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By Andrew Eisner

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I waited patiently for the year and a half it took the second generation Kindle to appear. This one was going to fix all the shortcomings of the Kindle 1. The new page change buttons would be harder to press by mistake and the display would support 16 shades of gray. It all seemed too hard to resist. Then the reviews emerged; Walt Mossberg of the Journal gave it a good review, David Pogue of the Times also liked it, and even Robert Scoble who had some harsh criticism of the first generation Kindle, said this one was much better.

I plunked down the $359 and now that I have a Kindle 2 of my own, I must confess, I’m not sure it’s as great as they say it is. There is no question that the Kindle is a revolutionary product with its long battery life, high speed connectivity, and easy interaction with amazon.com. As the first electronic book reader that works, it’s a wonderful gadget. I’ve had mine for a few days and as much as I am impressed with it, I have several things to complain about. I mean I’m okay with no color display or touchscreen, no built-in PDF support, no SD card, and weak browser but there are some major shortcomings in this otherwise remarkable device.

1. The Screen is Too Gray
The screen is too small, too gray, and what’s with that very annoying flash to black on every screen update? I first noticed how non-white the screen was when I held up a book I was reading to the electronic version on the Kindle. The book’s pages were white with black type. The Kindle’s page was sort of dark gray type on light gray paper; more like the color of newsprint. These aging eyes of mine need contrast, dark gray on light gray doesn’t work for me. If there is a way to adjust the contrast other than reading in bright sunlight, I’d love to know about it.
2. The Screen Flashes Black on Page Turns
It is most likely a property of e-ink that causes the screen to reverse colors (background turns black and text turns white) for an instant when the screen changes but boy is it annoying to see the screen flash black every time you turn a page. Yes, the screen refreshes faster than the older model but you have to put up with a flash back to black.
3. The Screen is Too Small
There’s an awful lot of case (white, by the way; the color the screen should be) and not much screen. If you hold the screen up to a small paperback the paperback wins.
4. A Closed Platform Means No Fun Stuff
One of my first disappointments came when I downloaded a book of Sudoku puzzles and learned I couldn’t solve them on the screen. The puzzle looked great on the screen but they suggested I photocopy the Kindle to work the puzzle. This also means no crossword puzzles, chess, hangman or even solitaire. This device has the processing power and runs Java over Linux so why can’t you use the keyboard to solve an interactive puzzle? I’m sure puzzles would be only the tip of the iceberg if developers could write apps for the Kindle.
5. It's Way Too Expensive
I’m sure, e-paper displays are not cheap and there’s the cost of lifetime 3G connectivity but if Amazon wants this to be more than a toy for the affluent, the price has to come down. Buying books at $10 a pop could also add up pretty quickly. How about a dollar a month rental fee or get a sponsor and insert ads into books? For the time being, I’ll stick with the price my local library charges, which is zero.
6. Case Not Included
It’s pretty much a given that you’ll want a case to protect your Kindle from getting scruffed up. Why not include a case for the $359?
7. Newspaper Experience Not Great
I understand this is a book reader and not an electronic newspaper but surely there’s a better way of presenting newspapers than one story at a time and what’s up with only one update per day? The whole point of a newspaper is the ability to scan the page and select a story to read. Yes I can now read the story and even see a picture but for newspaper reading it doesn't cut it.
Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about this wonderful gadget and I have to confess it’s starting to grow on me but I’ll probably keep the New York Times home delivery and reading books from my local library while I wait another year for Kindle 3.
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Interactive crossword for the Kindle

Just a few days ago I ran across interactive crosswords for the Kindle at www.puzux.com. They only give one a day for now but it's pretty cool!

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Kindle Review

This review lost all credibility when Andrew revealed that he subscribed to the New York Times.

The Times is nothing more than a left-wing propaganda machine.

Are you for real?

I was sent your article as I am waiting for a kindle.

All your problems that you have that you thought were solved were in K1. The only one that was not is the lack of a cover.

So please stop whining about news that is way old.

Niche but not enough

Yes I know its much less expensive, but if someone wants to go for portable electronic reading I would suggest the full step to a convertible format tablet. I overseen support for over 7000 faculty and staff machines at a university, and when someone wants to move to a portable computer a this point I suggest this configuration (unless they have to go Mac).

