Author Topic: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review  (Read 15231 times)  

Offline Melkor

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Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« on: July 23, 2009, 10:19:13 AM »
Hi,

First time poster here, though Ive been lurking awhile. I registered today, specifically to post my review of the Kindle 2. I purchased it a few months ago--it was my first Kindle, I never owned the Kindle 1--and though I loved it for awhile I eventually fell out of love with it. In all the Kindle reviews Ive read, on this board and in many other places, it seems to me that my specific concerns havent really been discussed. As a rule almost every Kindle review is glowing. So I thought Id post my own review, from the perspective of a first time e-book reader who didnt quite know what he was getting himself into, but more importantly, from the perspective of someone who has owned the Kindle 2 for months now and really given it a lot of use and lived with it awhile. Professional reviewers have reviewed it after having it for a few days but the Kindle 2s flaws, for me, didnt really become apparent--or at least too obvious to ignore--until Id had it for a few months.

First, the pros. I always had a sort of obsessive-compulsiveness about books--Im one of those people who likes them to look nice on my shelf. I hate pages bent back, I hate covers that are torn. Consequently I usually opted for hardcovers over paperbacks because they can stand up to some wear and tear. Id take the dustjackets off when I read them and that way they stayed perfect. Unfortunately they were also very expensive, and not all books were easy to find in hardcover. The great thing about the Kindle was that it freed me from this mindset. I was able to get away from the idea of books as collectible objects and back to the idea of books as collections of words that told stories. The prices were nice too--as a rule books cost no more than $9.99 (and I refused to buy any e-book that cost more) and there were plenty of public domain titles that were either free or ridiculously cheap. The Kindles built in dictionary is wonderful, I love how you can simply scroll down to a word and the definition pops up. The search function is useful (though the drawback is we have to accept that damned keyboard--more on that in the cons section.) The e-ink display is readably clear and I like the variable text sizes. The screen is readable even in the sun. (I never had the problem with fade that some people on these boards talk about.) But the best thing about the Kindle, for me, is the way it felt in my hand. Its light and you can read with one hand. I can hold the Kindle in one hand and press the next page button with my thumb. Not having to use two hands to read is incredibly useful when you read a lot on trains like I do. The Kindle is easier and more comfortable to hold than any book, whether paperback or hardcover, for the simple reason that you dont have to hold it open to your page: its always open to your page.

These are all good things, great things in fact. But the cons, for me, outweigh the pros by far, and Ive gone back to reading paper books.

The first negative I noticed about the Kindle was the selection of available books. Amazon had plenty of books I wanted available for the Kindle but there are plenty more missing, and its frustrating. Fatherland by Tom Harris? Nope. Anything by Ray Bradbury? Nope. I am Legend? Nope. How about Stephen King. Lots of his stuff available, but wheres Danse Macabre? Pet Sematary? The Dead Zone? Eyes of the Dragon? How about Robert B. Parker, Jim Thompson? A few books but most of what theyve written is unavailable. The Kindle doesnt do well with books that are part of a series, inevitably they arent all available. Roughly half the time I hear about a book I think I might want I check and its not available for the Kindle. Thats annoying.

And how about formatting? There are a good number of books available for the Kindle that Id like to read, but not in the slapdash form the Kindle presents them in. A lot of those are public domain books, but a fair number are books Amazon charges good money for. The Douglas Adams books after Hitchhikers Guide are a mess (and of course Amazon doesnt have his Dirk Gently novels available for the Kindle.) Some books seem to have paragraph breaks so large that it almost looks like youre reading maybe four sentences per page. Amber Bensons Deaths Daughter has this problem. There are enough formatting errors in even well-formatted Kindle books that every time I read a book on the Kindle lately I wonder if Im not encountering errors Im missing. I find myself wondering if the books are an accurate representation of what the authors wrote. How would we know?

Next up, lets talk aesthetics. One huge problem for me, a problem I didnt notice until it crept up on me after a few months, is that, damn it, books arent just collections of words. Theres an aesthetic aspect to them too. They come with covers. Sometimes theyre very nice covers, and I miss being able to see those covers. On the Kindle you either get no image for the cover or a grainy lousy black and white image, and the first time I walked back into a bookstore a couple weeks ago and bought a real paperback book with a nice colorful cover (Stephen Kings Carrie, and it had a great cover) I felt like I had come home again. I miss seeing covers. I also miss illustrations and the less said about the Kindles versions of illustrations the better.

