Thoughts on an unpolished, excellent indie novel

Ended up buying and reading The Demon Girl (The Rae Wilder Novels) by Penelope Fletcher. It’s rated 4 stars on 14 reviews at Amazon and my rating would be 4 stars too.

Update: You can find The Demon Girl free at Smashwords.

It’s the sort of book that’s got a ton of qualities – good and bad.

The good -

  1. It captures the ‘this makes zero sense to me. Why would she do this?’ feeling perfectly. Any man knows the feeling – the utter incomprehensibility of women. A world full of strange things like feelings and self-sacrificing empathy and stubbornness/strength mixed with delicateness/vulnerability. It was exactly how you feel when the woman you’re with gets upset over something that makes zero sense to you - Like not asking her where to go for dinner or asking her where to go for dinner.
  2. There’s a lot wrapped into the story. There’s a vampire, a good fairy, an evil fairy. Predictably, they are all after the Demon Girl. Even more predictably, and in the most frustratingly true way possible, the Demon Girl is in love with two of them.
  3. It captures another thing very well – the whole love triangle thing. Look carefully and there’s usually one person in that triangle who wants it, perhaps even needs it. The book captures it perfectly without adding any excuses. It would be presumptuous to claim that a large percentage of women have a fantasy about having 2 men vying for their love - but there might be a lot of truth to the claim.
  4. The characters are very human. They might be vampires and demons but you can relate to them.
  5. It was a good read and an engrossing one. Things moved quickly – both on the story level and on the emotional level.

A good comparison in terms of the protagonist’s feelings would be Robin Hobb’s Assassin series. There, the protagonist is a boy, and the feeling throughout was – He’s doing something crazy but I know why he’s doing that.

In this book you have no clue – Rae (the protagonist) switches between utter self-centeredness and total empathy for others. She’s totally driven by emotion – it’s almost as if she can’t control her emotions at all.

The bad -

  1. The level of editing is shockingly bad. If the author confessed that she wrote this in an opium induced haze and then sent it out without ever looking at it again it would explain the utter lack of polish perfectly. It would also explain the beauty.
  2. This wasn’t a major pain but the book is the first book in the series. You’ll have to wait until summer for part 2.
  3. The strength (that it’s very driven by how the protagonist feels) is also the weakness. It’s literally a sea of emotions and everything is viewed through the eyes of the protagonist Rae.
  4. Everyone’s names have excess e’s and n’s stuffed into them.
  5. It could really, really use more polish.

Strangely, a book like this highlights that editors and publishers (of some sort) will always be needed.

With 6 to 9 months of polish and shine this book could be a Top 10 book. It has the basic ingredients. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with this author and this series. It’s not that different from I Am Number 4 in terms of movie potential. The only thing is that this book is so real (as opposed to the Walt Disney ‘love you forever’ romance in #4) that it might not interest Hollywood.

That’s actually the best thing about this book – It’s real. It’s frustrating because the people in it behave like real people and do crazy, incomprehensible things. However, that’s the beauty of it – at no point are you laughing at how much of a fairy tale it is. It’s a book about real life with demons and great possibilities thrown in.

One last thing – the author is making a huge mistake by not putting this at $1. It’s a make-or-break mistake. She has a shot at hitting the Top 100 with this book – By going for $3 she’s losing that opportunity. The book is totally worth $3 but it has to be at $1 to minimize friction and increase sales volume. It’s the most short-sighted thing possible – she can price the later books in her series for $2 or $3. She has her big window of opportunity right now and she’s throwing it away.

Nook Vs Kindle Review – Nook Vs Kindle with PDF

It’s time for a detailed Nook Vs Kindle review.

Amazon added PDF support to the Kindle, increased its battery life by 75%, and added landscape mode - Did they just win the Nook Vs Kindle contest?

