Kindle 2 Review – Impact on Reading

Now that I’ve had my Kindle 2 for 3 weeks, it’s interesting to do a quick review of its impact on my reading habits.

Books Read on Kindle 2

  1. Talent is Overrated (paid)
  2. Outliers (paid)
  3. Assassin’s Apprentice (free)
  4. Royal Assassin (paid)
  5. Assassin’s Quest (paid)
  6. His Majesty’s Dragon (free)

Books Currently Reading on Kindle 2

  1. Bit Literacy (nearly half done).
  2. Fool’s Errand 
  3. Throne of Jade 

After this, are 2 Personal MBA books – Indispensable and Ultimate Sales Machine.

Kindle 2 Purchase History

  1. Books Bought – 12. $108.61 worth of purchases.
  2. Paid Books Read – 4. 
  3. Free Books Downloaded – 6. Also, 1 for $1.
  4. Free Books Read – 2.
  5. Books currently Reading – 3 (all are paid books).
  6. Utilities etc. purchased – 8. However, these were to get an idea of what’s possible with calendars and planners and not a recurring purchase.

Periodicals don’t really apply since Canada doesn’t have access.

Kindle 2 Related Stuff

  1. Kindle Calendar – created, tested, and put up. 5 hrs or so. You can get it for free at the Kindle 3 Labs page.
  2. Weekly Kindle Planner  - created, tested, and put up. 5 hrs or so. Also free at the above link.
  3. Tried unsuccessfully to get a crossword and couldn’t come up with a good journal.

Other Types of Reading

The lack of periodicals access in Canada means this is  nothing. Normally it’d be 1 newspaper and 1-2 magazines.

Impact on Amazon’s Kindle Revenue Stream.

A lot of people have been wondering why something like Savory that opens up the Kindle 2 to other ebook sellers is a threat to Amazon. It’s because in 3 weeks Amazon has gotten $108.61 worth of purchases from 1 Kindle 2 owner. And me reading 2 books every week means at least $15-$20 every single week in revenue.  That’s $750 to $1040 of revenue every single year.

Every single projection model assumes 1 book purchased a month. However, people read much more when they own a Kindle/Kindle 2, and they buy most of their books from Amazon.

Based on my experience the actual model should be -

  1. 20% of readers buying 10 or more books a month. 
  2. 30% of readers buying 6 books a month.  
  3. 30% of readers buying 3 books a month.
  4. 20% of readers buying 1 book a month.

Averaging it out to 6 books a month, and an average price of $9, that’s $54 a month per Kindle owner. That’s $648 per year in revenue per Kindle owner. Even if you take the Steve Jobs ‘people don’t read books’ opinion and cut it in half that’s $324 per year.

Kindle edition books are becoming a huge revenue stream for Amazon. For me, deciding to do the Personal MBA program means at least 30 more Kindle Edition purchases this year – a minimum of $300 of revenue for Amazon. Add on reading for pleasure and other books and $700+ in Kindle Edition purchases isn’t far fetched.

Kindle 2, Kindle, and when it comes out, Kindle Textbook Edition, are gold mines for Amazon. Not the device itself – the books and content that people buy.

Review of Kindle 2 with Video

It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days since I got my Kindle 2 and after reading through 4 full books I absolutely LOVE IT!   Here’s a comprehensive Kindle 2 review and a kindle 2 video review. 

It’ll help you get a very good idea of whether you ought to buy a Kindle  2 and the videos show the screen very well.

Kindle 2 Review – What It Looks Like

The Kindle 2 is a good looking device -

  1. The white color looks a bit plain – however, it makes it easy for the Kindle 2 to fade into the background and the book you’re reading to take center-stage.
  2. Kindle 2 is very, very thin.
  3. The keyboard is tiny – tiny buttons, tiny lettering.
  4. The Next Page and Prev Page buttons have been modified so there are no longer accidental page-turns.
  5. The back is now polished metal – however, the battery is non-replaceable.

Here’s a video of what the Kindle 2 looks like –

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Kindle 2 -  What the Screen Looks Like

A lot of discussions have focused on the Screen and my thoughts are -

  1. Its very readable.  
  2. The background is very light grey and not white, and the text is dark grey and not black.
  3. If you have eye problems and need high contrast black on white – it won’t work. If your eye-sight issues are related to font size it works very well. 
  4. The six font sizes make for a great feature and allow even people with low eye-sight to read.

Here’s a video showing the contrast and comparing it with a paperback and a hardcover book –

. There’s a video showing font sizes below.

