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Kindle Review

November 20, 2007 37 comments

Got my Kindle today and have been playing with it for a little while. FYI, I’ve owned a Sony Reader since the day it shipped, too. I’ve always loved to read, and as a result, I’m usually reading multiple books at once. I think I’m currently partway through at least 10 of them, so when I travel, it’s hard to know what kind of mood I’ll be in and I have to pack lots. And they’re heavy. A device like the Kindle or Reader is the holy grail for someone like me, plus I’m a gadget geek, so I’m always an early adopter.

I’ve loved my Sony Reader, the device itself, since I bought it. But the Sony Connect software is so unbelievably bad, I can’t really bring myself to use it. Combined with a terrible selection of books, the Reader has been mostly worthless, despite being a fairly great device. Which is really sad. When I heard the Kindle had the ability to just buy books with a click, no software required, I knew I had to at least give it a try.

Here’s a brief rundown of my thoughts so far:

  • It’s not ugly. I’ve been moaning to everyone who would listen that it’s an ugly device for awhile now, but in person, it’s actually small, light, and understated. It’s certainly not an Apple-designed wonder, but it’s hardly ugly, either. And I find I enjoy reading on the white device (Kindle) more than the black one (Reader), probably due to the contrast or maybe just the white gets “out of the way” more easily, letting me slip into the book.
  • The display is gorgeous, just like the Reader. I have zero problems with it. I’m already used to the lag when you change pages from using the Reader, and I found that after just a few days of using the Reader, I was already hitting the Next Page button early enough so the page turned just when I wanted it to.
  • The scroll thing is very cool and fun to use. I got some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ here at the office as worked it’s magic.
  • The Next/Prev page buttons are much nicer than the ones on my Reader.
  • The EVDO works like magic. Buying books online with a click, no software required, is the killer feature here, and it’s perfect.
  • It comes pre-associated to your Amazon account, so there’s no configuration. Just pick it up, turn it on, and start browsing & buying. *Very* cool.
  • The book selection sucks. There are big gaps, even for well-known bestselling books. Having worked in the book industry before, I put most of this blame in publisher’s laps. They’re just a nightmare to deal with, and paranoid about their content. Apparently they don’t want my money or yours, and even Amazon doesn’t have the weight to make them see reason. Shades of the music, TV, and movie industries, anyone? This must be incredibly frustrating to Jeff and everyone else at Amazon.
  • The web browser worked surprisingly well in the few minutes I used it. But at Amazon.com, I was getting some strange results. Using my Mac’s browser, I searched for a product and quickly found it. But on the Kindle, it failed to turn up the same results, even when I searched for very specific words in the title and description. I was hoping to buy it from my Kindle, but alas, I had to do it the old fashioned way.

More about the book selection… Wanting to have a reference library on my Kindle, I started looking for some of my favorites I refer to often. I searched for Good to Great, my all time favorite business book, first and instead managed to find a weighty tome of eight papal social encyclicals that I could buy for the low low price of $100.80. Built to Last isn’t there either. Pour Your Heart Into It? Nope. Innovator’s Dilemma? Nope. They did have The Wisdom of Crowds and The Culture Code, both of which I bought.

On to a personal favorite category of mine, historical fiction, I knew they’d have James Clavell’s Shogun – but it wasn’t to be. Nor most of Colleen McCullough’s awesome Masters of Rome series, though luckily The October Horse is available (and now on my Kindle). Fine, how about history – Guns, Germs & Steel. Bzzt, no joy. How about the best book ever written on health & nutrition – The China Study? Nope, none of that either. (They did have another excellent book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma). Luckily they did have my favorite fantasy author of all time, George R.R. Martin, and his Song of Ice and Fire books.

There were some strange ones, too. For example, they do have The Daring Book for Girls – but not The Dangerous Book for Boys. And you would be surprised at how many of my search terms turned up weighty, expensive scholarly works rather than the books and novels I was looking for.

Bottom line: I love the device, I love the Kindle Store interface, I just wish the selection was better. I believe it’ll be a permanent resident in my laptop bag, going everywhere I go, but it looks like I’ll still be forced to lug around some dead trees. 😦

UPDATE: Spent quite a bit more time with it last night doing what it’s really supposed to be used for – reading – instead of playing with all the whiz-bang features. I curled up on the couch with Jedi and the Kindle and got lost in The October Horse. And I’ve gotta tell you – it’s a much better device than the Sony Reader in lots of subtle ways:

  • The Next Page buttons are in *much* better places and are much easier to use than the Reader. I tend to curl up on my side to read a lot, switching sides every 15-30 minutes, and the Kindle is easy and natural to hold in such a way that turning to the next page is very easy.
  • I was right about the white color – it makes it easier to sink into reading as well as read the text. The device does almost get out of the way better than the Reader because it’s white.
  • The flicker when you turn pages is still mildly annoying, just like it is on the Reader, and distracts you from completely sinking into the book… at first. Just like the Reader, though, a couple of pages in, your brain has magically figured out the right timing to turn the pages at precisely the right time so the flicker happens as your eyes are traveling from the bottom-right to the top-left of the page. Then the flicker feels no more jarring than turning a page on a dead tree.
  • The cover sucks for reading. Seems like it’s probably great for when I throw it in my laptop bag, but the Sony Reader’s cover is a much better fit, less bulky, etc. I guess the Kindle’s cover needs to be sorta bulky so it can prop the book up for optimal EVDO range, but it still sucks. Take it off to read – it just gets in the way.
  • The text, just like the Reader, is just as easy to read as any book. I have the font on the smallest setting, to minimize page turns, and it’s beautiful and legible. That part of the experience is literally almost indistinguishable from reading a book.

More as I get it… 🙂

Categories: amazon, personal

Meet Audrey – our littlest SmugMug

November 20, 2007 21 comments

On October 30th at 8:09am, I became a daddy again! Audrey Elizabeth MacAskill weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces and was 19.5″ long. Oh, and before I forget, she’s perfect:

Audrey Elizabeth MacAskill

My wife has a great blog entry about how she arrived, complete with more photos, but here’s my side of the story.

You may remember that we have young twins (22 months old, to be exact) who arrived very prematurely after a long, hard pregnancy, spent a lot of time in the NICU, and have now grown up into beautiful walking, talking little people. This time, I was surprised to find out, was very very different than last.

Baby Audrey

Audrey was full-term, and was delivered by scheduled C-Section. (Yes, we made an appointment months in advance, showed up, and out she came. Sounds crazy, eh?). There were no complications with the pregnancy, and no bedrest at all, let alone trips to the hospital. So you’d think I’d have been totally calm, collected, and prepared.

I wasn’t.

I was a nervous wreck! Last time, I was pumped up on adrenaline and excited to be a daddy, despite all the complications and the possibility of major problems with my super-early twins. I had no fear. This time, as I sat out in the hallway waiting for the surgery team to prep my wife for her C-Section, I had butterflies in my stomach and couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong with the surgery. I guess I was feeling like everything had gone too miraculously well, so I started wondering when something would go wrong. Those of you who know me understand how uncharacteristic this is – my glass is *always* half full.

Cute Audrey

So I sat out in the hallway for an eternity, and as the time stretched on, I was convinced something bad had already happened. It was taking them forever to prep! But finally they called me into the surgery room and I put on my mask, slung my camera over my shoulder, and prepared for battle. The C-Section was remarkably similar to last time except for a few things:

  • They had to cut a bigger hole in my wife, it seemed like. Makes sense, with a much bigger baby.
  • The smell of her cauterized flesh seemed much stronger this time.
  • This time I got faint and woozy. I’ll bet cauterized flesh smells do that from time to time. I did not, however, pass out! I just had to sit down partway through. 🙂

Our new baby girl

The whole procedure took 9 minutes until my daughter was out, and then a few more minutes to stitch up. Audrey came out looking amazingly healthy – big and pink, with a perfectly round head. The nurses kept telling me how they’d never seen a baby with quite such a perfect head before. I beamed, of course, and kept hollering over my shoulder at my poor paralyzed wife that she’d done a great job ‘baking’ little Audrey.

And she had. Audrey was beautiful, crying well, breathing well, ten fingers *and* ten toes. No need to visit the NICU for this one – just the nursery for a quick bath and a thorough once-over. They pronounced her healthy and let me take her back to her Mama almost immediately, which was so nice.

Audrey, Elizabeth, and Don make 3!

In some ways, it was almost like being a daddy for the first time. Lots of these experiences were brand-new. Last time, we had to look at our kids through plexiglass. This time, she got to come stay in our hospital room with us as we took a nap. Last time, we couldn’t breastfeed them yet and instead had to feed them through a gavage tube in their nose. This time Audrey, aka ‘The Piranha’, latched right on immediately. As you can imagine, it was an emotional time for my wife and I – we could bond with our daughter immediately in a way we couldn’t with the twins.

Perhaps best of all, Leia and Logan really love their new sister. We were afraid they’d get jealous, especially of all the time Mama spends taking care of her, but they’re all smiles and love to help out. Whew!

Twins, Audrey and Papa

Leia and Audrey

Logan and Audrey

Thank you to all the nurses and doctors who helped us during our hospital stay, and especially during the surgery. And a special thank you to all of our friends and family who’ve been helping out with the kids during Elizabeth’s recovery. We’re so in love with sweet Audrey and we couldn’t have done it without you!

Categories: family, twins
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