Let’s take a look - Please keep in mind that this is based on Nook Reviews from the Internet – I don’t have one yet

My Kindle Vs Nook Review was a tie and it stayed a tie even when Amazon added Kindle for PC and cut the price to $259.

Will Kindle PDF support tilt Nook Vs Kindle in Amazon’s favor?

Let’s take a look. First we’ll look at areas where each eReader wins and assign points, and then we’ll look at the results.

Nook Vs Kindle – Nook still wins several areas

  1. 3.5″ color touchscreen to flip through covers.  
  2. ePub support.
  3. LendMe – Although this is limited to one rental per ebook, and some Publishers are opting out, it’s a good feature.  
  4. Library eBooks – Although libraries currently don’t have many eBooks this is an important feature.
  5. Micro SD memory expansion slot.
  6. WiFi Support. Supplemented with free WiFi in B&N stores. Not as meaningful as you can do nothing except buy books.
  7. Browse complete eBooks at B&N Stores (1 hour per book per 24 hour period) plus physical books to browse.
  8. BlackBerry and Mac Support.
  9. Replaceable battery.
  10. B&N’s 1 million free Google Books.
  11. Better looking.

Not listing support for Sony Store eBooks as an advantage for the Nook because the Sony Reader Store has terrible eBook prices.

Nook Vs Kindle – Areas that they tie

This list has grown substantially since Amazon is making improvements to the Kindle service regularly -

  1. eInk Screen – Same 6″ eInk screen. 
  2. $9.99 price on bestsellers - Please note that B&N prices are higher for non-bestseller books.  
  3. $259 Price – Amazon matched this.
  4. Kindle for PC, Nook for PC - Amazon matched this.
  5. Mac Reader – Amazon is saying this will arrive soon. 
  6. PDF Support – Amazon matched this today (November 24th, 2009).
  7. Free Book Offers – Both B&N and Amazon have these. 
  8. Organization – Amazon have said they will support Kindle Folders in 2010. Nook doesn’t have folders at the moment.
  9. Family Sharing – Sharing of up to 6 Kindles on one account. Nook will allow sharing – exact number not known.

Notice how a lot of these are updates Amazon has recently made – competition is great for us book lovers.

Nook Vs Kindle – Kindle now wins several areas

  1. Best range of new books and lower prices – Do check prices for books you want to buy (check books you want to buy, not just the Top 100).
  2. Free Internet. Nook does not have a browser at the moment. Free Internet for Kindle is going to be extended to all countries that have WhisperNet.
  3. Wikipedia Access - Free all over the world (81 countries). 
  4. Faster – The Nook is sluggish as the OS hasn’t been optimized fully for the eInk and LCD screens. A fix is due in January 2010.
  5. Read To Me – Text to Speech feature. Publishers sometimes switch this off – However, it’s there for some books and all personal documents and all public domain books.
  6. International Availability and International WhisperNet (81 countries). Great for travelers and people in other countries.
  7. Better battery life now that there is a 75% boost for when wireless is on.
  8. WhisperSync that synchronizes your notes and highlights across devices.
  9. Physical Keyboard. 
  10. Nook have only a 14 day return period and charge 10% re-stocking fee. Kindle has 30 days and no restocking fee. 
  11. Being in Stock – Of course this will change on January 4th. Till then Kindle has a big advantage. Kindle had stock problems the last two seasons and they scaled up production to be ready for this holiday season.
  12. Landscape Mode – Allows for more flexibility.

The Kindle narrowly edges out the Nook in my opinion

Kindle PDF support does indeed tilt Nook Vs Kindle in Kindle’s favor – the Kindle for $259 is excellent value, especially the Free Internet.

To be on the safe side -> Please assign points to the listed advantages of each eReader according to what features you value and figure out what is better for you.

Amazon have really responded to the Nook and given all the recent enhancements they have, in my opinion, taken the lead. Nook being slow also plays a big part.

Kindle PDF Support, 75% more battery life, Kindle for PC, $259 price, landscape mode, Kindle Folders (announced), Kindle for Mac (announced).