But the aesthetics of the device itself are more worrisome, and now weve come to the big problems. First up, that keyboard. The buttons are too small to be much good to any man with even average sized hands, but a much worse problem is the wasted space. The Kindle is about eight inches tall but the readable display isnt even five inches. Every time I look at that keyboard, the keyboard that shouldnt be there at all, all I can think of is the wasted space. Amazon claims the Kindle is the size of a paperback book--and it is. But the readable display isnt anywhere close. Every time I read a page on a Kindle Im really reading a half page and the small screen is just annoying and the keyboard is just wasted space. Im not a fan of the color of the Kindle either, because that drab white makes the screen look darker than it should in comparison, a dull gray color that becomes just disheartening to look at after awhile. The Kindle should have been available in a matte black color so the screen could seem brighter, and Im convinced that would also take care of a lot of peoples issues with readability. A big part of the reason I went back to paperbacks is that I just got tired of the drab, cloudy grayness of the Kindles screen. It actually became depressing. And god forbid you ever drop the thing. It cost $359 (okay, $299 now) and thats a nice chunk of change. If you drop a real book, nothing happens. If you drop the Kindle--and everyone is going to drop it at some point--you risk cracking the screen and now your $300 investment is damaged. Ive dropped mine twice from about three or four feet. Im not clumsy by any means. The second time I dropped it, I noticed a tiny ding in the glass screen; it looks like a stray dot of e-ink. My Kindle was in the Amazon cover but its not like Ill be able to guarantee I never ever drop it again as long as I live. Im starting to think I dont want to constantly be risking a total $390 investment (with the cover) as Im being jostled around on the trains. Drop a paperback? No problem.

There are a few technical issues that had me tearing my hair out as well. First, no folders. The Kindle is supposed to be able to hold something like 1500 books--and were supposed to organize them how, exactly? How on earth does Amazon expect us to make do with alphabetical order by title or author when were talking hundreds of books? Its ridiculous. And speaking of aesthetics, it never failed to annoy me when I saw the titles of all my books listed on the home screen--cut off. If the title was too long for the screen--and it almost always was, there just isnt enough room--then instead of wrapping and taking up two lines, it just cuts off. It looks slapdash and annoying. And how about the inability to ever delete anything? Any book you delete ends up in your archived items. But I wanted to use the archived items folder to hold the books Ive already finished, so I can keep track of what I still had yet to read. I wanted to be able to actually delete the books I dont want, especially those wretched-looking public domain books with the lousy haphazard formatting. Nope. No option. Why? Its like a Windows computer with a Recycle Bin youre never allowed to empty. It makes no sense and its yet another annoyance. Not being able to add custom screensavers without a hack is annoying, as is the threat that your Kindle wont be able to process updates while the hack is on the system. Replacement battery cost is expensive, and if your Kindle is always on that means your battery drains even when youre not reading it. (Theres a myth out there that in sleep mode the battery isnt used. Thats false, Ive tested it. I havent used my kindle in a few weeks, and I had a half full battery last time I used it. I picked it up a couple of days ago and the battery was completely drained. Sleep mode burns the battery slower, but it still burns the battery.) Its possible to turn the thing off, thankfully, but good luck finding out about that in the documentation. I found no reference whatsoever to the fact that the Kindle can be turned off, anywhere in the documentation. I only found out about it at all from customer service. Its almost as if Amazon doesnt want us switching them off.

Finally theres the philosophy of e-books. I didnt know about DRM before I purchased the Kindle, and I have to admit that it annoys me no end when I think about how I dont actually own any of these books Ive purchased. All my money has bought me is a license to read them. I cant trade them, cant sell them, and Amazon can steal them right back whenever they want (the 1984 debacle.) Sure, theyve said they wont do it again. But they still have the capability of doing it.

At the end of the day though, the main reason Ive abandoned the Kindle--and I have abandoned it, Ive purchased a whole bunch of paperbacks the past couple weeks and I love them--is that it just became a drag to use. I like how it feels in my hands and I like reading one-handed. I like the dictionary. But the screen is just too small, and its drab lack of color and the softness of its dull gray display just got too depressing to look at after awhile. I missed book covers and crisp white pages. Add in all the other issues, technical and aesthetic, as well as the continued lack of selection, especially in books that are part of a series, and Im afraid Im done with the Kindle. Someday when e-book readers have nice big crisp color displays and the selection of books is the equal of whats in the bookstores and the formatting issues are gone, maybe Ill come back. But theres no e-reader out there right now that can provide what Im looking for. Maybe in five years.

