Kindle Canada Review – the Canuck Experience

The Kindle isn’t available in Canada yet (October 15th, 2009). However, this review of the Kindle Canada experience should come in handy when Amazon gets the Kindle to Canada (Amazon have a notice saying it will be soon).

You could also look at this in-depth Kindle 2 Review for a ton of details and kindle videos.

Kindle Canada Review – Top Pros

The Kindle is the best current eReader. Here are the top 11 features (with notes on how they translate to Canada) -

  1. Wireless Access to the Kindle Store – Browse the Store wirelessly and get book downloads in 60 seconds. This is a great, super convenient feature and Amazon will almost certainly have this when Kindle Canada debuts.
  2. Range of Books – The Kindle Store has a wide variety of books available. Most European countries have been getting 290K out of the 350K+ available in the Kindle Store. Canada ought to get at least as many. 
  3. The eInk Screen - It’s easy to read, readable in bright sunshine, uses very little battery life and puts next to no strain on your eyes.
  4. Free Internet Access – At this point it’s unlikely that Canada will get Free Kindle Internet – no country outside of the US has.
  5. Great usability – The Kindle is dead simple to use. You don’t have to be tech savvy.
  6. Focus on Reading – The Kindle lets you read without distractions. The long battery life and eye-friendly screen ensure long stretches of carefree reading.
  7. Great value for money. The Kindle itself is $279 for the international Kindle. With taxes and shipping it’ll probably be in the $315 to $350 range so Kindle Canada isn’t as much of a bargain.
  8. Great Book Prices – Kindle Edition books are just $9.99. In Canada Kindle books will be either $12 or $14 depending on what Amazon have to pay wireless companies and what federal and provincial taxes are.  Again, the price isn’t as attractive.
  9. Lots of add-on features – There’s Text To Speech (unless Publishers have turned it off for a book) that lets you listen to your books while cooking, driving, etc. An in-built dictionary and a decent search function also add to the reading experience.
  10. Kindle for iPhone – There’s a great free app that lets you read your Kindle Books on the go.
  11. WhisperSync – Lets you synchronize your place in a book across your Kindles, iPhones, etc.

So 8 of the Top 11 features of the Kindle translate well to Canada. Perhaps Amazon can keep Kindle prices low and add to that.

Kindle Canada Review – The Cons

The Kindle also has some disadvantages -

  1. It doesn’t have a touchscreen. However, the touchscreen significantly reduces screen readability so it isn’t really a disadvantage. Check my Kindle 2 Vs Sony Reader Touch comparison video to see for yourself.  
  2. It’s rather plain looking and only available in one color.  
  3. It doesn’t support PDF - or to be more precise you have to convert documents yourself or have Amazon convert them for you. 
  4. It doesn’t support ePub.
  5. The Books have DRM – This is a non issue unless you feel very strongly about DRM. 
  6. You cannot share books or resell them. The lower price of Kindle Edition books compensates for this – although prices aren’t always lower than physical book prices.
  7. There is no color screen – this is because eInk technology is still evolving.
  8. Dropping the Kindle usually breaks the screen (except for very small drops) and it costs $180 or more to get a replacement kindle.

The disadvantages are weighed out by the advantages. However, please make sure that a Kindle shortcoming isn’t a deal breaker for you.

 Kindle Canada Review – Comparing with Sony Reader, Short Covers, etc.

The Kindle Vs Sony review post mentioned above is good if you want an in-depth comparison. Note that even with the lack of Free Internet and higher ebook prices the Kindle is better.

After owning both and reading books on both, there’s little doubt the Kindle is the better eReader. My Kindle doesn’t get WhisperNet since it’s not available in Canada yet and I still prefer the Kindle. Sony don’t use touch effectively and the Touch layer reduces readability.

Short Covers don’t have a dedicated eReader – they have apps for the iPhone and for Blackberry. If you have an iPhone try out both Kindle for iPhone and ShortCovers – they’re both free. ShortCovers limits itself by downloading books chapter by chapter which bothers me more than it should.

Whenever the Kindle is available in Canada (or if you can get one up from the US) it’ll be the best eReader available. 