Competition is doing great things for readers and eReaders.

Nook Vs Kindle Review – The Reading Experience Review

The Kindle 2 Review uses a rather different approach to reviewing an eReader – it’s worth trying out the same approach for our nook vs kindle review.

This is based on the first few Nook reviews available online. 

Here’s a stab at what the reading experience will be like (on Nook, Kindle).

Nook Vs Kindle – the indispensable eReader functions

Being able to get Books -

  1. By adding wireless downloads, the Nook matches the Kindle’s biggest advantage. However, the Kindle still beats it on book prices and range of books.
  2. Being able to browse books in the B&N stores is great – However, you can do that at any store. Some people will like being able to browse covers in color.
  3. By adding support for OverDrive Library eBooks B&N increases options for customers. It also supports Sony Store eBooks although those have high prices.

The Kindle has better range of new books and better prices. B&N adds support for Library eBooks and Sony Store eBooks via Adobe Digital Editions. It’s a tie.

Being able to read Books -

They both have a 6″ eInk screen. Kindle’s longer battery life is balanced out by the Nook’s touchscreen navigation.

This is a tie.

Nook Vs Kindle – the hugely important eReader functions

  1. Screen Quality and Size - A tie as they have the same eInk screen.
  2. Ease of Use – The touchscreen would have given Nook the edge – However, the bad Android implementation slows down the Nook. Kindle wins.
  3. Portability – Nook is a bit smaller and has a memory card. Kindle has better battery life. A tie.
  4. Reference – Kindle wins hands down as it has Free Internet and Free Wikipedia.
  5. Search – A tie at this point though if Amazon keep improving Kindle search they might win.
  6. Content Rights and Content Portability - Nook wins because of ePub support and Adobe Digital Editions support which lets you read Library eBooks and books bought from Sony Store (although Sony eBook Store has terrible prices).
  7. Annotations - Nook wins this as the touchscreen makes note taking easier – although the sluggishness of the UI is painful here too.
  8. Font Size – With the addition of landscape mode the Kindle has a very slight edge – let’s consider it a tie.
  9. AudioBooks – Kindle wins as Nook does not support audible.com audiobooks.
  10. Easy to Use Store - A tie. The Kindle Store is easy to use. Nook’s color LCD screen and cover flow make it a good store too.
  11. One Handed Use - This is a tie.
  12. Time and Date - A tie although with the Nook you can only check time on the Home screen.
  13. Language Support – Both Nook and Kindle are limited.

Nook Vs Kindle – nice to have features

  1. Looks – Nook wins easily thanks to the dual screens and color LCD. 
  2. Free Internet Access – Kindle wins.
  3. Color Screen – Neither has color eInk. Does Nook’s 3.5″ color navigation screen qualify? Perhaps – so let’s say Nook wins this.
  4. Text To Speech Feature – Kindle wins.
  5. Journal - Neither has this.
  6. Extensions and Utilities – Neither.
  7. Games & Diversions – Unknown. Kindle has Sudoku and Tic Tac Toe via Kindle Store Books and MineSweeper and Gomoku in-built. No idea what Nook will have.
  8. Personalization – Nook wins because of custom screensavers and back covers.
  9. Background music – Think both support this so a tie.
  10. Device Lock and Lost and Found feature – Unknown so a tie.

Who Wins according to this reading experience review?

You tell me. It’s almost too close to call.

  1. Kindle and Nook tie on indispensable eReader functions.
  2. Kindle has 3 wins and Nook has 2 wins in hugely important features. 
  3. Kindle has 2 wins and Nook has 3 wins in nice to have features. 

In terms of reading experience Nook Vs Kindle is exceedingly close – the Kindle probably barely edges out Nook. The Kindle is in stock and Nook isn’t till February 1st, 2010.

Again, please consider what factors are important to you and rate them accordingly – What’s important to you decides who wins Nook vs Kindle.

