Amazon Kindle – First impressions

I got a new Wifi Kindle two days ago, here are some of the thoughts on the device after using it for about a day and half.

The good parts:

It is really small. It is about the size of two iPhones, or one of those moleskin notebooks. I got a leather case for it and it fits in my back pocket with no problem.

The screen resolution is brilliant for reading plain text. You can really notice the difference between reading on a computer screen and the kindle. The lettering is much finer and the e-ink display is much closer to a book.

Example of reading text on kindle

Tons of storage. I managed to put my entire tech book PDF library and converted ebook library ( I have about 500 Spanish literature and psychology ePubs that I’ve accumulated over the years ) and it barely made a dent in the 3 gig storage of the device.

Uploading books is easy. You just drop them into a disk that shows up on the desktop and they are ready to use.

Things that suck:

There is no ePub support. I had accumulated a bunch of books that I am reading on my iPod Touch. Fortunately, you can use Calibre to convert your ePub files into Amazon’s preferred MOBI format.

Search is slow. Once you have over 500 books on it, doing a search by title takes about a minute.

Organizing your books is a nightmare. Kindle has this idea of Collections, but you can’t drag and drop your books into collections — you have to use the little buttons on the device to put them into the right buckets. An ideal solution would be for the device to respect the folder structure you create.

A little too small for code-heavy technical books. I have the MOBI version of Grails in Action, and the way the code is formatted on the page almost forces you to view it sideways. Code samples in portrait mode are simply too small to read correctly.

Mobi version of Grails in Action. The code sample is hard to read in portrait mode

The device does have PDF support. But most PDF books are a little too big to read comfortably on the screen. They work better when flipping the page sideways.

This is an example of how the pdf version of Ruby on Rails would look like on the Kindle in portrait mode

Sideways view of a pdf tech manual

Another slight pet peeve is that PDF books are usually exactly two screens and a little bit when read in portrait mode. So you end up having to scroll three times for each page. If only the Amazon reader would scale the page down by about 5%, it would be perfect.

Pages are just a little too long in PDF, forcing you to click 3 times to scroll down in portrait mode

I think this device would be wonderful for reading books that did not involve studying the code for too long.

Misc Thoughts.

I tried loading a comic book, a copy of the Economist and the built-in experimental web browser.

It is not terrible for reading black and white comic books. Sites like OneManga do actually render quite well on the black and white screen. Again, you probably have better luck turning the screen sideways.

As a magazine reader, the kindle is actually quite good. I can see myself reading PDF versions of print magazines on this quite easily.

The economist on the Kindle, portrait mode, PDF

The web-browser felt like one of those Powerbooks in the early 1990s. The screen would flicker a bit and then refresh. But it was usable for casual browsing or getting bits of information. There is a little arrow you can control with the keypad which is quite interesting. Definitively not as smooth as a touch screen device. But combine this functionality with Instapaper, and we have a winner.


Overall, I find that the kindle provides a nice experience for on-the-go reading. I would probably recommend the larger kindle for technical books and manuals, and stick to this one for recreational reading or articles and information that do not rely too much on graphical information.

It is quite nicely made, and definitively an update from trying to read whole books on an iPhone or iPod Touch. The price and size makes it a very appealing replacement for taking a paperback on a trip, and it allows you to have all your technical library on the go.


2 thoughts on “Amazon Kindle – First impressions

  1. Nicholas

    I noticed you were reading the PDF of the economist on your kindle. I have been looking to pick up a kindle and one of the main purposes would be to read that magazine on the go. Is it easily readable with one full page on the screen at a time, or would you normally split it in two?

    1. Tomas Lin Post author

      It is not big enough to read the whole page comfortably without squinting, so I end up having to read it in landscape mode. I would recommend the bigger size Kindle DX if you want to read real magazines. The smaller kindle is great for books, but not so good for magazines.


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