Kindle: Some first impressions

Posted: 29th December 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife surprised me with an Amazon Kindle e-book reader for Christmas. I’ve been playing around with it as time allows, but haven’t bought a book yet – instead, I’ve been downloading the free samples and getting a feel for the gadget.

These are some initial thoughts and impressions on physically using the Kindle:

  • The vertical line cursor and wheel button are quite intuitive. The shiny reflective cursor is very visible unless viewed obliquely.
  • The keypad is where it needs to be, but feels awkward if I try to use it with one hand. The functionality is much better with two hands holding the Kindle, but that means I have to take it out of its protective case.
  • Speaking of the case, the factory included one is almost impossible to use for reading as you have to keep one hand gripping both the case and the Kindle to keep the latter from falling out. Eventually I’ll spring for a third-party upgrade.
  • Love having the Back button for browser-like navigation (not page navigation) – would really like to see a Forward button too.
  • Popular books are generally $9.99 or less, though academic titles are considerably more, e.g. Witherington’s “The Problem with Evangelical Theology” is $19.22. Even so, $10 feels expensive for a few hundred Kb of data; even worse, a pulp paperback like some of the new Star Wars stuff is $7.99 paperback/$6.39 Kindle. I’ve gotten really used to buying used books from Amazon et al. for pennies on the original dollar – paying the premium price makes me think twice.
  • Through the experimental “Basic Web” feature, I can enter my blog’s URL and access current content and links, including comments. I can even post comments!

Of course, the real value is in interacting with content. As I mentioned above, I’ve downloaded several samples, including HCSB, NLT, TNIV, NASB, KJV and NET translations of the Bible. I think it’s important not to make the Kindle be something that it’s not – i.e. dedicated electronic Bible software. The Kindle is first and foremost for reading. For example, the Search feature allows you to look up words in the text, but searching for “Genesis 17” will give you results in the Table of Contents index, not the actual chapter in the book.

The following are some brief impressions of the translations that I’ve looked at so far:

  • NASB (Lockman) — If you want a paragraph-formatted NASB, this is the one! Great TOC aligned to the right with the selection cursor/wheel. A right-aligned TOC is a great way to see if the publisher is “in tune” with the way the Kindle works. Like most of the editions considered here, you have to know where you are in your reading, as the Bible book and chapter are not provided in the header info.
  • HCSB (Holman) — TOC is right aligned, with multiple book options on each line. This allows more TOC content to be shown on each Kindle “page”, but also means you have to drill down an extra layer in picking the chapter and verse to read. The HCSB sample unfortunately does not include any actual scripture content, just the TOC details.
  • NLT (Tyndale) — The TOC is left aligned, meaning that the entries are physically separated from the selection cursor, forcing me to more-or-less guesstimate which item I’m selecting. A nice feature of the NLT, however, is that I only have to make one selection in the TOC to get to the text – selecting a book takes me to Chapter 1, verse 1, with a mini TOC at the top for other chapters.
  • TNIV (Zondervan) — The TOC is center aligned, which is a compromise of sorts, I guess, but doesn’t make much sense to me. The TNIV has single book entries (compare to the HCSB) and a lot of white space in the TOC, which means that you have page through several pages of content if you’re looking for something later in the book. And you have to select Book, Chapter *and* Verse before getting to the content itself – that’s three levels of menu selecting before being able to read.
  • NET (Biblical Studies Press) — The TOC of the NET Bible is not premarked – that means that you either have to page forward from the beginning every time or make your own bookmark on the appropriate page.  Like the NLT, the TOC is left-aligned, which makes it very difficult to be confident on what you’re selecting.  Whereas they were maddening in a print edition, the NET’s use of “1:1” for “chapter:verse” within the text body is very appreciated in this electronic edition as chapter numbers are not given in the header info (or in any other translation edition I looked at). None of the NET’s footnotes are included – this is a text only edition.
  • KJV (Diana Mecum) — This edition of the KJV text features a center aligned TOC with the same type of selection system as the NLT (selecting a book takes you to 1:1, with a mini TOC at the top of the page). Verse-by-verse text formatting with the NET-style “1:1” numbering ensures that you always know where you are. I am interested in this one because I wonder if the new electronic format will allow me to move beyond any internal hangups regarding the “old language” – the presentation is very readable.

All that said, I wonder if the Kindle would shine more with some of the daily reading Bibles, like the One Year Bible or the new 24/7 Chronological Bible from Tyndale. The latter doesn’t appear to be available for Kindle yet, so I’ve sent a note to Tyndale wondering when/if they plan to make an electronic version available. I’d also be interested in an electronic version of a daily devotional like Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which is also not available yet for Kindle.

  1. David Ker says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. The Kindle is an important innovation in the evolution of the book. Can you create your own content for the reader? If you can browse the web you can look up Oswald Chambers’ devotional for example. Can you somehow save that for offline reading? I suppose there aren’t many places in America where you are offline these days so maybe that’s not so important.

  2. This was very good. I would like to hear more after you read through a book. Just wondering what the whole experience feels like. Can you highlight? Is there any color to this device? Or just black & white?

  3. Can you create your own content for the reader?

    Not sure – obviously there’s a publishing format being used by publishing houses and individuals, so I would guess that you could publish to the Kindle format.

    If you can browse the web […]

    I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the thrust of the Kindle, but they do have it as an experimental feature and I *was* able to browse – or at least what you’d see with the stylesheet turned off. Actually, they do have an “Advanced” mode that renders graphics and layout, but it was really slow and I haven’t tried it again.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t add an RSS feed to your reading list, but they do have a selection of preselected blogs that you can subscribe to for $1/month, plus 20 or so newspapers to subscribe to.

    Can you highlight?

    Yes, you can “highlight” in the sense of putting a box around a selection of lines. You can also add a note for later reference. So you could definitely add notes to Bible verses.

    Is there any color to this device? Or just black & white?

    Monochromatic, so no color. Ironically, one of the publishers listed their edition as “Words of Christ in black letters!” while another was criticized for using a less readable light grey where red was used normally.