--Mark 

Offline gary sullivan

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2009, 10:25:51 AM »
Um.. But.. But.. Uhh.... Oh Yeah!?
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Offline Jesslyn

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2009, 10:33:54 AM »
I honestly have to say yours is the best Kindle review that I have read so far.  Its obvious that you're a 'reader', not a reviewer and although I will be sticking to my Kindle 2 (I love it), I wholeheartedly agree with most everything you've said.  I never encountered the 'gray screen' thing, because as soon as they were available, I got a skin.

In my attempt to help Amazon  :P get all books Kindled, I've pestered authors, written publishers, publicly Tweeted, etc.  Most of the ones that I originally requested early last year are available (note that I count non-Amazon ebook availability), but sadly, many of the books in my classics list are not, plus as books are released the list keeps getting bigger.

Happy Reading and thank you for the review.

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Offline Forster

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2009, 10:47:26 AM »
Very nicely written review and I fully understand some of the issues you (and other's) don't like about the kindle.  Fortunately for me the issues are not nearly as important for me and the positives far outweigh the shortfalls and I couldn't read a DTB if the e~version was available. 

I also think for you, your 5-year window to try it again is probably very realistic as I do see huge changes/improvements in both availability of books and e-reader technology in this time frame.
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Offline ak rain

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2009, 10:47:50 AM »
it is people like you that will drive the industry to make a better product and that will improve all our devices. In that it is not good enough for you that is a your decision and that is OK. there are new and hopefully better ereaders coming out each year and more ebooks everyday.
I am enjoying my kindle but it may not be for everyone.
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Offline KimmyA

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2009, 10:49:55 AM »
I'm sorry you weren't happy with it but I appreciate you taking the time to leave a well thought out review. Enjoy your paper books!!  :)

Offline wmgordon

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2009, 10:57:44 AM »
Great review! You put a lot of thought into it.
I have experienced many of the negatives you mentioned, but for me the positives are much greater. The Kindle DX is the fourth eBook reader I have owned. I read few hundred eBooks on my old monochrome Palm. I was lucky I didnt go blind. Then I bought a color Palm and read a several hundred more. Then I bought the Sony eBook reader when it first came out and read even more books on it. I got my Kindle DX the day after it came out and it is by far the best eBook reader yet.
I read a lot of public domain books that I download from the internet. I am currently reading the book Historical Doubts Relative To Napoleon Buonaparte by philosopher Richard Whately. Whatelys book is a satirical refutation of David Humes arguments against the possibility of miracles.  The book was first published in 1819. To my knowledge it has not been available in printed format for many years. My Kindle allows me to sit comfortably in my favorite chair and read the book.

Offline pidgeon92

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2009, 11:12:12 AM »
Melkor,

Your sentiments have been expressed many times in lots of places, particularly in the reviews on the Amazon Kindle product page. You're not going to find a lot of people agreeing with you here since this is a fan board, and we come here to discuss how much we love the Kindle vs. lamenting its shortcomings (though there is some of that, too.)
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Offline Anju No. 469

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2009, 11:26:23 AM »
Mark - you have made some viable comments, and I cannot disagree with any.  However, I am not disenchanted with my kindle1 and will continue to read it over the paper books.  The kindle is just not for you, it is not for everyone.  I appreciate your candid statements and the fact you did not get hostile or abusive about those of us who are happy kindlers.  I do hope your 5 year window is realistic, with the market becoming more competitive it just might be.  I would like to suggest you e-mail your comments to the kindle section at Amazon, who knows they might listen to you and do something, then again they may not but no harm in trying.

Happy Reading
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Offline kim

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2009, 11:35:23 AM »
Melkor - nice review.  The only thing I disagree with is your "Maybe in 5 years".  I'm guessing that with all the publicity and growth that ebooks & readers have experienced, it will be less than 5 years before it is ready to meet your needs. 

Of course, you'll still have the empty bookshelf.  Part of me also misses the fact that I don't have all my books on display anymore.  It kind of felt like a display of accomplishments.  But the fact that I don't need a new bookcase outweighs it for me. 

Offline akpak

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2009, 12:12:48 PM »
Great review... Very honest.