What Reading a Book on the Kindle 2 is like

Reading a book on Kindle 2 is -

  1. Very enjoyable. I find it a bit faster than reading an actual book.  
  2. Much, much more enjoyable than reading on a computer screen.  
  3. Does not tire your eyes.
  4. The 6″ screen size is a little smaller than ideal – 8″ or 9″ would work much better. One out of Kindle 3 and KindleText is going to have a 9.7′ screen.
  5. The ability to change font sizes makes things very enjoyable.
  6. Read To Me is a good feature. Do note that now its up to publishers on whether to allow the feature or not. 
  7. Kindle 2 fades into the background.
  8. Page refreshes are relatively quick.

Kindle 2 Review – My 10 Favorite Features 

  1. Ability to buy books instantly.
  2. Light weight and thin Kindle 2 is convenient to carry around and hold in your hand. Also, reading with one hand is easy.  
  3. Changeable Font Sizes.  
  4. Using Read To Me Text To Speech feature to let the Kindle 2 read to me.  
  5. Battery life – it goes on forever, especially if you turn off the wireless. 
  6. Free Internet Access and Free Wikipedia Access (not in Canada though so I’m missing this).
  7. It fades into the background.  
  8. I’m reading much more – In 2 weeks I’ve read 4 full books and snippets of a  lot of other books.  
  9. Most books’ Kindle Editions are cheaper than print editions. I don’t buy any Kindle books over $9.99.
  10. 16 levels of grey-scale makes for much clearer pictures.

Here’s a video of changeable Font Sizes –

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Kindle 2 – Good Features

  1. 86% of Kindle 2 owners love it - check my post on Kindle 2 Reviews from actual owners.
  2. Whispernet coverage is extended to more areas, and you can buy books instantly over WhisperNet.  
  3. WhisperSync which lets you read across different devices.  
  4. Kindle for iPhone App to let you read on your iPhone or iTouch.
  5. 2 GB Internal storage. 
  6. Saves Trees.
  7. MP3 songs can be played in the background.
  8. Powers from USB cable in addition to charger. So you can charge it from your PC or laptop.

Kindle 2 – Things I Wish Get Improved in Kindle 3.

This is not a wish-list for Kindle 3. Its just things that need to be improved based on my Kindle 2 review experience -

  1. A better keyboard – the keys are tiny and difficult to read and press.
  2. Improved navigation – the 5 way controller is useful. However, its slow and a touchscreen or better navigation is desperately needed.
  3. Folders – The ability to organize content into folders.
  4. SD Card slot to let you add more storage.
  5. Ability to work well with non-linear content i.e. newspapers, web pages, etc.

Kindle 2 – Software/Firmware Updates that ought to be done.

  1. Improve screen contrast by letting people choose ‘Read in Bold’ option, and also turn off anti-aliasing for the 2 smallest sized fonts.  
  2. Allow 3rd party applications.  
  3. Put in support for Folders.

Should You Buy a Kindle 2?

Based on the 2 weeks of owning and using a Kindle 2, you should definitely buy a Kindle 2 if you fall into one of these categories -

  1. Love to read books.  
  2. Travel a lot.  
  3. Commute to work everyday with a longer than 30 minutes trip.
  4. Want to read more books than you currently do.  BTW, it makes a great gift if you want to encourage kids to read more.  
  5. Are running out of space for books or are tired of moving with lots of books.

The Read To Me feature also makes it great for when you’re driving. However, it’s now up to Publishers to enable or disable this feature for their books and they might turn it off.

You can see a whole bunch of Kindle 2 Videos and video reviews of features at the Kindle 2 Video Page. Since Kindle 2 isn’t available at any store this is a good way to figure out what you’ll be getting.

You can find a longer list of Pros and Cons, and additional data like Comparisons with Kindle 1 at my detailed Kindle 2 Review post.

Kindle 2 Technical Specifications

And finally, the technical specifications -

Display: 6″ diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″.

Weight: 10.2 ounces.

System requirements: None, because it doesn’t require a computer.

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: EVDOmodem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network (check wireless coverage). See Wireless Terms and Conditions.

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery. Book cover sold separately.

Documentation: Quick Start Guide(included in box) [PDF]; Kindle 2 User’s Guide(pre-installed on device) [PDF].

Warranty and Service: 1 year limited warranty and service included. Optional 2 year Extended Warrantysold separately.

I hope the Kindle 2 Review helped you and congrats on reaching the end ;) .

How not to write a letter

Via TeleRead, here’s an excerpt of a letter that a collation of 9 disability organizations sent to publishers regarding Text To Speech (the highlights are mine) -

We are even more appalled to learn that Amazon, under pressure, would henceforth allow publishers and authors at their whim to withdraw mainstream access to electronic books for those requiring aural access.  This seems especially ironic in the wake of the proposed Google-AAP settlement, which guarantees mainstream access (including persons with disabilities) to all copyrighted books that are not currently offered for sale.  We are saddened to see that Random House has now instructed that text-to-speech be disabled for all devices that read electronic books.  For a terribly long time those with print disabilities have been consigned to alternative formats with limited choices on expensive special purpose machines.  Now that the opportunity for mainstream access to books on equal terms is possible, this community will not allow publishers and authors to deny them the right to read.

