Welcome to Pete Brown's 10rem.net

First time here? If you are a developer or are interested in Microsoft tools and technology, please consider subscribing to the latest posts.

You may also be interested in my blog archives, the articles section, or some of my lab projects such as the C64 emulator written in Silverlight.

(hide this)

My First Couple Weeks with the Amazon Kindle 3

Pete Brown - 07 October 2010

Random kindle screen-saver graphic

Melissa recently purchased an Amazon Kindle 3 (WiFi). After messing with it for a few minutes, I just had to have one myself.

My wife and I are both avid readers, mostly of sci-fi, fantasy, and other fiction. We have so many shelves and boxes of books we've read, that we bring a box or two of books to the big yard sale every October. My tech books end up hitting the recycle bin every year. I had three bookcases full, but I'm finally down to one :)

Now, I like seeing shelves of books. I think a house with no books is a sad house. I'm even building another set of built-in bookcases in the living room (although Melissa has told me they will not hold books - hmm). It's my hope that our kids will randomly pick some of our books up when they're older and enjoy them as much as we did. The move to electronic books makes that more difficult not only from a browsing standpoint, but from a "will the format be supported in a decade" standpoint - the same thing we're dealing with with digital cameras and digital audio.

That said, just as I did with CDs several years back, I finally made my peace with giving up the physical media.

I ordered the Kindle WiFi edition as I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible. Truthfully, I'm usually near WiFi anyway and when not (like driving), It's unlikely I'll be trying to purchase a new book. $139 is definitely reasonable for a gadget, especially one as useful as this.

The Display and the Reading Experience

For a while, I put off getting a Kindle because I really wanted the larger display of the DX. However, the DX doesn't have the latest feature set, and happens to be priced in Netbook/iPad/Slate territory, so I passed.

The first thing you'll notice is that the display is super crisp. It really does approach the printed page in terms of resolution. This isn't the usual LCD screen, however, it's an e-ink (or e-paper) display, which uses tiny capsules filled with charged ink particles (white and black or similar) to display. When I read about the technology, my first thought was "Etch a Sketch!" although I'm sure that would make the developers of the tech cry into their pillow, or maybe march to my house with torches and pitchforks.

Crisp, like bacon or an apple, or an apple wrapped in bacon

For night reading, you'll probably want a booklight, just as you would with paper books. While the screen isn't particularly reflective, you'll want the light to be angled off to the side, raking the display as opposed to shining right on it. The Kindle screen is not back-lit, or bright white, things that make it much easier on the eyes than reading from a computer or pad/slate device.

It's light enough and bright enough to be used in the place most men do their reading ;)

You do lose out on the typography of the book, however. That's something I definitely miss: each book is displayed in the same way, with no variation in typography or presentation. That means the book has to stand on its own as content, but it also means you lose the character of the color of the paper and the typeface used in printing. It's a bit like the feeling you get when people send you plain text email. Of course, if you only read paperbacks, there's not much to lose there :)

One other thing you lose (you can see it in the shot above) is separation between paragraphs. Several of the books I have read have section breaks in the chapter, with the new section started left-justified. In print, there is a blank line or two. On the kindle (as seen by the like "Breakfast had been") you lose that separation. This was confusing a few times because it wasn't obvious that a new paragraph had started (the previous took the whole line). I'm not sure if that is the Kindle or the conversion process from the publisher. Since I've seen it a few times now, from different publishers, I'm assuming the former.

The User Interface

The user interface is pretty spartan. I don't think they'll win any awards for superior menu UX or anything. The UI is also pretty slow. Some of that is the responsiveness of the display (which is very slow compared to LCDs) but the device also feels underpowered for anything interactive. Sure, that's not the primary use for the device, but as a software developer, I really notice things like that.

The Web Browser

The web browser is ok in a pinch. It renders well, but navigation using the 5-way pad is just painful. To get an idea of what that's like, disconnect your mouse and browse around using just the keyboard. Actually, it's worse than that. It's more like having a smartphone without a touch screen.

I didn't buy it as a web browsing device, though, so no worries. If you're looking for something that will be as much a browser as a reader, this isn't the device you want.

Side-Loading Books

When you plug the Kindle into your PC, it looks just like any USB drive. You can drag and drop books in there, and as long as the format is supported, you can read them on your device.


