September 27, 2010

My Interest Is Kindled In A Nice New Device

For a while, I've had my eye on e-reader devices.  I like to read a lot, my bookcase is getting full, and what the heck - it's time to try something new.

My son got a Nook a while back and likes it.  He owns pretty much every Android device that exists (and a few that aren't yet available publicly).  But I'm not so hooked on Android, so I was also looking at Kindles. When Amazon announced the new generation of Kindle recently (popularly known as the "Kindle 3"), with some interesting features and a reduced price point, I was pretty sure I wanted one.  So after a bit of reading I took the plunge and ordered a Graphite Kindle 3G with free 3G + Wi-Fi.

My Kindle arrived a few days ago, and I've had a few hours to play with it. So far, I'm very impressed.

I think it's clear that the Kindle is optimized for reading. The tiny keyboard, and 5-way pointing device make it possible to type and to click, but you would want to avoid that where possible.

My initial thoughts:
  • Lots of fun so far.
  • The e-book experience is terrific.
  • Reading PDFs is very good. Good enough that I'll use it to read work stuff.
  • It's trivial to email documents in several formats to your free kindle email address and have it automatically re-formatted and wirelessly delivered to your Kinde. Very nice.
  • The text-to-speech feature is intriguing. The voicing is very good. While not perfect, it may just be good enough that I could have any book read to me on a long drive. I'm going to have to try that out.
  • Reading many websites (particularly those optimized for mobile devices) using the Kindle browser is good.
  • While the Kindle has an .mp3 player, it has no UI. Thus, you can't even select which song you want to play without pressing Alt-F until you hear the desired song. Pretty much useless.
  • The keyboard is tiny. It's usable and handy, but I'll always look for ways to avoid too much typing on it. I'm not planning to use it to write any Test Plans soon!
After a bit of experimenting, I found that I can put my .mp3 files in the Audible folder, rather than the Music folder to have them treated as audio books.  On the Kindle, audio books are individually visible, and the player does display a UI with controls. This makes it possible to go to an individual song and play it.  The downside is that there doesn't appear to be a way to let the songs in the Audible folder play in the background while I'm reading something.  This seems to make my Kindle good for podcasts, or when I only want to listen to one song at a time. Passable, but still not wonderful for background music.

Before buying it, I knew the Kindle was very good as an e-reader, but wondered about some specifics concerning the "experimental" browser (which had the potential to be an extremely useful feature for me).

To answer my own questions about the browser:

Q: Does it work well for the sites you visit?
A: It works well enough for most of the sites - particularly those which are text-heavy and allow reading without a lot of clicking.

Q: Does it work for your use of SQAForums and the Software Testing Club site?
A: Not as well. I tend to skim through SQAForums and STC, clicking here and there. The Kindle isn't really optimized for that.

Q: Does it work for your use GMail? 
A: Yes. And it works even better when I use the Mobile version of GMail. For me this is a huge plus. Now I can always be within reach of GMail - either through Wi-Fi, or 3G.

Soon, I plan to experiment with creating my own Kindle-optimized websites, and experiment with using other Google products (Reader, Docs, etc) in the Kindle browser.

Meanwhile, I've already read a few free e-books, and experimented with (tested?) more of the settings and features. Very nice - I like this device!

My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
Find me at

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