UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

Kindle: First impressions in the Library

Posted by gazjjohnson on 27 October, 2009

What could it be?Last week my boss asked me to go ahead and purchase a Kindle for the Library to trial.  Ordered it around 3pm on Friday and it was on my desk early yesterday afternoon.  First impressions (and comparing it to the Sony reader I trialed last December) aren’t bad.  Some gut reactions:


  • Wireless works out of the box* – with no set up
  • Manual almost not needed – intuitive to use
  • Access to Wikipedia and works flawlessly
  • Nice look and feel – keys and case
  • Navigation around the menus feels modern and slickFirst looks promising
  • Electronic paper impresses again with clarity
  • USB charger works happily with my PC
  • Joystick works well as selection tool


  • Screen smaller than Sony
  • Heavier than I expected
  • 3G Wireless crippled in UK (currently)
  • £200+ is still a bit much when it only comes bundled with a dictionary & user guide
  • Annotation of text bit tricky
  • No stylus or touchscreen functionality
  • Not in colour
  • Doesn’t recognise native PDF documents placed on it

I quite like the Kindle, even now 24hrs later when the “WOW!” factor is wearing off.  I’m finding the smaller screen (than the Sony) isn’t bothering me quite so much now.  I enjoyed flicking it on for the first time on the train last night (it needed a three hour charge first) and being on wikipedia less than 30 seconds later.  I even liked that it said “Hello Gareth” when it booted.

Sitting happily on the deskSo in terms of usability I would say the Kindle has the slight edge – certainly the plastic coated metal protected me from holding onto a cold metal object out of doors (something the Sony fell down on).  The keyboard layout looks slightly odd at first (it is QWERTY but aligned like a PDA not a keyboard) but was responsive to the touch.  Actually all the keys click nicely without too much of a clunk.

The shame is that the 3G mobile internet browsing has been locked out in the UK.  Can’t Google, can’t Twitter, can’t Facebook.  Can’t even read my email – so as a replacement for a netbook, 3G phone or PDA the Kindle fails.  Yes it looks nice and easy to buy books from, but I’ve not been able to locate any free ones nor have I been able to put my own PDFs on to read.  That alone would have made it very handy in the library sense – got an interlibrary loan?  Zap – there you go, read it on your Kindle.  So far as I can see so far though, this isn’t the case.

Close up of the joystickIn this regards the Kindle begins to raise the same worries in me that have kept me away from Apples iPod/iTunes network – the push to the proprietary media/documents only.  When I have an electronic reading device I want it to read my documents – not just the documents you choose to sell to me.  AntiPirary? Or just my inexperience…yes it appears the latter.  A search of the manual reveals that the Kindle can handle electronic texts, but only in Kindle (.azw, azw1), text (.txt), unprotected mobipocket (.mob1, .prc), audible (.aa, .aax) or MP3 formats.  That seems a real let down.

There is a service whereby you can email your PDFs to Amazon, and then for a fee (these are my documents remember) have them transfer wirelessly to the Kindle.  You can get around this by having it emailed back to you.  Unfortunately in terms of securely electronic delivery PDFs from the British Library, well frankly that wouldn’t work.  But for others, I can see it’s an area where we might be entertaining a little experimentation – if anyone else has tried this, let me know how it worked out for you!

Close up on the keysThat’s it – my first reactions to the Kindle.  Not perfect, not a world beater and by no means the must have item this Christmas.  Would I buy it for myself?  Frankly no, not as it currently is configured or priced.  Personally I’ll be waiting for a reader with flawless wireless, that allows me to upload and read native PDFs rather than passing them through a clunky two handed email exchange, and with touchscreen functionality.  Oh, and can I have two screens so it feels more like reading a book?  If the Nintendo DS can do it…

* Actually the only place the wireless hasn’t worked is right here at my desk!  Our building being somewhat of a shield for mobile phone signals.

5 Responses to “Kindle: First impressions in the Library”

  1. sarahw9 said

    Are you (or someone else) bringing it to the meeting on Friday am?

  2. ajcann said

    Wrong price point, innit?

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