Review: Kindle 2 and the Kandle Book Light

I love my Kindle 2.  After owning it for nearly 2 months now I have used it constantly.  I believe I have had the full Kindle experience.  In that time I have read The Picture of Dorian Gray, Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Sherlock Holmes, Faust, and The Count of Monte Cristo.  That is a testament to what the Kindle has done for me and reading.  I have slowly been working through all of the classic books I always meant to read, but never did.  I owe much of that to the Kindle store making it so easy for met o find and buy books.

The Kindle is a slow gadget, but that's OK.  I don't think you'll find yourself browsing Amazon exclusively on your Kindle.  When you do need to the store experience is slow, but solid.  You can try a sample of a book or purchase it using the credit card you setup on your account.  The really fantastic thing is the delivery. Amazon's WhisperNet wireless delivery is really great.  When I purchased The Count of Monte Cristo from Amazon.com and sent it to my Kindle it took about a minute to download, and that's a 1,400 page book.

Using the WhisperNet to browse Wikipedia and other websites is a decent experience if you want to look up a quick article.  With a mobile phone and tons of other Internet capable devices nearby I rarely use the browser.

Picture: XKCD #548

The e-ink screen, long battery life, and lightweight design is what makes the Kindle work as a paperback replacement.  With the Amazon branded leather "book" cover the Kindle weighs roughly 1 pound.  Alone the Kindle only weighs 10.2 ounces.  Amazon markets the Kindle as being thin as a #2 pencil (it is) and the same height and length as your average book.  It's small enough to fit inside the back pocket of my jeans with the cover on (not that you should keep it there).  The battery easily lasts 1 week if you leave the wireless on all the time.  I frequently turn mine off and find myself reaching about 50% battery after 1 week.  I believe Amazon's claim of a 14-day battery life on a single charge is pretty accurate.

The e-ink screen really does look like paper.  Of course, you lose the slight imperfections of paper and printed ink and you don't feel the pages beneath your fingers, but my eyes never get tired looking at the display and that is the whole point.  The font size can be adjusted and most books are formatted very well.

That is really my only issue with the Kindle - the formatting.  Some books are formatted poorly or have frequent typos, but this isn't Amazon's fault.  This requires me to read reviews about Kindle editions to make sure I get what I want.  Other problems can crop up with the Table of Contents.  Sometimes the e-books don't have linked tables, so you can't click the chapter to "open the book" at that chapter.  Some of this can be frustrating, but the only formatting issues I've run into were with free, or very cheap ($0.99), versions of classic books.  It's worth it to just pay the extra money for the better quality e-book.

Some people complain about the keyboard and 5-way jog wheel, but I find nothing is wrong with them.  I use them so rarely that I might have forgotten to even mention them in this review.

The Kindle 2 does offer a Text-to-Speech function, but it's very difficult to listen to.  I tried it on a few books and it was alright, but very hard to listen to if you are trying to do something else (which is the point - right?).  The voice is just so robotic that I had a difficult time concentrating on it.  Not all books have this enabled (at the request of the publisher who thinks it will hurt their audiobook sales).  Some books are not read very well at all.  When I tried it on Murder on the Orient Express the robotic woman said "block quote" at the beginning and end of every line of the dialog for some unknown reason.

The drawback of the Kindle's e-ink display is there is no way to read in the dark.  What makes the display so easy on the eyes is the lack of a backlight.  To overcome this you will need a book light.  I recommend the Kandle from Ozeri:


At the time of this writing it's an extra $25, but it works great.  It provides a very nice white light for reading and the anti-glare Kindle display doesn't reflect the light back at your face.  The arm pivots at two points allowing you to find the position that works for your reading angle.

The Kandle is bigger than the other book light options available, but it's not too big.  Ozeri calls this their WideLipTM grip.  The grip is a wide close-pin style clip with soft pads on both sides that help the Kandle hold onto your Kindle tightly without scratching it.

Ozeri says the Kandle has about a 25 hour battery life and uses 2 CR2032 batteries.  The light ships with 2 spare batteries on top of the two already installed.

I love my Kindle.  It really has motivated me to read a lot more and I'm really enjoying it.  I keep it in my bag whenever I go out for the day.  I've also begun using it for school books.  It's fantastic.  I highly recommend the Kindle 2 for anyone in the market for an e-book reader.

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