For example, I dragged the PDF version of Silverlight 4 in Action to the documents folder, ejected the Kindle, and it was ready to go.

reading my book in PDF form in Kindle blows.

The book is there, but reading a book in PDF format on this screen is not a good experience. First, the text is super tiny. Second, you lose most of the Kindle tools for reading. I'm glad my book will be out in mobi format soon :)

Sharing Books

Melissa and I often share physical books and we wanted to do the same here. That required that we create a shared Amazon account and only purchase Kindle books through that. I hate those types of joint accounts, but we'll deal.

Sharing books is really easy. Every book we've purchased so far allows you to share with 4-6 total devices on your account. This allows us to do something we've never been able to do before: both read the book at the same time. You simply go into the archives on your kindle and re-download any other book that has been purchased on that account.


Book Price

The Kindle book price isn't bad. For many paperbacks, the price is the same. For hardbacks, you'll usually save a bit off the normal Amazon paper price. For those of you who (like us) would often buy hardbacks as remainder stock from Amazon sellers for $2 a copy, you'll definitely notice the price.

We're Buying more Books

This will certainly make Amazon happy.

The Kindle makes it WAY too easy to buy books. I mean, that's the point of this thing, but you will finish a book, buy and download a new one (10 minutes) and start reading again. With paper, you have to go buy one locally or wait for an order to show up. Normal novels are usually 500k to 2mb in size, so it takes no time at all to download them. The more pictures, the larger the book.

With Kindle, you will probably read twice as much as you did with paper. Not only is the reading experience faster (not sure on all the reasons why, but we do read faster on the Kindle) but buying books is easier.

No One else can Buy you Books

Our wishlist is dominated by books every Christmas. At the moment, that's a no-go with the Kindle. If you want the book on your device, you have to purchase it yourself, on your Kindle account. This is actually mini-crisis-level stuff for us, as books are almost all we ask for at Christmas. (Well, except me. I'm split between books and gadgets <g>)

So, we'll concentrate on the non-Kindle books for our Amazon wish lists until Amazon makes it possible for others to buy Kindle books.

Battery Life

The battery on the Kindle is awesome. I took the Kindle out of the box - it was 3/4 charged. I've used it for a couple weeks now and am down to about 1/3 to 1/2 the battery on the meter. That's with reading every day, and downloading several books via WiFi. My Zune is the only thing I have that comes close to the battery life of this device.


The Kindle 3 is a smaller size than the other devices. One thing it lost in the downsizing was the hardware number keys. Instead, you have to use the 5-way pad to select numbers / symbols from an on-screen menu when you wish to type. This is a pain during setup and when browsing, but otherwise doesn't get in your way.

When holding the Kindle with one hand and sitting down to read, I find I wish the page-forward button was at right about the location of the "Q" on the keyboard, so my thumb could easily hit it. Since a page of Kindle text is less than a full page of printed text, you'll find yourself advancing pages far more often.

When lying down to read, you don't need to use your hand to hold the book (try *that* with a paperback without a hold-down device/clamp) so no issues there.

The social highlighting feature is really annoying. I swear people all highlight the same pointless sentence just to feel like a group (or flock of sheep as may be). Turn it off. Lemmings.


If you like to read, go get one. Seriously. This is a device for people who love to read. We both read more quickly on this device, and find it incredibly easy to get new books.

Don't buy this if you intend to primarily read PDF books. The larger Kindle DX will serve you better there.

(PS: the noise you see in the images is generated by my camera in a low-light situation without flash - not the Kindle)

posted by Pete Brown on Thursday, October 7, 2010
filed under:    

10 comments for “My First Couple Weeks with the Amazon Kindle 3”

  1. Andysays:
    Good rundown of the Kindle... Here's a couple of notes to add to your own.

    The web browser is painful, but works well with sites that are designed for mobile devices - try Google Reader mobile.

    The number keys thing is a pain, but they did put a way around it. If you hold the 'Alt' key, then you can use the top row of keys (qwerty... etc) to type numbers. This can be a huge time saver for taking notes and browsing.