Kindle Canada – the Canuck Experience

It’s been 6 months of using the Kindle in Vancouver and its been a very good experience -

  1. The Kindle ends up leading to a lot more reading.  
  2. That includes spending more on books than you would earlier.  
  3. Lots of people strike up conversations when they see you with a Kindle.
  4. It’s so light and the battery life is so good (remember to keep wireless turned off) you can take it with you everywhere.
  5. You can read one handed (with either hand) and it’s perfect for reading in bed.
  6. Do note that there’s no back-light so you can’t read in the dark unless you get a reading light. 
  7. Some books aren’t available for the Kindle.
  8. Kindle isn’t water resistant – so no beaches, tubs or reading in the rain unless you get a Trendy Design waterproof Kindle Cover.
  9. Remember to get a warranty so you don’t have to worry about dropping it all the time.

It’s got me reading a lot more and it’s become my 2nd favorite gadget after my phone. I would gladly give it a contract as long as Luongo’s. 

If you love to read you need to get a Kindle when it comes out in Canada. It’s the best eReader and Amazon have managed to make a device optimized for reading.

Amazon Kindle Reviews – 2

Feb 10th Update: Go here for my Kindle 2 Review or here to buy Kindle 2. The rest of this post discusses reviews of the original kindle.

There are now over 7,000 Amazon Kindle reviews available and wading through the last 200 reviews (Review #6937 to Review #7136) brought up some interesting patterns and trends (which might very well indicate why Kindle 2 seems to be not much of a redesign). Here’s what I found -

Kindle Pros from Kindle Owners

  1. Portability – The single biggest pro people listed was the convenience of being able to take the kindle (and hundreds of books) anywhere.  64 People listed this as a pro. This includes both people quoting travel advantages, and people who take it with them everywhere they go (like the doctor’s).
  2. Instant Downloads – A close second was the speed of buying and getting books using the 2 minute wireless download. 51 people listed ‘instant’ downloads as a big pro.
  3. Six Font Sizes – The ability to change Font Size was the third biggest advantage mentioned – It was really cool to read about all the people who earlier couldn’t read, or were limited to large print books, and now can read all these books.  35 People.
  4. Space Savings – Next was the space saving the Kindle afforded people – 23 people mentioned this.
  5. Ease of use - A lot of people mentioned how easy it was to use the Kindle, and how they got lost in the experience of reading. 21 People. 
  6. Lower Priced Books – 21 People talked about not having to wait for cheaper paperbacks, and getting books for just $10. 
  7. LightWeight- 19 People mentioned things like being able to read for hours, avoiding arthritic pain, no wrist pain, and other benefits related to the Kindle’s light weight.
  8. Great Screen – A lot of people (19 to be precise) liked being able to read in sunlight, the lack of glare, and how similar to reading a real book it was.
  9. Sample Chapters – 17 People were in love with being able to read a sample chapter before deciding to buy a book.
  10. Free Wireless Internet – 15 People loved being able to surf and use the ‘basic, experimental browser’.
  11. Saving Trees + Environment – There were 13 people who mentioned environmental benefits like saving tress, not having to drive, books not having to be transported. I thought this might be higher.
  12. Battery Life – 11 People listed the great battery life.
  13. Range of Books- Rather surprisingly, given the number of people who complain about the lack of books, there were 11 people who were really happy at the range of books available. To be fair, there were a significant number of people who also listead ‘lack of range’ as a con.
  14. Small Size – 10 People listed the form factor of the Kindle as a Pro.

It was just amazing to see how much people liked the Kindle – a lot of people wrote things that, well, just sound really, really positive -

  1. “best thing since sliced bread” – multiple times.  
  2. “evolution of reading”. 
  3. “a revolution in reading” – multiple times.
  4. “i got so many other people to buy it” – multiple times.
  5. “me and my husband both bought it” and “i bought more kindles as gifts” – lots of times.
  6. “great customer service”

 The single biggest thing I feel after reading these reviews is – Amazon doesn’t really need to change the Kindle. They can very well introduce a textbook version and perhaps a technologically more advanced Kindle 2.0 – However, Kindle 1.0 is good enough to be its own product line for a long, long time (with gradual price reductions as economies of scale kick in).