Which Kindle is Best for You?

Please read the Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide post instead (written on October 1st, 2011). It covers all the new Kindles and Kindle Fire.

This post is for people trying to decide between the various Kindle options available. First, let’s look at which kindles are available for you to choose from -

  1. Kindle for iPhone (free if you already have an iPhone). Best for casual readers i.e. 1 book a month.
  2. Refurbished Kindle 1 for $149. Great for people who want an entry level, no frills ereader.
  3. Refurbished Kindle 2 for $169. Great for people who want the Kindle 2 at a lower price point. The best value for money in my opinion.
  4. Refurbished Kindle 2 US version for $139. Great for people who don’t travel outside the US or don’t care about free Whispernet and free Internet outside the US.
  5. Kindle 2 for $189. The best Kindle in my opinion and incredible value for money.
  6. Refurbished Kindle DX US version for $349. Get the 9.7″ screen, PDF capable Kindle at a lower price.
  7. Refurbished Kindle DX International version for $399.
  8. Kindle DX for $489. The high-end textbook and newspaper targeted Kindle. Great if you want to read textbooks and/or newspapers.

Let’s go over the main strengths and weaknesses of each Kindle -

Pros and Cons of Kindle for iPhone

There are some obvious advantages -

  1. You get it for free on the iPhone.
  2. It has backlighting.
  3. You get all the kindle store books.
  4. You get a color screen which Kindles do not have because the screen technology i.e. eInk is not mature yet.
  5. You get some options Kindles do not have i.e. being able to change the text color.

And some obvious disadvantages -

  1. The screen size is small.
  2. The LCD is not suitable for reading for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time.
  3. Some of the reading apps for the iPhone have more options such as Auto Scrolling.
  4. There are lots of distractions i.e. app store games and utilities and other apps.

Kindle for iPhone Reading Score: 7 out of 10 stars.
Best Suited For: People who read 1 book a month or less. People who will mostly be reading in between doing other things and in snippets of free time.

Best Feature of the Kindle for iPhone: Free if you already own an iPhone.

This is a good first option to try out if you already have an iPhone. You can find it at the iTunes App Store.

Refurbished Kindle 1 for $149 – Pros and Cons

Update: As of June 21st, 2010 this is $329 and a definite No. Almost seems to be a price mistake.

The $149 refurbished kindle 1 is currently the lowest priced eReader you can get and here are the advantages -

  1. All the Kindle benefits i.e. Free Whispernet and Free Internet Access. The browser is very basic though.
  2. The Kindle Store.
  3. Extendable memory via an SD card slot.
  4. Replaceable battery.

And some of the disadvantages -

  1. It is refurbished.
  2. Only 4 shades of grayscale.
  3. No Read To Me feature.
  4. It’s not super thin with a shiny metallic back like the Kindle 2.
  5. Page Turns are not as fast.

Score: 7 stars out of 10. It is the original Kindle 1 from 2007, after all.
Best Suited For: People looking for an entry level eReader.

Best Feature of the Refurbished Kindle 1: Incredible Value for Money.

If you want a more in-depth comparison of the Kindle 1 with the Kindle 2 check out my Kindle 1 Vs Kindle 2 video review.

Refurbished Kindle 2 US for $169 – Pros and Cons

Another absolute steal in terms of value for money, the Refurbished Kindle 2 has significant strengths -

  1. All the Kindle features.
  2. Whisper Sync so you can sync it with the iPhone and other devices when they are supported.
  3. Faster page turns and more memory.
  4. Its sleeker than the Kindle 1 and looks more like a 21st century gadget/device.
  5. Much better screen resolution.
  6. The Read To Me feature is great. Its switched off on some books though.

The refurbished kindle 2 also has some disadvantages -

  1. It is refurbished.
  2. Its 6″ screen might not be big enough for you.
  3. There is no memory card slot so you can’t increase capacity.

