Gadgets: Kindle 6/10 Livescribe 10/10

I’m usually a proud technology laggard, letting more intrepid people go ahead of me so they can help me out when I get round to the technology, letting systems get better sorted out and bug-fixed, and letting prices fall before I jump in. But, given how cheap they were – each under $300 – I was amongst the first in Australia to have Amazon ship me a Kindle, and just last week bought a Livescribe pen.

My reactions?  I’ve found the Kindle quite disappointing.  I thought it was a no-brainer that it would have some lighting built in to enable reading in the dark.  The reading window is a little small and the interface is, well clunky.  I’m surprised it’s such a success.  The integration with Amazon’s publishing is great, but so much effort is put into protecting IP, that it makes the user experience pretty heavy weather. After my experience with the iPhone I’m constantly grabbing for the screen to move something around, zoom in on something.  No dice I’m afraid.

Also I thought it would be great for surfing the net in an armchair – and then reading it with the convenience of a book (even small laptops aren’t all that pleasant to do that). I knew it was black and white only, but most of my web-surfing is reading text only, so I was looking forward to it. I’ve just spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to surf basic-web on the damn thing, but I’m still not there yet. The contrast with an iPhone, where, as with the original Macs and now windows, you just start trying to do things and teach yourself as you go, is striking.  I am told the Kindle will read pdfs. So I loaded some into it, but can’t find them :(

Some of these problems may be fixed to some extent on the Kindle DX, but I doubt I’ll be buying it any time soon.

Meanwhile I got a Livescribe pen and pad from Officeworks for $249 and I’ve rarely made a better investment (I think this is a sale price, so hurry on down there before they go back to $329). If you don’t yet know about them, the package consists of an electronic pen which

  1. writes normally
  2. records as you write so you can playback the lecture or meeting you’re taking notes in
  3. time and position stamps the recording so that you can simply point to a note you took and it will replay what was being heard when you wrote it.

Rather than the nightmare of some tablet which you’d have to wipe each time you wanted a new page, you take notes in a notebook that’s normal enough, but if you look closely you can see microdots all over it. This is what tells the system which part of the recording to go to.   You can then take your recording/notes and hoist them on the internet for anyone else to share.

Spectacular stuff.  Check out a demo here.

Postscript: One thing that I forgot to mention was that in seeking to extract money the web-surfing function seems to be seriously disabled. If you want to charge something like US$25 a month for a NYT subscription, you’d better make sure that people can’t surf their way to the NYT and read the content for free!  So the ‘basic web’ function won’t take me to lots of sites, like one of my favourites.  How stupid is that. I also hope that Apple is working on a tablet.  They’re masters of the closed system too, but if part of their offering is a convenient way to sit in an armchair or a tram and surf the net freely, then I’m an early adopter.

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Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

I’m yet to be convinced on e books. I have never found any screen reading to be as good as paper and you can’t lend the books out. Can you back up your books on kindle?

I have a eeepc with the small 7″ and linux. Its ok for doing a bit of reading on the net while watching tv or or in bed but it does have annoying limitations. The battery only lasts about 1.5 hours or less. [one of my brothers has a newer 10″ and he says he gets 4 – 5 hours from it]. The touchpad is too touchy and unpredictable in my view. The screen is way too small for many uses.

I took to eeepc away o/s with me and also my Nokia E71 – surprisingly the E71 had some advantages over the eeepc – for a start to Nokia phone was always on my belt – the battery lasts for 4 or 5 days at least with normal usage. Reading stuff off the net was a bit of a pain with the phone but not impossible. The phone has great built in (download) nokia maps which once tweeked online can be stored on the phone and used with outgoing online and with GPS – so they become good street maps.

The eeepc is great for Skype with built in camera and mic and speakers. And with wifi you can walk around Skyping.

Nic – with the Livescribe – it sounds good but I’m put off by the special paper – it seems like it would be expensive to run?

I’m not clear how well the print it yourself paper works or how expensive it is? I’m guessing if someone else is paying for the paper or printing it works out ok. I’m also not clear how well livescribe will interpret my scribble – I often can’t read my own notes back.

14 years ago


Which eeePc do you have? the 91T? There is a new version (91MT from memory) that uses Windows 7 that looks like it has great potential. Small form factor, multi-touch support, Windows 7, folds to adopt a tablet form factor. There is also rumours of a larger tablet in the Asus eeePC range mid next year. In my view – these multifunction tablets seem a much better choice than somehting as constrained as a kindle.