    I didn't know that the Silverlight 4 book is coming out in .mobi format, that's great! I've been reading it as a PDF on the Kindle 3, which is okay-ish, but not great. Will those of us who already have the book be able to get hold of the mobi edition?
  2. a avrashowsays:
    You can improve PDF readability (i.e., larger text) if you Rotate Orientation (press aA key) to landscape and maybe zoom to 150% (if you can get lt & rt margins to fit).

    Will mobi be more "text-oriented" rather than PDF's layout-oriented? Thx for the tip on free Manning version for ppl who bought the eBook.
  3. Robertsays:
    Great review!! I'm sold on the eBook format as well now, however, I went with the Sony Touch instead of the Kindle. I found the keyboard on the Kindle a turn off, and really like to be able to turn the page by swiping it with my finger.
  4. Anilsays:
    I was very very close to buy a Kindle, but as my library is mostly in PDFs I decided to wait for a cheap Android tablet that will enable me to occasionally watch videos too. Battery might be an issue though.
  5. Mikesays:
    I bought the Kindle DX Graphite hoping it would be a good reader for technical PDF files. I have met with limited success. The text is certainly large enough and very clear on the 9.7inch screen and the text contrast is great.

    My main problems are I can't highlight text and I can't add notes. The other major problem for me is that browser is too slow and very painful to use. So as a reading device for technical documents the document really needs to be in Kindle not PDF format and even then I use my notebook to chase down hyperlinks in the document.
  6. wekempfsays:
    Welcome to the world of eReaders! :)

    I'm a NOOK owner myself. I dislike what Amazon is doing with the proprietary format and chose the NOOK mostly for that reason. The NOOK is a little better when it comes to sharing books. You can share an account, like you do with Amazon. You can also sideload books purchased from another account and activate the book, which requires the credit card information on the owning account, but when sharing in the family this shouldn't be a concern. Then there's LendMe... so very limited feature that allows you to lend (some) books, one time, for a limited amount of time with any other NOOK owner. Also, since the NOOK is using a more open format and DRM scheme you can borrow eBooks from many libraries.

    Book prices for eBooks are currently very volatile. Agency pricing (Google Agency 5) is preventing distributors from changing the prices, even for sales or with use of coupons, which has resulted in some very crazy pricing. Normally you can expect to pay just a little less for an eBook than you do a hardback book and the same as for a paperback book when one is available. However, there've been cases where the eBook is more expensive than even the hardback edition, and when distributors can give you dicsounts on the DTB (dead tree book) editions but not the eBook editions you'll often find better prices for DTB books if you shop around. Just plain dumb.

    There's lots of free books available, and these range from classics in the public domain to books by NY Times best sellers. The site http://www.inkmesh.com should become your new best friend.

    As for no one being able to buy you books... have them buy you gift cards instead. If nothing else, this avoids the duplicate book issue that I always had at Christmas anyway.
  7. Robertsays:
    @wekempf - excellent response, thanks.

    I generally get books through the Sony ebook store, or Borders (their ebook site is horrible), but both use the Adobe DRM management software. One thing I found with the Borders ebook site, is some of their books won't sync with a device (only readable on the PC) - which isn't mentioned on the page when buying the book (one reason I hesitate to buy from Borders any more).

    The Sony Touch is great for highlighting text - take the stylus and hightlight the text ... easy and simple. The biggest downside to the Sony is that the touch isn't real responsive, it's resistive, not capactive.
  8. Jamessays:
    Unfortunately, the Kindle developers didn't think of section breaks in books, and they didn't add special support for such a common item. However, a publisher who cares at all can put in proper section breaks, be it extra space between paragraphs, a straight horizontal line, or a group of stars (***). They can also add space between paragraphs if they prefer. (To look nice in my own Kindle book(s), I use a slight space between paragraphs and a wide horizontal image of my own creation to separate sections.)

    You're right, a lot of Kindle books don't have these things, but that's due to lazy publishers who don't really want e-books to succeed anyway. I strongly encourage all authors to review their e-book formats before they're officially published to Amazon.
  9. Deesays:
    Hi.. I just bought a Kindle 3 from the US but I live in India.. I tried to buy a book today and though it seems to be downloaded on my Kindle, I received an email telling me that they were "having difficulty processing my Visa card".

    This has me worried about the usage on my card? If you know, can you please tell me what is generally charged on my Kindle, apart from my books?

Comment on this Post

Remember me