Score: 8.5 out of 10 stars.
Best Suited For: Regular and Hard Core readers. If you read more than a book a month you’ll love the kindle 2. Also great if you read a lot in general.

Best Feature of the Refurbished Kindle 2: The Screen - much, much better than LCD screens and one of the most readable screens available.

You can check out my detailed kindle 2 review for more on the Kindle 2 including videos.

New Kindle 2 for $189

For $20 more you can get a brand new Kindle 2.

This is a very personal choice – some people will value ‘NEW’ more and some will value the $20 more. My strong recommendation is to get the new Kindle 2.

Perhaps this is a topic for a separate post. The short way to think of it is -

  1. If you can afford it go for the new Kindle 2.
  2. If the $20 price gap seems a lot to you, go for the refurbished kindle 2. You can be pretty confident about the purchase as it comes with a Warranty and it’s been refurbished by Amazon.

The new Kindle 2 is, in my opinion, the best eReader you can buy. You can also get a refurbished version for $169.

Score: 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Best Suited For: People who love to read books and read more than 1-2 books a month.

Best Feature of the Kindle 2: The Screen. Also, its pretty good value for money given the Read To Me feature, the Free Internet Access and the in-built Kindle Store.

Interlude: Kindle 2 Vs Kindle DX

Ever since the Kindle DX was first announced it has seemed to me that the Kindle 2 is a clear winner (unless you really want a larger screen or pdf support or larger font sizes).

The conclusion of my Kindle 2 Vs Kindle DX review was -

  • Kindle 2 for price and portability and especially if you mostly read books.
  • Kindle DX for pdf support and if you need a larger screen or read mostly in large fonts and the kindle 2 font sizes aren’t good enough

Does having the refurbished Kindle DX versions for $349 and $399 change that?

Not Really.

Refurbished Kindle 2 beats Refurbished Kindle DX in most cases. In fact, the $189 Kindle 2 is better value for money in most cases.

If you read newspapers regularly or need a Kindle for textbooks, those are the cases in which the Kindle DX is very compelling.

Refurbished Kindle DX for $399.

At $399 the refurbished Kindle DX has a much more palatable price than a new DX. The benefits of the Kindle DX (new or refurbished) -

  1. All the Kindle staples i.e. Read To Me, WhisperNet, huge range of books.
  2. Portrait and Landscape Mode.
  3. In-built PDF support. Note that this is limited to reading PDFs, using landscape mode, and adding bookmarks. You can NOT add annotations or zoom.
  4. A large 9.7 inch screen which makes it much better suited to newspapers and textbooks.

The larger size and spotty PDF support means the refurbished Kindle DX is far from perfect -

  1. It is refurbished.
  2. PDF support is limited.
  3. The size means its not very portable.
  4. The heavier weight means reading for a while starts hurting your hand. Be particularly careful if you have hand or health problems.

Score: 7.75 stars out of 10.
Best Suited For: Students looking to read textbooks. People looking to read newspapers. People looking for larger font sizes.

Best Feature: The large 9.7 inch screen. If PDF support had been more extensive that might have taken the prize.

Which brings us to the most expensive Kindle you can buy, the Kindle DX.

Kindle DX – Is it the right Kindle for You?

The Kindle DX is $90 more for the new version i.e. $489.

  1. The higher price is a function of the state of eInk technology and prices ought to come down in 6-12 months.
  2. The new Kindle DX is great for businesses and people who read newspapers regularly.
  3. The ongoing trials with university students have been seeing mixed results with students being stumped by the lack of easy note-taking.

Do read my Kindle DX Review and keep in mind the limitations of the DX before buying it. You can also get a refurbished version of the Kindle DX International for $415.

Score: 7.5 stars out of 10. The refurbished Kindle DX gets a better score because its better value for money.
Best Suited For: Newspaper and Textbook readers who want a new, large screen ereader.

Best Feature of the new Kindle DX: The large screen and the fact that its new.