Let me be very clear that I am totally in favor of accessibility. It’s just that this letter completely misses the point -

  1. Its really not fair to blame Amazon, especially given that they built the Text To Speech feature and that they’re making the Kindle 2′s navigation accessible. Amazon aren’t allowing anything – they have to honor audio-book rights, and can’t be expected to get into a huge legal battle for the feature. 
  2. No idea why you would hold up Google as an example. Let me get this straight – Amazon has made a great reading device with great selection of books and text to speech. Plus they’re adding navigation accessibility and you’re chiding them and giving them the example of a company that has an ‘agreement’ that isn’t even court approved that MIGHT lead to accessible books.
  3. That last sentence in the excerpt gets it wrong. Publishers and authors have copyright over their works and they don’t need you to allow them anything.

This letter from the collation of nine disability organizations totally misses the concept of win-win. Here are a few points they should consider -

  1. Publishers are not going to allow Text To Speech rights until you show them what’s in it for them. Or take them to court. The former will obviously work better than the latter, and quicker.  
  2. By attacking Amazon you’re showing people what happens to companies that actually do something to help you.

The Kindle 2 is a great, great opportunity for low vision and blind people and it’d be beautiful to see lots more people being able to read again. However, there’s no place for a sense of entitlement and the lack of appreciation for what Amazon is doing disappoints me.

Kindle 2 Screen Contrast – Light Text, Dark Background & Solutions

There are a lot of complaints coming in that the Kindle 2′s screen isn’t as good as Kindle 1 and the contrast is poor. This was also a major point of feedback from actual Kindle 2 owner reviews. I suspect something like 5% of Kindle 2 owners are finding that the screen contrast is too low to read comfortably.

Users who have this problem claim two parts -

  1. The background is a darker shade of gray than Kindle 1.
  2. The text is not black, and is actually darkish grey.

Here’s a video to help you understand why they might have issues –

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For them, the combination of these two factors results in less contrast and lower readability. This issue might also affect low vision people.

Workarounds for the Screen Contrast Problem

Before we jump into actual solutions, there are 2 quick workarounds worth considering -

  1. Change the line-spacing and amount of lines per page using Shift+Alt+1-9. Remember to hold down Shift and Alt buttons and then press one of the number keys (1 or 2 or any number up to 9) to change line spacing. This ought to help at least some people.
  2. Another workaround that should help people is from ‘Nobody’ at amazon kindle forums -

    Use a cool colored light bulb (full spectrum light, not a warmer color) when reading. 

Real Solutions for Kindle 2 Light Text Problem

There are actually two quick, easy and effective solutions for this that Amazon needs to look into and implement via Kindle 2 firmware updates. Even better, these solutions will add on to each other, thereby making the Kindle 2 screen readability much, much better.

Both of these solutions and all images (used under permission) are courtesy Ted-San and additional information is available at the Kindle2UI page.

Kindle 2 Screen Contrast Solution 1 – Bolded Text Mode.

Solution: Let Kindle 2 owners opt to read Kindle 2 books and documents in ‘bold’ mode.
How Solution can be delivered: This is doable via a firmware update.
Estimated Effort: Low to Medium.
Example of the Solution’s Impact: You can already see the difference in blog posts etc. that use bolded text. Again from the Kindle 2 UI page, here is an image showing the difference –   

Difference that Bold makes

Difference that Bold makes

Here’s a video which shows (to some extent) how bolding looks better -

.

 This is a pretty effective solution, and it stacks on top of the other solution -

Kindle 2 Screen Contrast Solution 2 – Turn Off Anti-Aliasing for Font Sizes 1 & 2.

Solution: Stop using anti-aliasing for Font Size 1 and 2.
How Solution can be delivered: Via a firmware update.
Estimated Effort: Medium.  
Example of Solution’s Impact: Ted-San actually says that Kindle 2′s fonts would be superb (better than Adope Photoshop) if Amazon stopped using anti-aliasing for smaller fonts. His image pretty much sums it up -

Kindle 2 Font Size 1 - How to fix the contrast issue

  1. Kindle 2 Font Size 1 – How to fix the contrast issue

The image for Font Size 2 on the Kindle 2 is -

Kindle 2 Font 2 Anti-aliasing impact

Kindle 2 Font 2 Anti-aliasing impact

And finally, you can see the impact of anti-aliasing as we hit Font Size 3 on the Kindle 2 -

Kindle 2 Font Size 3 Anti-Aliasing Impact

Kindle 2 Font Size 3 Anti-Aliasing Impact

This image shows exactly why Amazon put in anti-aliasing. In a way this is the Law of Unintended Consequences. In trying to make fonts smoother and easier to read, Amazon messed up the readability for a portion of users (5% perhaps) at font Size 1 and 2.

