Originally published September 26 2010
Amazon Kindle DX product review: Why it will change the way you read books
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) As a journalist who is often quite critical of the actions of large corporations, what I'm about to say here may strike you as a bit surprising. For the past several months, I've been using and testing the Amazon Kindle DX book reader, and as you'll see in this review, I have reached the conclusion that this is not merely a great product, but a life changing product that can greatly enhance your knowledge or reading enjoyment. Here's why...
The emergence of mass-printed physical books transformed the world from an age of ignorance into an age of... well... disinformation if you read conventional history books. But that's beside the point. With the power of the printing press, the mass replication of books put reading material into the hands of virtually all first world citizens. And this resulted in a ripple effect of knowledge expansion while making "entertainment reading" available to citizens of the world for the first time. This, in turn, gave rise to fiction, science fiction, poetry, and even (gosh!) romance novels.
But physical books, as useful as they truly are, still suffer from several significant drawbacks: They're heavy, they grow mold in damp climates, they wear out, and -- here's the worst part -- you can't hold the book and turn the pages using just one hand if you're lying down and reading in bed, or on the beach, or wherever you want to read.
It is for this "page turning" reason that my own reading of books dropped off sharply over the last couple of years. Several years ago, I had read over 600 books on health and nutrition, but in the last two years, I had only read a dozen or so.
Why was this happening? It turned out that at times when I suddenly found myself with time for reading, I didn't have any books around. These are times like waiting in line somewhere, or sitting in a hotel room when traveling for events, etc. Sometimes I would actually drive out to the nearest book retailer and buy a couple of books just for the weekend.
Another problem was that I wanted to read at the gym, on a cardio machine without having to hold the book with both hands. This is impossible with a physical book, but with the Amazon Kindle DX, it's easy. You only have to click one button to turn the page, but aside from that, it's totally hands free.
Solving six big problems all at onceThe Amazon Kindle DX solves six big problems with physical books, it turns out:
• Problem #1) Carrying them around with you. The Amazon Kindle allows you to carry as many as 3,000 books at once, all inside an object that's about the size and weight of a clipboard.
• Problem #2) Waiting for them to arrive after ordering them. I've been a long-time customer of Amazon.com and have probably purchased quite literally over a thousand books there (not an exaggeration). But even with Amazon's PRIME shipping option, you still have to wait two days to get your book.
But with the Kindle, your book arrives in about 60 seconds over their "whisper" network which uses cell phone technology to grab your book. The amazing thing about this is that it requires no setup, no configuration, no fees, and no effort on your part. It's like magic, really: You buy the book online, and *poof!* The book magically appears on your Amazon Kindle a minute later, with zero effort on your part.
It's beyond streamlined. This book delivery technology works so well that you don't even know it's there. And that's the point, actually. Great technology is technology that gets out of the way and allows you to accomplish what you want without thinking about how it works or having to fiddle with it.
• Problem #3) Holding the pages open. I already mentioned this earlier: Physical books require you to hold them open with two hands (usually). The Kindle can be read hands-free.
• Problem #4) Storing and finding your books. Do you have a massive library of books in your house like I do? Have you ever failed to find a book you wanted to read because your collection is just too large? I've had that problem. The Kindle solves that problem instantly. All your books are on one device, and you can flip through your inventory in seconds to find the book you want.
• Problem #5) Bookmarking. Do you like to read ten books at once, a little at a time? I do that. I'll read a chapter here, a chapter there, and I'll jump around from one book to another. But this creates a problem: Where did I leave off on each book? The Kindle automatically remembers your last-read page in each book, so you can pick up right where you left off with every single book in your collection. It's simple but brilliant.
• Problem #6) Trying before you buy. Did you ever spend good money on a book from Amazon.com and then, after you received it, you discovered it wasn't that good after all? With the Kindle, you can try before you buy by downloading a free sample of most books. Typically you'll get the first chapter, which you can read to make your decision on whether you want to buy the rest of the book. It's yet another small but brilliant improvement in the way we decide what books to buy. I've used it regularly on my Kindle.
Those are six significant problems with books that are solved by the Amazon Kindle. These are hugely important issues to most people who read a lot of books, and I think these reasons are primarily why Amazon has hit a home run with its Kindle technology.
The downside of KindleNow, I'm the first to admit not everything is perfect with the Kindle. Amazon has hit a few hiccups such as that time when the company remotely deleted copies of the book "1984" from customer's Kindle devices due to a licensing mix-up.
