Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tech Tip Tuesday: Gadgets and Gizmos-1 in a series

Amazon Kindle:

The Amazon Kindle broke the barrier to eReading.  eReaders in one format or another have existed for nearly 2o years.  But what broke the barrier was the Amazon Kindle.  It wasn't just the Kindle but also the Kindle bookstore.  Similar to how the iPod made buying music sensible the Kindle and the Kindle book store made buying electronic books sensible.  When the Kindle first came on the market I wondered how it would possibly compete with the iPod Touch and iPhone which had also recently been released.  I could see that it was only a matter of time before Book became available, but then I realized something.  Amazon wasn't interested in selling Kindles at least not primarily.  They are interested in selling books.  Which is why they have also developed and released apps for nearly every platform both Mobile and Desktop.

So, why a Kindle.  Not the app, not the books, why the device?  Here's my take on it.  First of all in the latest iterations of the Kindle you can read PDF's as well as .mobi and Amazon's own Digitally Rights Managed formats on the device.  So, PDF's means you can carry not just a vast library of recreationally reading but also a replace folders, packets and binders of documents with one device.  The PDF's can be loaded either manually on your computer or via email.  Each Kindle is assigned a unique Kindle email address that can receive the PDF's wirelessly.  This feature is unique to the actual device so it is a feature you can't use with the apps.

A second reason for the Kindle is the eInk technology.  High contrast, no glare screens make the current generation of the Kindle simply a joy to read in all conditions...except one.  Low light conditions require lighting just like a regular book.  But I love the eInk.  I have read on my Kindle at the pool, on the bus, on airplanes, nearly everywhere and it is simple and easy to use.

So, third reason, ease of use.  The interface is simple, and easy to use.  The buttons on the left and right of the device allow you to hold it in one hand and navigate through pages easily. Buying books is pretty simple assuming you know what you are looking for.  If you are wanting to browse through books the website is still a little easier.  There are two things about the use that are a challenge.  The screen is not a touch screen.  Without fail, every person I hand my Kindle too tries to navigate by swiping the screen or touching the screen.  Even though the Kindle's face has obvious buttons, the touch screen has become so accepted that people expect the Kindle to be touch screen too.  The second shortcoming is the keyboard.  The little round buttons are just a little hard to use, making taking notes or using the device for anything but basic searches truly difficult, but since that is all you can do, the keyboard is adequate.

Fourth reason, MASSIVE battery life.  the eInk technology uses electricity only when you change the page.  When the device is idle the screen saver uses no electricity.  Since the Kindle doesn't check for email or updates when idle the WiFi/3g is only active when needed and the battery lasts and lasts.  The Kindle only needs recharging every 20 to 30 days.  That is simply fantastic.

Two more things to consider with the Kindle.  I have had two and I am looking down the barrel of a 3rd because the screens crack easily.  Twice now, I have pulled my kindle out of my bag and have found funny lines and problems on the screen with only one line at the bottom still working.  I am pretty disappointed with that especially since one of the times it was in a protective padded case.  For regular active classroom and student use it should be a little tougher.  Another drawback is the incompatibility with Library systems.  There are many services for checking out books and reading them including the State Public Library and Pioneer Library System.  The Kindle isn't compatible with these systems because they chose their own proprietary model based on book purchases.  Other readers chose to build that kind of compatibility in and we will learn about one of them next week.

But if you want to kindle a love of reading and books the Amazon Kindle is certainly not a bad place to start.

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