I use one, and it comes down to one major motivation - I read a lot of electronic documents. I know the tablet is seen by many as a writing device, but I write faster and more efficiently with the keyboard in laptop mode. I convert to tablet mode when I read, and 99% of what I read is on my tablet. Books, magazines, yes you can even play your Suduko. And I will bet the kind of people that would read from an electronic device are the same people that would own a portable computer anyway. Instead of buying a niche device, they could buy books or subscriptions to read, and you can get a lot of reading material for that $359 (there are a lot of free things to read as well).

Most people I know tell me they don't want to read from an electronic device. They like the feel and experience of reading from touching paper. But for those who do, take the full step to portability and skip the limited toy market.

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Nice if you can do it.

I, and most people I know, don't like reading text from a backlit computer screen.

You forgot reason number 8.

I'm a whiny twit.

I guess that accounts for most of the first 7 anyway.

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I'd have to say I disagree

1. "The screen is too gray" Really? Most pages of books (or older books) aren't white at all. they're either gray or ivory colored anyway. The contrast of the Kindle 2 seems perfectly adequate to me, even when reading by a relatively dim 20W nightstand light.

2. "The Screen Flashes Black on Page Turns" Yes, it does do this, and it is just how the e-ink works. But is this really more annoying than that uber-irritating way that you actually have to TURN THE PAGES in a book? You can't read the text when the page is being turned, and the text looks all strange when the page isn't flat, etc etc. Once you use the Kindle2 for more than 10 minutes, your brain really just edits out the black "flash". It's faster than a "real" page turn, anyway. To me (and I do own a Kindle2), it's just a non-issue.

3. "The Screen is Too Small" - The screen is about the size of a small paperback. However, the text size can be adjusted dynamically. To me, as long as you're not having to press the 'Next Page' button every three seconds (and not being a graduate of Evelyn Wood's program), the page size is not really an issue. The bigger issue to me is that the size of the Kindle2 is very comfortable to fit in the hand. It's more comfortable to me than holding a book, especially a large hard-cover. If that means the screen has to be a bit smaller, that's fine.

4. "A Closed Platform means No Fun Stuff" - The Kindle2 is not marketed, nor is it implied that it is a gaming console, general purpose computer, or emulator. It's a book reader. If you want to play Sudoku or the New York Times crossword, there are devices that are far more suited to those. The Kindle2 is a general purpose device that, for me suits its function perfectly.

5. "It's Way Too Expensive" - It is expensive, yes. But this is still very cutting edge technology, and you're going to have to pay for it. If it's too expensive, don't buy it. I think buying the latest new shiny toy, and complaining about its price is a bit hypocritical. As for the price of books, getting the latest hardcover best seller is a heck-uva lot more than the $10 they're charging for the digital copy.

6. "Case Not Included" - There is indeed, no case included. However, this is almost universally typical. When you buy a phone, it doesn't come with a case. When you buy a laptop, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod, PMP, UMPC, or any of a thousand other gizmo's that run on electrons, they don't come with cases. Yes, it is a way for the manufacturer and accessories companies to make an extra buck. It's also an opportunity for the consumer to get the case that they actually like, since there are as many cases as preferences of them. The fact that the Kindle2 does not come with one is no reason to return it.

7. "Newspaper Experience Not Great" - I'll agree with you here. Newspapers are a traditional format that doesn't really translate well into a small screen. In the future, it may be easier with a larger capacitive touch screen for quick scrolling. That said, I still think the newspaper/magazine idea is really an afterthought. The Kindle2 is a book reader, not a newspaper reader. It's nice for me since I'm not in the habit of reading newspapers anyway. It allows me to virtually flip through the stories, and since I'm not used to the traditional newspaper experience, it perhaps doesn't bother me as much.

If you want to return your Kindle2, have at it. I'm keeping mine and getting great enjoyment out of it.

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I'm with you

You've made most of the points I was going to make. I've had a Kindle since last May (my thoughtful wife bought it for my birthday), and despite the little annoyances, I love it. As long as there is adequate light, I find reading it to be quite pleasant. And I love taking it on BART or an airplane and being able to read the 600 page non-fiction book and the 400 page novel that I am generally reading at any given time without having to lug them around.

I also think the $9.99 price for just-released books to be reasonable (cheaper than the paperback).

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