Final Recommendations – Which Kindle is Best for You

Here are my recommendations on which kindle to buy -

  1. Very Casual Reader (less than a book a month) – Kindle for iPhone if you have an iPhone or perhaps refurbished Kindle 2.
  2. Tight Budget – Refurbished Kindle 2, if possible. If $169 is much more doable than $189 for some strange reason, then go for the Refurbished Kindle 2.
  3. Regular or Hardcore Reader (and read mostly books) – Kindle 2. This is absolutely incredible value for money.
  4. Will be reading newspapers and textbooks – refurbished Kindle DX.
  5. Want a textbook and newspaper reader and have the budget – Kindle DX.

Kindles in general are good ereaders as they offer a lot more than just the eInk screen (which is particularly suited for reading). There is always a strong after market for Kindles which shows that the features and included services are pretty compelling.

Leave a comment if you have a question on a specific scenario. Best of luck with your Kindle decision.

Reading on the iPhone – Review of Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey is a masterpiece.

  1. Started reading it at 2 am (thought perhaps for 15 minutes) and ended up finishing all of it. It took 5 hrs because it was on the iPhone.  
  2. Am super upset there’s no other book in the series. It’s a good thing that the book leaves the possibility of a series wide open (it’s about the first adventure of a young boy with a monster hunter and there’s mention of a whole lifetime spent hunting monsters).

If you haven’t read it and like anything with imagination and a bit of horror it’s perfect. It might not be good for young kids – they’ll probably be left sleepless for days.

Which brings us to the reason the Monstrumologist got read yesterday – to test out the iPhone as an eReader.

Reading on the iPhone – The Good

There are a lot of pluses for reading -

  1. There are loads of software options – Kindle, Stanza, B&N, and many more.
  2. You have Kindle for iPhone and can get all your Kindle books on the iPhone.
  3. Backlighting for reading at night. More on this below.
  4. Small Form Factor – its light, fits in your pocket and its very, very portable.
  5. A touch screen with intuitive controls.
  6. It’s a phone and its with you everywhere.
  7. Loads of options i.e. font, paper color, font size, auto-scroll, and lots more.

In terms of content you get –  

  1. All the Amazon Kindle Store books.
  2. A million free books from google book search.
  3. A veritable cottage industry of public domain books and compilations.
  4. 10,000+ book related apps to wade through.
  5. Lots of apps for things like wine ratings, cooking, drinks, food and wine pairings, and more.  

A general point is that the iPhone is an exceptionally well designed product. The only things I’ve seen that come close are Windows 7, the Flip, Google Maps (when it first came out), the Kindle (only for reading though, not in general), Tumblr and Twitter (in terms of website simplicity and elegant design), and sliced bread ;) .

Reading on the iPhone – The Bad

There are some disadvantages -

  1. Very small screen. 
  2. The backlight really hurts the eyes.  
  3. Battery life sucks.
  4. Email updates mean you do get interrupted. Ditto phone calls and messages.
  5. Things are scattered i.e. every newspaper has its own app, a lot of books have their own apps. In some ways it’s an organizational nightmare.

There’s also the whole ‘reading is not the most compelling thing you can do on the iPhone’ factor i.e.

  1. It’s really hard to focus on a book as there are 70,000+ non-reading apps competing for your attention. 
  2. There are some apps that are extremely well designed like Ocarina and they will distract you. 
  3. It’s just not a device tailored at reading i.e. its a great smartphone with some good reading apps. It’s not an eReader.

Reading on the iPhone – The overall conclusion

Part 1: Great for Casual Readers

Reading on the iPhone is doable.

In fact for people who read a book a month, perhaps split between short commutes and 15 minute breaks, the iPhone is great.

Basically if your reading of books is -

10 different 15 minute stretches during the week.

Less than a book a month.

The iPhone is great for you. In fact, the iPhone might be close to the ideal device for casual readers.

