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February 04, 2008

Kindle Travel Test

Img095_2 I could read books on my Amazon Kindle even when the bright sun was over my shoulder, not just when it was in front of me making me squint as in the very posed picture above. Like a book, Kindle isn’t backlit; it has crisp black type on a grayish surface. At night the gray is slightly less reflective than pulp paper so I couldn’t read Kindle quite as far into the evening as Mary could read her traditional books; had to give up and turn on the light slightly sooner which mattered on our vacation because we were either draining the house battery of a boat or using the last few watts of solar-generated electricity in a rain-swept cabin on land.

Although I did have an opportunity to recharge, Kindle’s own battery – since it’s not providing light and since I wasn’t using the radio – seems as if it would have easily lasted through two weeks and the two books I read on it.

Kindle was more than worth its 10.3 ounces in books I didn’t have to carry. Running out of things to read is not acceptable on a vacation and outdoor adventure-type vacations both make it difficult to predict how much involuntary down (reading) time you’ll have and make it undesirable to carry a lot of extra weight.

I needed to bring one book to read during takeoffs and landings when airlines don’t allow “anything with an on-off switch” to be on. That was Vito Dumas’ Alone Through the Roaring Forties, a good read for someone doing a little tame sailing in the Sea of Cortez. He went around the world single handled in the “wrong direction” (West to East) around all three fearsome southern capes, usually at forty degrees south latitude.

While still in the US, I loaded Kindle with The Immaculate Deception by Iain Pears, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  Only read the first two so Kite Runner was backup.

The reading experience was very similar to reading a paperback: better in some ways because, if you leave Kindle next to your plate and use your hands to eat, it doesn’t spring closed like a paperback wants to. The pages (at a typesize I can read) have less words on them than a book and there’s a slight pause and flicker at page turn which takes a little getting used to, not much though. The design is flawed in having active controls three-quarters of the way down both sides of the case: it’s almost impossible to avoid accidental page turn in one direction or the other – especially when using the cursor or trying to turn Kindle off. BTW, when you turn Kindle back on, it knows what page you were reading.

My crew was in to word games and Kindle’s onboard copy of The New Oxford American Dictionary was invaluable in solving disputes which would have been tough otherwise with no way to access wiktionary.

Other Kindle posts on FOC:

Kindle – Web Browsing Reviewed

Kindle – Book Reader’s Review

Kindle – Free Internet Browsing for Just $400

Kindle – Shape of the Web to Come?

Kindle – Reader Questions and Comments

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