I'm David Little, a user experience researcher and designer

Some thoughts on the Kindle

Posted: March 22, 2011

I’ve had my Kindle for just under a week and am really enjoying it, although on (electronic ink-enhanced) paper its chances don’t too good. Let’s face it, it’s not going to have people cooing over its interaction design, more likely squinting to read the tiny keyboard trying to find where the numbers have gone (under “Sym” naturally). Its browser wouldn’t look out of place on a ZX81 and the flash of black that occurs when the page is “turned” should come with a warning for epileptics.

Still, the Kindle’s weaknesses are really its strength: in my view it’s good for one thing and one thing only — reading with no distractions. And at that it pretty much excels. The electronic ink display is amazing. When I first got it out of its box I thought I had to peel a sticker off before I used it, not realising it was actually in sleep mode and displaying one of its wallpaper images of famous authors.

I don’t claim to understand how the E-ink works but it looks pretty close to a printed page, making it a complete joy to read. The iPad may be streets ahead in every other respect but are you really going to want to read a book on a back-lit screen — I know I wouldn’t. If you want a comparison between the two displays (literally under the gaze of a microscope), check out this blog post: Kindle and iPad displays: up close and personal.

So, I’m undecided what I’m going to use it for. My main reason for justifying it to myself was I could use it as a way of catching up on all those blog posts I never get round to reading. If you use Instapaper you can download your subscriptions and email them or transfer them via USB to the Kindle, meaning you never need to feel guilty about hitting the “Read later” button again.

I think it’s also the natural home for tech books, well at least the ones that don’t have high production values and pretty photos — which is most of them. I might try some newspaper / magazine subscriptions too (come on Guardian, your iPhone app is fantastic, it would be great to have some kind of Kindle version too). Although I’m still attached to printed books in so many ways I could imagine reading a novel on it too, so we’ll see.

I bought the Wifi only version and to be honest can’t really imagine any situation in which I’d need the 3G. I have tried to read my Gmail via the browser but to be honest it’s about as much fun as stabbing a fork in your head so I think I can live without instant Web access.

Originally posted on Posterous (6 November 2010).

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