You can Get a Kindle at Amazon. The cons listed by kindle owners are not deal breakers – and speaking of cons, here’s the list -  

Kindle Cons from Kindle Owners

  1. Button Placement – A whopping 49 people listed faulty button placement as a big irritation. Not just the next page and back buttons, but also the wireless and on/off buttons. A good tip was to cut and stuff a piece of paper under the button and prevent it from getting pressed.
  2. Screen Light- 18 people wanted a back-light or side light of some sort. Edit: We know eInk doesn’t allow back-lights. So let’s interpret it as a lack of a sidelight. 
  3. Cover Issues - 16 people ran into problems with the Kindle falling out of its cover. The fix here is to use a piece of velcro to fasten the Kindle to its cover.  
  4. Missing the Touch and Feel of Books - 10 people missed the feeling of reading a book – the touch, the smell, and so forth. One thing that was really interesting (and a few people even mentioned it outright) was that very few people missed the look of a page – people were getting lost in reading, and talking about how great the screen was, and that it was just like a book.
  5. Limited Book Selection - There were 9 people who complained about not finding Kindle Editions of books they wanted.
  6. Screen Freezing- 7 people had complaints about the Kindle’s screen occasionally freezing up.

There was a second set of cons that all had 4-6 people writing about them. I was surprised to see how few people had these complaints - not to mention how rare mentions of lack of PDF and ePub support were.  Things mentioned occasionally included -

  1. Lack of Image Support.  
  2. Sony Reader looks better.
  3. Lack of Colors.  
  4. Lack of a color screen.
  5. Lack of worldwide support. 
  6. Expensive – To be fair, there were a lot of people who listed that the price was expensive but worth it. However, there were just 4 people who listed it as being expensive for what it was.  
  7. Can’t share books – 3 People.
  8. Amazon not replacing Kindles for free. Some people had to pay $180 for a replacement kindle.

Another telling sign was that there were just a few overall negative reviews – out of 200 reviews, less than 10 (and more like 5) were owners who had an overall negative opinion. On the other hand, at least 10 people who didn’t own a Kindle had given it a bad review.

Like I mentioned earlier, the reviews seem to indicate the Kindle 1.0 can stand on its own, and doesn’t really need a Kindle 2 to replace it. Button Placement and Cover Issues are 2 of the top 3 customer complaints. These and the reading light issue are easily fixed without needing a huge redesign.

Seriously – If you’ve released a new, revolutionary product and service, and the 3 biggest issues your customers have with your product are – button placement, lack of a sidelight, and poor quality cover – that’s a quality problem to have. Kindle 2 could very well just address these usability issues and throw in some software improvements and customers would continue to be delighted. The Kindle really doesn’t have any competitors at the moment (except perhaps, their own supply chain).

Amazon Kindle Review + Recommendation – The Kindle Decision aka the $359 Question

Should You Buy a Kindle?
I’m collating everything I’ve read and realized in the process of researching the Kindle for this blog and answering the ‘Should I buy a Kindle’ question via the following sections -

  1. I start off by listing the categories of people for which the decision is a no-brainer.
  2. After that I list the main functionality and additional functionalities.
  3. I list the major pros that Actual Kindle Owners have listed.
  4. I then list the major cons from Kindle owners and critics (i.e. people who’ve never owned a Kindle and have strong opinions) alike. For the cons I have included an explanation of whether it really is a con or not since there seems to be a ton of misinformation on the internet.

Note: I have collated details and information from all sorts of reviews (owners; non-owners; amazon customers; journalists) – if you do want to look at reviews yourself there is an excruciatingly painful level of detail on the Should I Buy a Kindle? page or you could use the link on the left to jump to Reviews at Amazon and go through the 1700+ reviews there.

Category of People for which its a definite YES:

  1. Anyone who reads a lot of books i.e. 1 book a week or more
  2. Anyone who reads a lot while commuting and/or travelling i.e. more than 1 business trip a month OR a commute time of greater than 1 hr a day on a train/bus/tube.
  3. Someone who is looking specifically for an ereader that adds on a TON of bonuses like free internet access.

    There might be a few categories i’m missing here and will add these as more come up. If you fall into one of the above three categories, you can rest assured that like the overwhelming majority of Kindle owners you will love it – Go Ahead and Buy the Kindle at Amazon.

Category of People for which its a definite NO:

  1. People who want a laptop, UPMC, iTouch, cellphone or some other device and don’t really want an ebook reader.
  2. People who are hung up over DRM – authors deserve to get money for what they write – sending a book out without DRM would severely cut authors’ and publishers’ revenue streams. The music album download that radiohead set up where they let users decide on how much users wanted to pay is a good example since a lot of people did not pay even 1 cent for the album. If an author writes a good or great book, its completely reasonable for him to expect to get paid. DRM might not be the most elegant solution – however, its a necessary evil. Until someone finds a better solution DRM is the only way authors can get what they deserve.
  3. People who are NOT looking for an ebook reader. A lot of Kindle haters are people who don’t even read much and are attacking it for something other than its core functionality i.e. it being an ebook reader. You can read books on your cellphone, your PDA, your Asus EeePC and your laptop. So if you only have a passing interest in books and just want to ‘try out’ reading on a device, then use a device you have and don’t buy a Kindle.

