The Kindle: The Ubiquitous and Revered, But Not the True King
By Daniella Bassi '14
The Kindle impressed everyone when it first came out — including me. I really, really wanted the first model when it came out. It seemed to be a divine piece of technology with a ridiculous amount of power: so many books — so much knowledge and entertainment — within, not to mention all its other technological capabilities. I never got my hands on that first version of Kindle, and it was probably for the best; it was one of the pioneers in the market, lacking many functions the new improved model has. Furthermore, it was significantly overpriced since it was the only well-known e-reader. Today there are many readers out there, ranging from $150 to $500, and of varying capacity, quality and brands so that one is likely to find something reliable and attractive depending on the factors that one considers important.

I do not have the new Kindle, but have settled on an awesome Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. I was hesitant between the Kindle and the Nook. I had actually placed my order and would have received my Nook in September (having ordered in August) had demand not exceeded supply. I also started doing my research on the various features of e-readers can have, something I suspect many Kindle users neglect to do.

The Kindle fails to fully meet all the expectations it inspires in its current and prospective buyers. To begin with, it is unattractive and awkward looking — especially its size and thickness — when compared to the Nook and even the iPad. It is considerably wide but, unlike the iPad (which in reality isn’t a true e-reader since it lacks the e-ink display that makes one feel like reading off a paper, that is, as an alternative to the eye-drying computer or LCD screen), which has a nice, wide high-resolution full-color screen, it has a very small screen framed strangely by almost an inch of unnecessary empty space on all sides — except where the built-in keypad is — and, to make things worse, it always seems to be off-center no matter what model I look at, which is irritating. The Nook, on the other hand, is a bit smaller but its screen fully fits the face of the device, giving more reading space as well as a more aesthetic appearance; it has only a small one centimeter-wide border adjacent to the touch screen which the Kindle lacks and the e-ink display for reading. The size of the Kindle also damages its appearance; it’s not the size of an average paperback book as the Nook is, and it’s big enough to make you feel strange holding it.

Aside from the Kindle’s physical appearance, its design is less efficient, as the small screen makes one have to turn more pages and places a limit on how big a font can be. Though the keypad makes it easier to input search words and notes into the device and avoids the hassle of cleaning a touchscreen so often, makes navigating a text and the tablet itself a much more difficult process, in the sense that there’s only one way (and speed) to ‘scroll’ or move somewhere else. A touchscreen provides much more liberty and ease of use, making things more readily accessible.

Despite all these flaws, however, the main disadvantages of the Kindle lie in its specifications. Though it shares features such as Wi-Fi and (for a higher price, as with the Nook also) 3G browsing capability and excellent download speed, a built-in dictionary, note-taking capability, good and varied fonts, a copious number of titles and a paper-like e-ink display with no glare, it lacks many things that prospective consumers often overlook. For one thing, unlike the Nook, its memory is not expandable, placing a cap on how many books you can store in it and take with you at anytime; this is an awful limitation no matter how many e-books it can hold on its own memory. It also boasts of having a Read-to-Me feature, which makes it read texts aloud, implying that it can do that for all texts, when it is only applicable to a negligible amount. Also, despite the fact that the Kindle has just become capable of displaying PDF files so that users can carry personal documents, it is still limited to Kindle-specific e-books, severely limiting the books one can get, and especially get it for free, since many free books are just plain ePUB files, preserved as ebooks made accessible to all, and do not cater to the Kindle’s specific format demands (Project Gutenberg’s free e-books are one of the few exceptions; they cater to all e-reader file types). The Kindle also cannot access library databases to borrow (and sometimes keep) other free titles. The Nook can do all of these, which makes it a better investment than the Kindle whose owner virtually has no choice but to buy most of his books. Because many books, particularly older ones, are already legally free, this becomes a waste of money, especially if the reader does not want a specific edition.

The Kindle is by no means the best device. It is merely the most popular and well-publicized e-reader, causing buyers to hastily invest their money without searching for the better alternatives.

Issue 07, Submitted 2010-10-27 04:17:36