What do the Nokia 6310i and the Palm Vx have in common? Is it that they’ve both been consigned to a distant corner of a drawer in my office? Is it that my daughter turned her nose up at both of them? Well, I did (jokingly) offer the 6130i to her a couple of years ago when she wanted her first mobile phone, but she politely declined. The answer I’m looking for is that they both have monochrome displays, and as such would now most likely be regarded as technology that Noah’s dad would have used. With the plethora of tablets on the market boasting high-resolution colour displays, surely the days of monochrome displays are well in our past. Maybe not…

I’ve never agreed with the idea of ‘one device to rule them all’. While many people see the iPad as the must-have, I have a few issues with it. It’s expensive for what it offers, it’s quite heavy (I’m thinking of the weight added to an already-heavy bag full of stuff), and it doesn’t fulfil some of my requirements (like the Archos 605′s ability to record from Sky Plus). A few months ago I had the Lotus team iPad at home for a couple of weeks and hardly ever picked it up – in fact, it was something else cluttering up my desk.

Rewind a few months… remember Christmas? Rather a lot has happened since then. On Christmas Day I was admiring Rob Hayden’s Kindle and started to warm to the idea. I love reading, but generally only ever do it on holiday, although I made an effort to put time aside to read some of the books I got for my birthday right after Christmas. However, I’d never take anything more than a paperback on the train or on a plane because of the extra weight. Mrs A picked up on the fact that I often looked at Kindles if we happened to pass Currys (or looked at the other e-readers on offer in other shops), and bought me one as a wedding anniversary / new job celebration gift.

Now, there are people who would say “you could have bought an iPad and used the Kindle application”. But let’s look at the Kindle advantages:

  • It costs £400 less than an iPad
  • It’s ridiculously light, even with the added protective case
  • The power consumption is amazingly frugal – twelve days of use (with WiFi switched on) and the battery meter is showing two-thirds full
  • The display doesn’t suffer in direct sunlight
  • It doesn’t have a touch-screen, instead it uses a rocker switch to navigate – if you don’t think that’s an advantage just take a look at an average iPad screen caked in finger-grease and think about reading through that
  • It offers text-to-speech, which means you can pop in some headphones, close your eyes and imagine that Stephen Hawking is your personal narrator
  • It does what it does – it’s designed to be a reading device and doesn’t compromise on anything around that core capability

There are some great things about the Kindle which are true of any supported device (e.g. Mac, iPod touch)  - the book opens to the page you were last on, and your books are stored with your Amazon account (which means that if you lose the device everything is backed-up).

As I have some time on my hands over the next couple of weeks, the Kindle will be getting some extended use (I wonder when I’ll have to charge it for a second time). In July I’ll be heading to Denver, and the Kindle will be going into my bag alongside the Archos 605. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to reading 1000 Years of Annoying the French.

This article has 11 comments

  1. Jason Hook Reply

    Now I’ve owned both and I’m waiting for a server to restart I can pass comment:

    1. It’s £300 cheaper than the cheapest iPad and it should be cheaper;
    2. I’ve owned two and they both broke down within two weeks of delivery;
    3. The flashing screen between page refreshes was horrible but is the best of e-ink machines;
    4. It’s clunky, very clunky;
    5. It’s great for reading the paperbacks you would have read and bugger all use for reading textbooks;
    6. It doesn’t have a touchscreen but everyone you show it to will think it does so you end up with marks all over it anyway :-)
    7. There’s no harm in owning an iPad and a Kindle (if they could make it last);
    8. You have to buy a light to read it at night and I don’t recommend a caving style headlamp :-)

    I think I get on better with the iPad than you do. The iPad2 does a reasonable job as a games console, book reader (iBooks, Kindle, Kobo), web browser, organiser, development tool, music player, video player blah, blah blah. I thinks it’s pretty good value (I have the cheapest).

  2. Dragon Cotterill Reply

    My gripe with these devices is the “books” that you buy. When you buy a normal paperback, you don’t pay VAT. They’re exempt. But when you buy the same title as an e-book, you suddenly get hit with an extra 20% on top.

