March 05, 2012

This is my Kindle. The Touch model, to be exact.

A while back, I declared that since I already have an iPad and iPhone, I don’t need a Kindle. I can read books just as well on these devices as I can on a Kindle. And they even have backlit screens that’s better for me as I’m mostly reading in the dark.

Still, a few months back I got the Kindle for two main reasons.

First, I was interested in how the e-ink technology feels compared to other devices that I have (mostly LCD-s). To fix the light problem, I also bought Amazon’s case with a light that draws power from Kindle’s battery. It doesn’t seem to significantly affect the battery life.

Second, I wanted to see if the reading experience with Kindle is really different or better from iPad and iPhone. I know that iPad is too bulky to read in bed, so I had been using iPhone for that. Is Kindle any better?

The answer to the second question is yes. Reading with Kindle is significantly better for me than on iPhone or iPad.

Let’s get the limitations out of the way first. Kindle is only good for reading static textual book pages, and nothing else. The touchscreen is sluggish, e-ink display has an extremely low refresh rate, and the e-book format is not good for anything other than text. Some books have images and those are pretty much unreadable on Kindle if they have any text, as you can’t zoom or do anything else.

So, only reading books, and nothing else. But at books, Kindle excels.

I like the form factor. The cover adds a little bulk, but even with that, Kindle is infinitely more usable from the weight perspective than iPad, while showing more text than iPhone.

The UI is manageable. Just tap to turn pages back and forth, go Home to pick a different book, and that’s really it. Sure, you can use the store if you want, but I prefer to do it on the computer with my web browser. Amazon’s cloud is nicely done and whatever I do on one device makes it to others.

The text rendering is really well done. The DPI is not super high—at 167 DPI, you can see the pixels if you really want to. But the antialiasing is really good and the letterforms are highly readable. E-ink can do 16 shades of gray per pixel and those are put to good use for sub-pixel text rendering.


My Kindle has ads. The default mode for Kindles these days is that you buy them with ads, and you can pay extra to get rid of ads.

I thought I’d buy the extra to get rid of the ads, but I haven’t done so far. Here’s what a typical ad looks like.

Just a big nice picture and one line of text about the offer. That’s it. No disclaimers, bullets, or other nonsense. Of course, this is in the “screensaver” mode. If you actually go into your home screen, there’s a banner at the bottom where you tap to see more details about the same offer, and then it’s the typical purchasing flow.

The ads don’t bother me because I think it’s one of the most tasteful executions I’ve seen on any platform. In fact, just recently I bought something from one of the ads—and I very rarely make such purchase decisions based on ads. There was an ad for some dried fruit with a big discount, and I was like, cool, I eat those anyway, so might as well stack up. I’m sure the same content is available on Groupon and Facebook and many other such sites, but those feel much more spammy and annoying to me and I don’t really subscribe to any of them. Whereas on Kindle, it’s executed tastefully enough and integrated with my daily life and reading experience that I might just be responsive.