My Unsolicited Recommendation to Amazon

Over-deliver! Let users have both options -

  1. Make readability better by choosing ‘Read Books in Bold  Font’.
  2. Make readability better by choosing ‘Turn off Anti-Aliasing”, and perhaps even make non-aliasing default for Font 1 and Font 2.

Also, long term – try to figure out a solution to get an actual white or nearly white background to get even better readability and contrast. I suspect this one will be a much tougher solution and might not even be possible. Delivering the two solutions mentioned before, however, would make this almost unnecessary.

People are returning Kindle 2s and threatening to. Other people are holding back from buying Kindle 2s. More importantly, even though only 5% or so of Kindle 2 owners are facing this issue, it’s the right thing to do. And the solution makes things better for ALL Kindle 2 owners. So I do feel Amazon will deliver a solution soon.

Kindle for iPhone is going to boost Kindle 2 sales

There are four big underlying reasons why a non-insignificant number of Kindle for iPhone users will end up buying Kindle 2, Kindle 3 or the Kindle Textbook Edition  -

  1. Awareness of the Kindle + the Realization that something better than reading on iPhone exists.  
  2. Commitment and Consistency (as Cialdini would say) – A user of the Kindle for iPhone app will begin to consider himself part of the Kindle family. 
  3. Lock-In – All books you buy for your Kindle iPhone app only work with Kindle 1, Kindle 2 and Kindle 3.
  4. Value-Add – Any Kindle 2 owner now can read across their Kindle 2, their iPhone and soon across other devices.

Here are some more in-depth explanations - 

Realization that something better than reading on the iPhone exists.

The biggest reason that Kindle for iPhone App is going to boost Kindle 2, Kindle 3 sales is that a lot of people using the app will be exposed to what the Kindle 2 is and be able to see how much better it is for reading.

Here’s a snippet from the Apple Blog -

Reading is nice but a little cramped on the iPhone. Honestly, I found myself wishing I had a bigger screen, maybe something just like a Kindle 2 device — which is probably exactly what Amazon wanted me to feel.

And one of the comments (from Jim) only highlights this point  -

 Funny how last week I was totally OK with just reading on the iPhone (Stanza) – now I’d much rather read on the Kindle.

This is just a day in. If I were Amazon I’d take a bundle of all the Kindle specific offers they’ve had for free recently published books, and bundle them in with the Kindle for iPhone app – a collection of 20-100 good free books that no other iPhone eReader can offer.

Kindle for iPhone

Kindle for iPhone

Commitment to Kindle and Consistency with being an Amazon Kindle customer

Cialdini talked about this principle of Commitment and Consistency as one of the 6 core principles of Influence. Its the reason why grocery stores want you to get membership cards and stores want you to get store specific credit cards.

All things being equal, a Kindle for iPhone user is going to pick a Kindle 2 when choosing an eBook Reader. Even if All things are not quite equal, he’s still going to pick the Kindle 2 when choosing what eReader to upgrade to.

Lock-In to the Kindle and the Kindle Store

This is where, from a company standpoint, having a proprietary format is a blessing. Any purchases Kindle for iPhone customers make will be in .azw format and the only eReader that gets .azw is Kindle (1, 2, and 3). There’s automatic lock-in.

There are also other forms of lock-in like

  1. Signing up for an Amazon account, and getting used to making purchases from Kindle store.
  2. Getting used to a lot of the features and functionality of the Kindle for iPhone app (which are very similar to Kindle 2).

The lock-in makes leaving Kindle for iPhone App for a non-Kindle eReader a costly move. You lose your books and you lose your comfort zone.

Value-Add for Kindle 2 owners AKA The Power of WhisperSync

This becomes the Kindle 2′s strong-suit – being able to read Kindle Edition books across devices, and the devices syncing together. Its already impressive, and soon they will add in support for Blackberries, other smart-phones, netbooks, and hopefully (though it might not happen) normal PCs.  

At that point, the WhisperSync feature is going to become a huge competitive advantage over other eReaders and a significant barrier to entry for new eReaders.

Closing Thoughts

Kindle 2 owners just got a nice bonus with the Kindle for iPhone App. The iPhone just got a top competitor for the title of ‘Best iPhone Reading App’. And Amazon put an end to all the ‘iPhone is going to kill the Kindle’ stories. A pretty good day overall.  

I do feel that the Kindle for iPhone app is going to result in a lot of new Kindle 2 owners. As Kindles evolve and become better and better, more and more Kindle for iPhone users will switch to becoming actual Kindle device owners.

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