The Kindle for iPhone app works great. Some of the other apps get great reviews too, especially Stanza.

It’s also good for reading in general as it lets publishers and authors target a lot of the people who would not read much otherwise. Its new markets.

Part 2: Not suitable for Regular Readers

For people who read, the iPhone doesn’t work.

At around the 15-20 minute mark the bright, tiny screen gets a bit tiring. Yeah, you can change the brightness – However, bright is necessary for me (and for a lot of people), and when it’s coming from the screen into your eyes it hurts.  

By the time the Monstrumologist had wrapped up (5 hours of reading) my eyes were really hurting and still have a bit of a headache (12 hours later). So reading for longer than 20-30 minutes at a go is definitely not recommended and longer than an hour will probably cause your eyes to start hurting.

For people who read a lot that instantly rules out the iPhone.

This is also the part a lot of people aren’t ready to accept i.e. my smartphone which also happens to allow for reading is not a complete eReader solution.

Unnecessary Stuff to back up a simple Review

These are just details to back-up a simple review verdict i.e. (in my opinion) the iPhone can’t really be used to read for more than 15-20 minutes at a stretch thereby making it unsuitable as an eReader.

The Problem with back-lit screens

Most people don’t really realize how much they’re stressing their eyes with back-lit screens –  

  1. They’re everywhere – PCs, phones, laptops, TVs, theater. 
  2. People use them a lot – club together TV, Internet and Work computer use and you’re looking at a lot of eye strain. 
  3. When it’s dark you need them more, and they hurt more.  

The Kindle and Sony have eInk screens which are perfect – because you’re reading a screen that does not hurt your eyes.

Have never had reading on a Kindle cause problems. On the Sony it was only once in a dimly lit bar when my eyes got strained. eInk screens in general are great for reading.

With the iPhone reading for longer periods stresses the eyes – combine the strain LCD monitors cause with the strain of reading on a small sized device.

The iPhone is a Smartphone that happens to have reading apps

No one is arguing that the iPhone is a great mulit-purpose device. It makes a lot of things good on the iPhone and it also means the iPhone can’t be absolutely tailored to any one of them.

There are just so many intelligent, creative people creating great applications that you have to admire the genius of the App Store/Platform. These apps include reading related apps and there are some very innovative ones.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that the iPhone is not an eReader. It is not optimized for reading.

There will always be room for eInk screen eReaders that focus on reading

People who don’t read a lot don’t really get the value of -

  1. A device dedicated to reading.
  2. A screen that doesn’t hurt your eyes.  
  3. Something that lets us focus on reading and tune out everything else.

 There’s a simple rule of thumb -

If reading books is one of your top 2 pastimes OR you read a lot at work and would like something easier on your eyes, then get a Kindle.

In every other case, please get an iPhone.

It’s pretty likely that if you are torn between the iPhone (or the iTablet) and the Kindle and Sony then you are not focused on ‘reading’ as a top activity. Might as well get an iPhone – it’ll be great for your reading habits.

You need great eyes to be able to read a lot on the iPhone

My 20/20 eyesight can’t handle reading on the iPhone for stretches longer than 15-20 minutes.

  1. Most of the people who talk about how much they love reading on the iPhone don’t really talk about 2 or 3 hour stretches of reading.
  2. Perhaps they only read in 10-20 minute stretches.
  3. Perhaps they don’t really use LCD screens much other than on the iPhone.
  4. Perhaps they just have the sort of eyes that are not going to get damaged by endless hours peering at LCDs.

It’s just that if the choice is between yet another LCD screen and something like eInk that is easy on the eyes it’s a no-brainer to me.

If your reading is 4 hours a month the iPhone is perfect for you. If it’s 3 to 4 hours a week (or more) then get a Kindle.

Harshest Ever Kindle 2 Review

Moved this into its own special post since Nicholson Baker’s kindle 2 review is in a league of its own.