    Remember that fiasco where Amazon decided that they had “mis-sold” books to which they had no rights to and removed from your device? Well look closely at your terms and conditions. You do NOT own the actual book. You merely lease the right to read it.

    Excuse me if I prefer to have something a little more physical in terms of ownership. I’ll stick with my paper doorstops for the time being.

  3. Darren Reply

    @Jason – I’ve read reviews stating some quality issues… two in two weeks is bad luck. I agree that the menu system is a bit clunky, but I suspect they’ve not given it a super-duper operating system as that would take up more processor power and chew the battery life quicker. It seems that the focus is keeping it slim and offering long battery life rather than a fantastic user experience. Anyway, most of the time I’m just going to the last page I was on, so the most used function is the ‘next page’ button.

    If anyone does touch the screen I’ll break their f***ing fingers off.

    It wasn’t a case of not getting on with the iPad, I just didn’t need it. Maybe because I already have an iPod touch and an iMac.

    @Dragon, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about the rights issue. I buy a book, I read it… if it’s a factual book I may refer back to it. The fact that it’s ‘leased’ isn’t going to stop me doing that unless for some reason they do remove it. Wasn’t 1984 one of the free titles? It isn’t now.

  4. Dave Hay Reply

    I haven’t gone down the Kindle route, but I do have the app installed on my iTouch and my Mac. There are oodles of free out-of-print ebooks here: -

    http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=2245146011

    and here: -

    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

    and here: -

    http://www.archive.org/details/texts

    and here: -

    http://openlibrary.org/

    Richard Shooter swears by the Kindle, especially when he’s away on a two-week camping and canoeing holiday – no need to carry lots of books and a long battery life make it the device of choice.

    Meantime, I’m toying between an iPad and an Android tablet ….

  5. Darren Reply

    Yeah Dave, I have to take issue with this, even though I know you’re only doing it to annoy Lew. One of my friend’s wife was telling us about an attempted burglary and she kept mentioning their son’s iTouch and I had to restrain myself from correcting her (and got more and more irritated every time she said it).

    iPad or Android? iPad has more available apps, but Android 3 tablets are more configurable and customisable. But maybe iOS5 will even things up a bit.

  6. Darren Reply

    And one other thing… nearly three weeks of use and the battery is at 50%. I’ve used it every day and have wifi turned on. I’d say that vindicates the strategy of designing for minimal power usage. My iPod touch (note the correct product name) doesn’t last a day.

  7. Tony Reply

    I’m tempted by the Kindle. The low price, the glut of free classic titles and the ‘good at one thing’ approach makes it really compelling. However somewhere in my DNA is a ‘book gene’ that just loves the traditional format. It’s durable, you can give to your mates and if they never give it back it’s not a problem, you can read ‘em in the bath and not worry about them getting wet, you can write all over them in biro and highlighter etc, etc, etc and there is something about the book as a physical object that even the most beautiful technology can’t match. And hey…I’m a gadget junkie.

  8. Darren Reply

    @Tony… I know what you mean. The current Mrs A scoffs at me for buying CDs rather than downloading, but I like having the CDs with the lyrics and info. So the love of the actual book is something I can understand.

    The crunch will come when Simon Scarrow’s new book (entitled either ‘Praetorian’ or ‘Praetorian Guard’) comes out later this year. I’ve got all of them so far, the last few as rather grand-looking hardbacks… and I might carry on doing so. But with so many books lined up on the Kindle’s wish-list it’ll be an exception.

    For me personally, the fact that the Kindle goes straight back to the page I was on is a real bonus. There have been times when I haven’t picked up a book for a week or so and have trouble remembering where I was (yeah, yeah, get a bookmark).

  9. Dave Hay Reply

    @Darren – you’re quite right, I’m just winding up @Lewis, but it’s just sooooo much fun :-)

    Re iPad vs. Android, I’m torn between two lovers; perhaps I should buy one of each :-)

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