Review of the Amazon Kindle: Hummus, Goat Cheese, and Kindle
When I was at the grocery store I grabbed a container of Hummus. There was a young woman stocking the shelves near me. When she saw me grab the Hummus she said to me, “How can you eat that stuff?”. I told her that if she didn’t like it she didn’t eat enough of it and that Hummus could be an acquired taste. Kinda like Starbucks coffee. Some say it tastes bitter. But after you drink enough Starbucks and eat enough Hummus you might come to like them both – even if you hate them on the first try. Goat cheese anyone?
That’s kinda like the Amazon Kindle. I “hate this thing” but yet I can’t put it down. Without the touch screen, “cursor-ing around” on what is essentially a character-cell display using the tiny keys reminds me of the late 1970’s when you would cursor-around on a forms based DOS PC display. I did finally master text highlighting, making marginal notes, and making bookmarks on the Kindle – although the technique seems archaic without a touch screen.
The “like” parts of the “I hate this thing” are: the portability, the battery life, and the wireless access.
The Kindle is very portable. It’s hard not to pick it up and just use it. When you switch it on it starts instantly and picks up where you were last reading. I used to think that I could just use my laptop – a 14 inch ThinkPad – and read all the books I want. But, even though the laptop is small and portable it is simply not as quick and as portable as the Kindle. When the Kindle is sitting there on the table I just can’t not pick it up and start using it.
The battery life is amazing. I did some research on the e-ink technology (electrophoretic) that Kindle uses. It turns out that once the e-ink is set no power is required maintain the display. If you turn the wireless off (no need of this while you are reading) it would seem that the only power needed would be for the CPU to scan the keyset and other input ports. Power seems to be needed for the display only when you flip to the page. The Kindle will “flash” in inverse color (B/W) to set the pixels in the display and then that seems to be it for the display. I have been using the Kindle for about a week and perhaps put 20 miles (hours) of reading on it. The battery shows about 95% capacity. (Technical spoiler alert: Battery draw – 2.4 mA Kindle idling compared to 76 mA for a typical LED – see links below)
Getting books for the Kindle could not be easier. I really get a kick out of e-mailing stuff to the Kindle. You can obtain books from many sources and once you get them simply e-mail them to the Kindle. These e-mail messages really go to Amazon for conversion. After conversion they are stored at Amazon until you turn on your Kindle wireless. Once the Wi-fi is established your books will be automatically delivered to the Kindle. Or course, you can shop the Amazon store directly from the Kindle and books are delivered as soon as you purchase them. I have only “purchased” free books so far from the Kindle store. Tuns out that “Buy” is pre-selected when you ask for book details. Impulse buyers beware.
There is some interesting experimental stuff in the Kindle: a MP3 player, text-to-speech, and a web browser.
Buying Information for Mobile Book Readers
Like Hummus or goat cheese you may not think you like it until you tried it – and tried it long enough. If you are looking for a mobile book reader I would suggest you do your research. At $139 for the Kindle from Amazon with free shipping and no tax it’s almost a throw-away – unlike a full tablet.
So far the best site that I found for information and research on mobile book readers is –
The MobileRead website
Front page of the site with News
Very large list of e-book sites
The most detailed technical review of the Kindle 3 that I found so far is –
Where would we be without the Technocrati?
What you see there is a Kindle 2 with the Ubuntu 9.04 port to ARM running in a chrooted environment. On the screen you see xdaliclock in front of an xterm with the remains of a “top” command and a few mildly embarrassing typos.
To open up the Kindle, I used the USB networking debug mode Amazon left hanging around when they first shipped the Kindle 2, a statically linked telnetd and a cross-compiler to bootstrap myself. From there, I built a daemon that can convert DRM-free PDFs and ePubs into something Amazon’s reader on the Kindle can deal with.
After that, I started to get curious about what else might be possible. It only took a few evenings to get a moderately usable Ubuntu environment running.
Mostly, the Kindle is a lovely little Linux box. Getting X working took a bit of hacking, but everything else “just works” with very little configuration.
Yes, that’s right. Ubuntu Linux running on the Kindle
Without explanation, here are some links for those people who want to hack the Kindle and otherwise want to find about about the Kindle internals. Use and follow at your own risk.
The Kindle Source Code is here-
Jailbreak the Kindle 3
Thelegality of Jailbreaking
Kindle SDK Docs
Kindle developers revenue split