I even wrote an article calling for a boycott of DRM technologies and joining with librarians who are taking a stand against copy-protected intellectual property. This is one reason why I didn't buy a Kindle until recently.
That all happened in 2009. In the time since, Amazon has learned from its mistakes, apologized to its users and put in place new guidelines to prevent such mistakes from happening again. The company seems to be on the right track, doing the right things with Kindle and making the device more open. For example, this may not be widely known, but I've tested it, and the Kindle can read TXT files, too. I have a lot of books as text files that I'm reading on Kindle that way, too (but I prefer to just buy books from the Amazon stores because they're formatted better).
Another problem with Kindle books is that some of the OCR is really sloppy. OCR stands for "Optical Character Recognition," and this is the process by which physical books are converted into digital files if the publisher doesn't provide the original manuscript text in a digital format.
To "OCR" a book, you basically chop off the binding and run it through a scanner then process the whole thing with OCR software that produces a text file.
This seems like an easy process but it's far more complicated than you might suspect. All the hyphenation throughout the book, for example, must be manually removed after the OCR processing. Also, superscripts sometimes get "flattened" which can cause huge problems in books of a scientific nature.
For example, I was recently reading a scientific text about cosmology (the study of the structure of the universe) when I kept noticing the author referring to really small numbers as being "huge beyond imagination!" A line might say something like "10117 is such a huge number that we can't even begin to comprehend it."
And I was thinking, well gee, it's not that much larger than ten thousand. How hard could it be to comprehend 10,117?
You may have guessed what I eventually did, which is that this number was originally 10 to the power of 117 or written like this in line notation: 10 ^ 117. This is quite a ways off from 10,117 which is only about 10 ^ 4.
Clearly, Amazon needs improved quality control on its OCR efforts, but it's a huge task, and I'm sure they're doing the best they can to make things better.
A third potential drawback to Kindle books is that you are essentially tied in to Kindle devices or other Amazon-provided readers that run on your PC, Mac or various mobile devices. I don't really see this as a huge limitation, but it's something to consider. If Amazon.com ever went out of business some day (which seems entirely unlikely anytime soon as it's one of the most successful retailers in the world), you might not be able to access your online library. In such a remote scenario, however, your Kindle would still work just fine and you'd be able to read all the books that were already on it.
Is the Kindle easy on your eyes?If you've never read a book on a Kindle, you might suspect the reading display would be difficult for your eyes. Reading a book on a laptop or a mobile device, after all, is less than perfect.
But thanks to e-Ink technology, the pages on the Kindle actually look brighter in bright light or even direct sunlight. I find that the Kindle is easier to read than a physical book! Plus, you can change the font size on the fly and choose a larger or smaller font depending on what you prefer. This is a very big deal for those with less-than-perfect vision who need larger font sizes. (I've been blessed with perfect vision and don't use glasses or contacts, but even then, I don't like really tiny text fonts.)
The battery life of the Kindle, by the way, is quite impressive. If you turn off the wireless on the device, it can last weeks on a single charge. Turning on the wireless connection saps the batteries in as little as a couple of days, however, so I only turn it on when I need to download a new book.
Environmental aspectsThere are still some questions I have about the manufacturing of the Kindle: Is it compliant with RoHS? That's the global standard for reduction of hazardous substances. I did a little research on this and from the best I could find, the Kindle's internal memory is lead-free and RoHS compliant, but I couldn't determine a similar status for the rest of the components.
On the environmental side, the Kindle is arguably a net reducer of industrial pollution simply due to the fact that buying books using bits and bytes is more eco-friendly than buying physical books made by printing toxic ink on dead trees. (And then shipping them around the country by burning fossil fuels.) So even if the Kindle isn't 100% green and clean on the inside, it is almost certainly contributing a net benefit to the environment simply by the physical book-buying behavior it allows users to avoid.
Five stars from the Health RangerIn conclusion, I give the Amazon Kindle DX a rare five-star rating from the Health Ranger. This is a rating I don't think I've ever given to an electronic device.
I don't give this lightly, and I only decided to write this after using the Kindle for several months to see how it would impact my life. For me, this device:
• Makes reading easier.
• Allows me to read at more times in more places.
• Allows me to carry hundreds of books anywhere.
• Allows me to buy almost any book I want in sixty seconds.
... and above all, it resulted in me reading and enjoying more books on a regular basis. I've read fiction, scientific books, health books and much more on the Kindle, and it has become an essential item that I won't leave home without.
Here's a link to the exact same Amazon Kindle DX that I bought in July: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-DX-Wireless-Rea...
(I don't earn anything off this link.)
Enjoy more reading!
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