A Quick Synopsis of Functionality, Pros, and Cons

  1. The Main Function – A book reader. That’s it. If you read a lot of books, especially on the go and want an elegant eReader then the Kindle is a Great Fit.
  2. Additional Functions (listing the main ones)
    1. [Experimental] GPS Device with Google Maps
    2. Wireless Internet Access with Experimental Browser
    3. Music Player [Random Shuffle of Songs] 
    4. Audio Books
    5. [Experimental with no Colour] Picture Viewer 
    6. Amazon Kindle Store for Books 
    7. NewsPapers and Magazines
  3. Big Pluses
    1. The overwhelming majority of People who own it, love it.
    2. eInk screen looks much closer to a book than any electronic device screen (except of course for other devices that use eInk)
    3. Easier on the eyes + can also change font sizes
    4. Free Ebooks – insane collection of books from all eras.
    5. Over 100,000 eBooks from the amazon Kindle Store
    6. Amazon store all the time
    7. Newspaper and Magazine subscriptions
    8. Blogs (my recommendation is to use the browser and not use the 1$ a month subscription service)
    9. Free Wireless Access – Wikipedia + Internet browsing + being on EVDO means you aren’t just restricted to WiFi hotspots.
    10. Kindle NowNow – instant answers from real people
    11. Dictionary
    12. Up to 6 Kindles on one account. So a family can share their books. Or a group of friends. Or a group of classmates
    13. Easy to shop and books get downloaded in 1-2 minutes
    14. Easy to travel and move.
    15. Access to all your books easily.
    16. Save paper = save trees.
    17. Can make notes on the Kindle
    18. Transport all your reading material in the Kindle.  
    19. Built in capacity for 200 books.
      1.  SD card to add capacity
      2. Newspapers
      3. Magazines
      4. Blogs
    20. Extensions 
      1.  MineSweeper
      2. Convert from formats like PDF to view on your Kindle
  4. Big Drawbacks
    1. Price is steep (at $400).
    2. Not a Colour Monitor
    3. The backbutton gets pressed inadvertently
    4. Delivery Time wait – approximately 6 weeks when i last did a study.
    5. Problems with the Cover – Velcro solution (flicker picture) – there is a solution.
    6. Aesthetics – This is a very individual thing.
      1. Don’t like it’s only in white
      2. Button design (already mentioned back button problem)
    7. Limited number of papers and magazines
    8. Limited number of books (at 100K books now – so check what you like + whether it’s available + have close to 75% of bestsellers)
    9. $1 for blog subscription – solution: just read off the browser
    10. Only in the US + no coverage in montana and alaska. – Do check coverage BEFORE you order. important.
    11. Lack of support for common file formats – solution: MobiPocket Creator.
    12. How do you lend books to friends? Personally, i’ve lost too many good books. and at 10$ a book – let ‘em buy it. or share an account amongst friends.
    13. Prospect of free wireless internet later being removed. Highly unlikely cause of the public outcry and i’m sure there are legal issues here.

Conclusion

If you read a lot of books, travel or commute regularly, or one of the main pros makes the Kindle a winner for you, then Go Ahead and Buy the Kindle at Amazon. It is easily the best eBook Reader solution available (and i include all the additional things it brings to the table).

Additionally, if some information on this blog or this post helped you make a decison – that makes me feel my time is well spent.

If you need to look at more facts or more of an in-depth discussion try this page – Should I Buy a Kindle?

If on the other hand, you are looking for something other than an ebook reader, then please take into acount that the Kindle’s main functionality is ‘eBook Reader’ and expecting it to be a cellphone, mini computer, ultra portable laptop, etc. will lead to disappointment.
Finally, if you have one or two main reasons that are dissuading you from buying a kindle, please add them as a comment so we can submit it to Amazon as ‘Suggestions’ for Kindle Version 2.0.

And thank you for surviving this far ;)
A much more detailed list of Kindle extensions, pros, cons, reviews etc. is available at the Should I Buy a Kindle? page.

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