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
- writes normally
- records as you write so you can playback the lecture or meeting you’re taking notes in
- 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.