Kindle – first impressions…

As I said this morning, when connecting your Kindle to your wi-fi network it will ask you for the password.

You can input your password from now til hell freezes, and it won’t work.

What it actually wants is the Network Key.

A minor fault, but a stupid one. After all, many people, having had their system set up by a friend, would have no idea what a Network Key is, or where to find it. Of course, as the Kindle asks for a password, they have no reason to suspect they might actually need something else. If it asked for the Network Key they would at least have the opportunity of asking someone for help.

Anyway, I’ve said as much to Amazon and, if they take any notice, future Kindles might get it right (it’s a simple firmware fix).

However, it’s now mid-afternoon, and I’ve had time to give it a good going-over, and this is what I think.

First, the negative opinions I’ve expressed in previous, Kindle-unfriendly, posts are still valid. Drop it, it’s almost certainly history, as it would be if you spilled a drink on it. And if, like me, you like to read in the pub, it would be very attractive to a thief, in the way a magazine or book wouldn’t be, if you go for a pee.  And if you’re the forgetful type who leaves books and magazines on trains and buses, it’s a cert you’ll do it with your Kindle sooner or later – which will cost you a hell of a lot more than losing a book.

On the other hand, I love the thing. I’ve always been something of a gadget-hound, but this is one gadget that will more than repay its investment in terms of sheer convenience and usability. In a word, it’s excellent.

I also bought the leather cover (a rather ambitious £29.99), which makes it more book-like and much easier to hold, and thus less likely to be dropped, and offers a degree of protection if it is. Amazon, for £30 more, will sell you a cover with a built in light, but it’s massively overpriced. I bought a clip-on light for under a fiver, delivered from the US (see recent Kindle posts for a link). It’s designed for the original Kindle, and so won’t clip directly on to the current one (the plastic casing is much reduced). It does, though, clip onto the leather cover and illuminates the screen perfectly. £25 saved!

So, how easy is it to use? Very, is the answer to that. I downloaded 21 books  from Amazon, to Kindle for PC, and transferring them to my Kindle was a one-click operation.

By the way, after being first activated, and after being charged, it does seem to take the Kindle some time to entirely get its act together (sorry, not sure how long, but maybe half an hour – maybe less, I was doing other things, too).

I also, while I’ve been waiting for delivery, downloaded 55 free books from various sources, converting books in EPub format to PDF so I can load them into Kindle, which they did without a hitch. You can’t, by the way, upload DEM-protected EPub books without bypassing DRM. As it’s illegal, I’m not getting involved in that (not that I have any moral objection, but I’m not prepared to take the risk). Unprotected EPub books can be easily converted to PDF using the Calibre app, as I’ve mentioned before.

To load such books, connect the Kindle to your PC using the supplied USB cable (pull it out of the charger plug – a neat bit of design), then just treat it as any other flash drive. Once it opens you’ll see a folder called Documents – that’s where your books live, so just open it and click and drag, or copy and paste, to transfer books from PC to Kindle. Job done. Whichever method you use, Kindle just takes copies: the original remain.

In future, though, I’ll be using one of the god knows how many USB cables I’ve amassed over the years, (scratch that – Kindle used micro USB, all mine are mini – I’ll have to buy a decent quality cable), as the Amazon cable is “wiry”, rather than “soft” like normal USB cables, and gets in the way a lot – if you tuck it out of the way, it’ll just spring back, and if you coil it it’ll promptly uncoil.

In USB mode, I suspect you can copy the Kindle books to your PC, if you want a local backup. I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why not. Just be aware – it’s pretty obvious – that each book comprises 2 files.

Actually using the thing is so intuitive it doesn’t need any help from me. If you can use an mp3 player, you can use a Kindle. Hell, if you have a normal ration of common sense you should have no problem. However, if you’re something of a technophobe, and many people are, do read the manual first. One is installed on the Kindle and also, if you have it installed – and you should – to Kindle for PC, which is more use. To be honest, the only thing I needed the manual for was to find out where the text menu was hidden (and it is), but just hit the AA button, and it’ll pop up, but then, I’m one of those buggers who only uses the manual as a last resort!

Kindle has a couple of “experimental” functions, the most useful of which, to some people, will be the Text to Speech feature. Both voices, male and female, are very clear, but the male voice is irritatingly robotic (having said that, it’s light-years ahead of the XP equivalent). The female voice is much better, but neither are over-endowed with inflection, or pay much heed to punctuation though, again, female is better.

If you’re a fan of audio books it’ll probably irritate you, but on the other hand, you can load mp3 audio books, which will play as normal, of course, and it also accepts a couple of other audiobook formats.

And that’s about it. It’s very easy to read, despite my reservations about Amazons claims for extra clarity (compared to earlier versions). I mean, black text on a grey background wouldn’t be my first choice for high contrast, but it actually works remarkably well, and the default font will probably suit most people.

The thing draws power only for page transitions and for wi-fi (so for maximum battery life, turn wi-fi off if you’re not actually downloading).

Long-term durability is, of course, unknown, but keep it away from magnets, don’t drop it or spill stuff on it, and it should have a very long life as, apart from the buttons, it has no moving parts.

And I’m still convinced that this is the ideal tool for disabled readers, not least because I am one.

And a final gripe – the leather cover (and the way it retains the Kindle is extremely nifty), is held closed with, for want of a better term, a piece of elastic. It might have a natty leather tab embossed with “AmazonKindle”, but it’s still a piece of elastic, which might not prove too durable. It should at, at the price, at least have a magnetic closure, because in a few years time, everyone is likely to be holding their covers closed with Post Office red elastic bands. And that’s not good enough, Amazon.

6 thoughts on “Kindle – first impressions…

  1. Thanks, we tried both router pw and the security 26 digit passphrase and it wouldnt connect, but it may not be charged enough yet *frumple* Hopefully once fully charged it will behave with our wireless router.

      • Yep, the manual led my husband to believe it was fully functional while charging.. Not true! 🙂
        We charged it up and rebooted the router and had no further problem. Thank you for your post or we would have spent hours trying to figure out which password it wanted.

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