $27.99 a month - which is what I was paying just to get the Sunday issue delivered to my door a day late with the Globe and Mail.

I still haven't really figured out the best way to navigate the paper, but I had bigger fish to fry. Onward and upward!

Clicking on Canadian newspapers, I saw that I could only choose from four titles, though that might not be surprising, considering that the device is new in Canada. The titles: The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, and the Montreal Gazette.

Sorry, no Winnipeg Free Press or Sun for now. The Globe is $15.99 a month, the Post $14.99, the Sun $13.99, and the Gazette $13.99.

On first blush, hours out of the box, the Kindle's picture kicks butt, but I'm not sure if I'll find it more convenient than the iPhone and its touch screen, apps, cameras, voice memos, access to Twitter, text message, Flickr, email, YouTube, and electric razor (not yet, but...mark my words!).

The controls seem to be a bit clunkier than the iPhone, but I'll see how easy they are to get used to in the weeks ahead. I'll get back to you to let you know what I think.

In the meantime, has anyone else bought one yet, or plan to buy one? Yes or no, do tell.


  1. I just bought a book...

    (It was your dad's as a matter of fact; a signed copy!)

    I'm a little bit technologically challenged, and unsure of all these gadgets (I still have a razor flip phone for goodness sakes, and my first edition ipod nano still frustrates and confuses me!!)

    Perhaps one day though...

  2. You're the first Canadian commentator, blogger or columnist of dozens to focus on the part that's exciting to me. Indigo and Sony keep harping on stupidly about how their readers are cheaper, open systems, etc.

    But neither of them allow for regular on-demand download of major daily newspapers or magazines, which is the sole reason I'd want a Kindle (and for that reason, I want one badly). Any further reviews on that front would be welcome.

  3. Meh.

    Reading the NYT on Kindle looks like it is much the same as reading it online, which I can still do for free (for the time being).

    I'm willing to pay for the tactile experience of page-flipping, which allows me to scan entire pages quickly. Since I can't do that, I'm more than happy to read online.

    As for books, I'm not sure what the benefit of a Kindle really is unless one is physically incapable of holding a book bag.

    Unlike MP3 players which changed the game as it relates to recorded music, this product doesn't excite me at all.

  4. Kenton: Here's another Canadian reviewer, also a Cre Com grad, to watch for Kindler Komments.

  5. Yeah, I have to say, I really don't get the allure of the Kindle (and its copycats). It just looks like a shitty old Palm Pilot to me (and the one I used to have you could read books on as well) and if I want to read and download things on the go, I'd rather use a laptop or iPhone.

    A bit harsh, I realize, seeing as how I haven't used it. You'll have to show me the next time I see you.

  6. I'll show you. I'll show you aaaaalllllllllll!

    But seriously, everyone I've shown it to today is freaked out by the screen. I ask everyone, "could you read a book like this?" and so far, they've all said "Yes."

    As Brian points out, above, the main thing of interest to me is the wireless newspaper in the morning - so I can read it on the bus.

    Yes, I take the bus. Now I've done it...

  7. From your description, it sounds easier to read a book on it than I thought. I've managed to stay a purist and have a firm grasp on hard copies of books, because there's just something about owning a whole bunch of books that feels...gratifying to me. That, and I'm prone to eye strain. I would be interested in reading newspapers on it, maybe I'll look into buying one whenever the Free Press gets on the kindle.

  8. The Regina Leader-Post just appeared on it today.

    Can the Free Press be far behind?

  9. +1 on the point, -5 on the size of it. Although I guess it is better so people aren't squinting on tinier screens.

    I still think the best way is for any paper to develop a breaking news app for smartphones. Is anyone going to use it for anymore, especially on such a device?

    I also don't think newspapers should give up on print entirely. I think it's an art form that adds tangibility and texture to news.

    When newspapers ultimately do find a way to remain sustainable and profitable online, I hope they'll put out at least a large, weekly in-depth paper rounding up the week's news, putting it into more context, and also use it to dive into larger, investigative pieces (those, in my opinion, are better suited for print).

  10. We had a great discussion about this today in PR class, when I passed around the Kindle.

    Lots of great questions and predictions, including the pertinent question: "If paper goes away, will we still call it a "newspaper?"

  11. Duncan posed a similar question back in August. (http://duncanmcm.blogspot.com/2009/08/down-with-p-word-lets-rename-newspapers.html)

    He wants to drop the "p" word, and is willing to give out prizes for the best alternatives.

    Newspapers are now essentially news companies, and if newspapers go away, I think the word will be reserved for history books. Would everything not just become, 'Oh, I read this on the Winnipeg Free Press/Winnipeg Sun (site)'? Note: site optional.

  12. Check out Barnes and Noble's Nook:


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