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Review of the Amazon Kindle Fire – Has Amazon lost its way on e-book readers?

with 4 comments

It might be unfortunate that Amazon has named its table the Kindle Fire.  In some sense it sets the expectation for potential buyers  that the Kindle Fire is a follow-on (and improvement) to the predecessor Kindle – a dedicated e-book reader.  The Kind Fire does  much much more than the predecessor e-ink Kindle.  But, is the Kindle Fire a better e-book reader than the predecessor e-ink Kindle?  I think not.

After you get past the glitz and all the new capability of the Kindle Fire over the e-ink Kindle and get down to actually reading books on the Fire, I think some people are going to be in for a major disappointment.

Sure, the Kindle Fire has a bright screen and crisp characters but it lacks certain functionality that traditional e-ink Kindle users have come to expect.

Bringing the world of books to the visually impaired – gone

Of some minor note, and appeal to a small segment of the e-book reading population, is the e-ink Kindle voice navigation capability.  For those who have a visual disability or failing eyesight the e-ink Kindle placed in voice navigation mode will speak as you navigate through the menus and move the cursor around the screen.  So, for example, on the home page of your list of books, e-ink Kindle will read the book titles to you as you scroll down the list.  Press enter and go to that book.  E-ink Kindle will tell you where you are in that book.  Use any  menu to navigate the book and e-ink Kindle will tell you exactly which menu item you are on.  Turn on text to speech and e-ink Kindle will read the content of the book to you.

The point is simply that e-ink Kindle can literally bring the world of books to the visually impaired.  I might even say that, with some basic training. a completely sightless person would be able to become engaged in the world of books with e-ink Kindle for a very low-cost.  With the Kindle Fire – all of this is gone.

No more Text to Speech

Even if you are not visually impaired the capability of e-ink Kindle to turn just about any book into an audio book was a great feature that many people enjoyed.  You could do something else and still listen to a book read to you by e-ink Kindle.  I personally “read” more books due to this feature.  In Kindle Fire, this capability is gone.

No Collections – an endless disorganized list of books to infinity

The Kindle Fire can sort your books by Author, by Title, or what you looked at recently.  But it can’t put books into Collections.  E-ink Kindle has Collections that allow you to group books.  If you have a handful of books – no big deal.  If you have 100 books it becomes an issue.  At 100’s of books you will feel that pain.  Obviously, those people who designed the Kindle Fire did not have huge collections of books that needed organizations.  (Or the Kindle Fire designers had very messy desks)

Impaired Search Capability

Both e-ink Kindle and Kindle Fire have a word search capability; but they work in vastly different and significant ways.  So suppose you search for a word in a book and find 82 occurrences.  Both e-ink Kindle and Kindle Fire will show you the hits in the context of several sentences.  But that is where the similarity ends.  Navigate to the one of the occurrences and then “go back”.  E-ink Kindle takes you back to search results page;  Kindle Fire takes you back to your last reading position.  Most people want to go back to the search results page to look at another search hit in context.  On Kindle Fire you will need to re-enter the search criteria.  Very painful if you are looking for an idea in a book and want to see the full context of all the hits and be able to read in context one by one.

This difference is significant for many people.  E-ink Kindle can search your entire collection of books for a word or group of words.  It can process hundreds of books – not just one book as the Kindle Fire.  If you are looking for a concept or idea across all your e-books then, too bad.  Kindle Fire does not support search across multiple books.

Tethered to the Fire

I really like the bright screen on the Kindle Fire for reading.  But this comes at a huge cost.  The screen is power-hungry so I’ve  been reading with the power supply attached.  First, on Kind Fire, the power supply is a wall wart.  Second, the min-USB connector for power is flimsy.  Third, I don’t like being tethered to read.  And fourth, the wall wart power cord is too short to have it plugged into the wall and reach to your reading position without some sort of power strip or extension.  This makes the Kindle Fire not exactly “portable” for long reading sessions.

E-ink Kindle is a power miser.  I literally only change my e-ink Kindle once a month.  Due to the e-ink Kindle display technology power is not needed to maintain the e-ink display.  Once the e-ink is set on the display no power refresh cycle is needed.  Only page turns on the e-ink Kindle require power to set the e-ink.  Once the e-ink is set – that’s it.

It is just a matter of convenience that I don’t need to lug a Dynamo around with me to read a book.  The e-ink Kindle is more like a book.  You never think much about needing power to read a book on your bookshelf.  For e-ink Kindle the issue of power and charging fades into the background.  No so with the Kindle Fire.

The Take

For those folks dedicated to e-books, other than the bright crisp display on Kind Fire, my bet is that the Kindle Fire may be a disappointment.  Of course Kindle Fire does far more than e-ink Kindle but Kindle Fire lost many of the great features that book lovers have come to expect from an e-book reader as established by e-ink Kindle.

Sure, Amazon could have carried over every feature of e-ink Kindle forward to Kindle Fire – but they didn’t.  Why?  If they did they would have cannibalized e-ink Kindle sales.  Was that the reason?  Or, was the Kindle Fire designed by people who really have no passion for books and really did not understand the reading experience?  Or, perhaps the Kindle Fire is a whole different animal (“a tablet”) and the name “Kindle” sets expectations as a e-book reader that it was never designed to meet and will never meet.  Perhaps “reading books” has faded into the background for Amazon on the Kindle Fire?  This sort of makes sense.  Amazon has positioned Kindle Fire as a “content device” to sell music, video, applications, and maybe lastly, books. 

Looking to buy one of the Kindle family for the primary purpose of reading e-books?  Then choose carefully.

Read more articles on this site about the Kindle and e-book readers – https://frrl.wordpress.com/?s=kindle

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Written by frrl

November 27, 2011 at 2:39 am

4 Responses

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  1. I have had a kindle for over 1 1/2 years and love it. One of the main features I have used since I got it, is the text to speech. It is wonderful while I am driving/flying/working…. I just gave my husband a kindle fire as a valentines day present. He wanted to use it while he had a long car commute, to read text books not available as audio books. We were both shocked to find that the Kindle Fire does not have the text to speech option. We would pay extra to get this option. Amazon’s decision to not include it means we are going to have to return the Fire. Now we need to decide whether to just get a tablet and load a text-to-speech application.

    Priscilla Berry

    March 5, 2012 at 2:25 am

  2. Thank you for this review. I was impressed with the Kindle Fire because of the bells and whistle but not so impressed that they forgot about the book lovers in it. I use the text to speech feature every day in my car and would dearly miss this if I moved to the Fire. Thanks for helping me make that decision!

    Anonymous

    February 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    • Perhaps the lack of text to speech in the Kindle Fire is a way that Amazon can differentiate their products between the Fire and the e-ink versions (other than price). If there was text to speech in the Fire that may give a person less reason to buy an e-ink Kindle – in addition to their Fire purchase. But the Fire and e-ink Kindle are different animals.

      I recall reading that the OS under Kindle Fire has text to speech capability. Amazon made a choice not to enable it to read books.

      Even it the Fire had text to speech the rate at which Fire consumes energy is many times the rate of e-ink Kindle so reading sessions would be short.

      There is a place for both e-ink Kindle and Fire – unfortunately, Fire falls short for book readers if compared to the e-ink Kindle. I was disappointed.

      frrl

      February 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

  3. I agree with this review. Text to speech recognition seems to have been deliberately removed to force the consumer to purchase from Audible.com.

    rjmdrum

    January 10, 2012 at 11:58 am


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