The Kindle 2 itself is available at Amazon for $299.

The Lead-Up to the Kindle 2 Review

Nicholson Baker’s epic kindle 2 review in the New Yorker starts off talking about the promise of the Kindle and how much reviewers and owners liked it.

You do, however, get the feeling that Mr. Baker is setting us up.  8 paragraphs of a slow, teasing build-up must surely be leading to something.

The feeling intensifies when Mr. Baker describes the Kindle’s power plug as -

… was extremely well designed, in the best post-Apple style. It was a very, very good plug.

And then you have the inflection point – ‘I tussled with a sense of anti-climax’.

The Relentless Attack

Mr. Baker’s sense of anti-climax quickly morphs into something akin to a cold calculated rage.  He tears apart the Kindle 2 so clinically and ruthlessly Hannibal Lector would be envious.

First, the Kindle 2′s screen is taken down a few notches -

And it wasn’t just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray …  This was what they were calling e-paper? This four-by-five window onto an overcast afternoon?

Next, the Kindle’s font is accused of draining all joy and emotion out of words -

 Monotype Caecilia was grim and Calvinist; it had a way of reducing everything to arbitrary heaps of words.

Mr. Baker then talks about his dislike of the male voice and about romance books on the kindle.

He then proceeds to attack -

  1. The lack of titles.  
  2. The lack of page numbers.
  3. The loss in quality of pictures, tables, and other special formatting.
  4. The fact that some books don’t have pictures.

Mr. Baker spends a lot of time pining about the loss of picture quality and even buys an $8,000 ebook to prove his point.

Finally, he gets to DRM and openness -

That means you can’t read your Kindle books on your computer, or on an e-book reader that competes with the Kindle.

You can’t give them away or lend them or sell them. You can’t print them. They are closed clumps of digital code that only one purchaser can own. A copy of a Kindle book dies with its possessor.

Attacking Kindle 1 and Kindle DX

After meandering through some of the technology and history of ePaper, Mr. Baker again returns to the task at hand i.e. bashing Amazon and Kindle. This time he unloads on the Kindle 1 -

The Kindle 1’s design was a retro piece of bizarrerie—an unhandy, asymmetrical Fontina wedge of plastic. It had a keyboard composed of many rectangular keys that were angled like cars in a parking lot.

Mr. Baker then switches to attacking the Kindle 2 (screen contrast, fading).

Apparently, it’s the whole Kindle family that has upset Mr. Baker, because he now switches to the Kindle DX.

He really goes after the notion of Kindle DX as newspaper reader -

 It’s enjoyable if you like reading Nexis printouts. The Kindle Times ($13.99 per month) lacks most of the print edition’s superb photography—and its subheads and call-outs …

A century and a half of evolved beauty and informational expressiveness is all but entirely rinsed away in this digital reductio.

The Kindle DX ($489) doesn’t save newspapers; it diminishes and undercuts them—it kills their joy. It turns them into earnest but dispensable blogs.

Rubbing Salt into the Wounds

You would think that after so thoroughly and mercilessly attacking and berating the Kindle 2, Mr. Baker’s review would bask in the glory.

The glory of missing everything good, of finding every single flaw and magnifying it and painting the Kindle 2 into some sort of creation of the devil.

Yet Mr. Baker is not content. He adds insult to injury in glorious fashion -

But, fortunately, if you want to read electronic books there’s another way to go. Here’s what you do. Buy an iPod Touch … or buy an iPhone

The nice thing about this (iphone/ipod) machine is (a) it’s beautiful, and (b) it’s not imitating anything.

My Kindle 2 lies by the side of this monitor, Charlotte Bronte gazing pleasantly out of it, and the thought flashes through my head -

Nicholson Baker has managed something inconceivable – he has used the Kindle 2 and managed to experience every single negative possible, while almost totally missing the positive.

His review is literally every single negative kindle 2 review ever, crafted into a masterpiece via his gift for words.

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