Friday, April 29, 2011

Me and My Kindle 3: After the honeymoon

I've been using my Kindle 3 regularly for three months now, and I've already posted my initial impressions, but as I continue to pick up on tips and tricks, I figure it's only right to pass them on.

When I travel to the states, my smartphone becomes a dumbphone unless I want to pay Vodafone's extortionate fees:

€30 a day for 50MB? It takes a serious set of cojones to call this "Great Value"

This, of course, is totally unfeasible. Since I paid the extra $50 for the 3G model, I get "free" worldwide wireless internet through my Kindle. I was aware of how limited and clumsy the browser was before I made the purchase, but I figured that janky web browsing is better than none at all.

Facebook is fine for whiling away a few minutes in an airport terminal, but the browser makes it a chore. Likewise, pecking out e-mails in Gmail is more of a pain than it ought to be with the Kindle's Qwerty keyboard, but it's good to know that if there's something that requires an immediate reply, I won't be off the grid when I have my Kindle with me.

The true revelation came when I accessed Google Reader - I didn't consider that it would be a viable alternative to a native RSS reader, but it works quite elegantly. The keyboard shortcuts work (press 'f' to get full-screen, 'j'/'k' for previous/next), and the text is very comfortable once you crank it up to 125%.

There are a few shortcomings. Naturally, the pictures will be grayscale, and flash content won't load, so you won't be watching videos or playing games, but you shouldn't have expected that anyhow. Since the browser doesn't support multiple tabs or windows, it will scold you for trying to click on an external link on the desktop-version. If you're intending on reading through RSS feeds that only give the first paragraph, you'll need to fire up the mobile version ( to successfully navigate away from the current page.

Don't want to see this? Load 
This might not sound ideal, but with a very slight amount of effort, your Kindle becomes a self-updating newspaper and magazine of sorts, which I find very exciting (and much more palatable than paying a few dollars to subscribe to a blog that's normally free). It reminds me of a futuristic sci-fi movie I saw aeons ago that showed old men reading electronic newspapers that automatically updated. Realizing you're holding a piece of the future you once dreamed about is a thrill for any person.

Since a lot of my enthusiasm stems from how this purchase saves me from spending money to entertain myself, I should mention that Google Voice works through the Kindle browser. Setting up a Google Voice number is a little awkward if you don't live in the States, but once you have it, you can use any web-connected device to send and receive texts. This was a bit of a relief during my sojourn abroad, as I knew that if the plan changed, I'd be able to send and receive text messages and figure out a Plan B without having to spend a fortune in roaming charges.

Free texts to the US? Don't mind if I do!

As far as usability goes, it does sting to have to interrupt reading for the sake of take offs and landing, but the convenience of being able to download Michael Shermer's 'The Mind of the Market' from the tarmac made up for that somewhat. The atrocious audio-player feature is a wretched addition that I can't even ignore - while walking through Newark Airport I heard the familiar tune of the fantastic Skepticality podcast. For a thrilling instant I thought someone was piping it out over the Airport's PA, but then realized that my Kindle's Alt & Space keys had somehow depressed simultaneously in my backpack and triggered the playback.

I've been reading through a book I got for Christmas over the past few nights, and I've been missing my Kindle sorely. My finger twitches when I see a word I don't recognize, but there's no built in dictionary to look it up with. I want to highlight certain phrases and expressions but I have no tools to hand to do so. Last night I fell asleep while reading, and this morning I realized I didn't put in the bookmark. I feel like a big baby for admitting it, but sacrificing comfort to facilitate turning pages isn't an experience that fills me with nostalgia. To those who ask if the Kindle is a barrier to immersing yourself in a book, I would suggest that it's less intrusive than a bound hard-copy.

The Kindle is the best way to read a book, and now that I've experienced it, the ways I was perfectly contented with a few months ago seem unreasonably anachronistic by comparison.

tldr: Get a Kindle with 3G, then use Google's webapps to squeeze even more value out of it. It's awesome.

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