However, I have two small rebuttals:

1) I agree with you that the white bezel is distracting, makes the "page" look dingy and attracts dirt making the whole thing look dingy over time. Solved: Skins. Very inexpensive, and available in solid black as well as other patterns.

2) Battery drain while in "sleep": Did you leave your Whispernet on? That wireless radio *will* drain the battery while the Kindle sleeps, but if you turn it off, the battery will NOT drain. I keep wireless off unless I'm receiving a book, or want to sync my furthest page, etc.

Offline MAGreen

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2009, 12:18:13 PM »
Well, the Kindle isn't for everyone. I personally love mine and have been using it for over 7 months now. I do still have several paper books, mostly first editions and signed copies, and I love to look at them and hold them, but for reading...well, I think the Kindle meets my needs better. So thank you for trying the Kindle, and letting everyone know what you think. It's always nice to have many different opinions to go by. I am sorry you weren't more pleased with it. Perhaps your displeasure will help to make things better for all of us! Your well thought out review will hold a lot more weight than any random rant. Thank you!
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Offline jason10mm

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2009, 12:59:42 PM »
I have just realized that aside from graphic novels, I have not read an actual book since getting my Kindle a few months back. I have cranked through about 15 e-books since then (a noticible increase in my usual thru-put). I almost want to real a regular book now, just to see if the nostalgia factor remains. I too lament the dingy gray screen (though I think it protects against sun fade, an acceptable trade-off) and lack of a colorful cover (particularly when reading "Princess of Mars", oh how I loved the trade cover of John Carter carrying Dejia Thoris when I was a kid :P

But I feel the technology helps more than it hurts, especially when I see those stacks of paperbacks cluttering up my "man cave" while sitting in my lazy boy, kindle in one hand, an adult beverage in the other (one handed reading has opened up SO MANY possibilities)!

FWIW, I think the screen size is a limitation of the technology. I agree that a larger screen with the same overall size would be a welcome upgrade, and probably the only thing that would get me to buy a K3.

Offline ZSP

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2009, 02:21:20 PM »
Thanks for your honest opinion about your Kindle.  I do not own a Kindle, yet, and am so on the fence on whether or not I really want one.  I love my books; am loathe to donate or rehome them.  Displaying my books is almost like a testament to my life and who I am.

On the flip side, I'm very eco minded and love the idea of e-readers.  The portability and instant gratification of having a book immediately available appeals to me.  But, not finding all I want to read available from Amazon is a bummer and I know I'll still be buying the real thing even if I do take the plunge and purchase a Kindle.

So, now I am even more confused - not your fault - LOL.  It was just so refreshing to know there are others out there expressing my feelings as well.  I will continue giving much thought to purchasing the Kindle DX but in the meantime, I spy a brand spanking new hardbook just waiting for me to pick it up and begin reading. ;D

Offline akpak

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2009, 02:56:38 PM »
I agree that a larger screen with the same overall size would be a welcome upgrade, and probably the only thing that would get me to buy a K3.

Actually, I'd like to see the same screen size with a much smaller bezel/keyboard. Overall smaller device, same screen size.

Offline Chad Winters

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2009, 04:04:27 PM »
Nice review, I agree with the points...but for me the scale falls on the pluses outweighing the minuses.

 I have read more books, more pleasantly since getting my Kindle and many authors I would not have bought in the store. I have read several whole series that I love because the first one was free. These are ones I would not have picked up at Borders.

In the end, given a choice, I prefer to read it on the Kindle than in print.

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Offline jaylynn

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2009, 07:34:39 PM »
This is why I've come to see the Kindle as an augmentation to my reading, not as a replacement for books.  I've found recently (after a year with the Kindle and a year before that with the Sony) that I've been increasingly missing the physical experience of reading and the physical objects of books.  And I've always lamented missing beautiful covers.  But the ease of reading with one hand (for me, it's in bed that I love the Kindle.  I loll around in bed as I read!  Try that with an epic hardcover...) and its huge benefits while traveling ensure that I will always use my Kindle.  I also use it to read titles that I know I wouldn't buy otherwise, don't want in my permanent library, and don't want to wait for in the library system.  Lots of new bestsellers, etc.  But my favorite authors?  Gorgeous covers?  Books that I want to page through (something else I miss)?  Then it's beautiful "real" books for me.

I love both ways of reading.  I don't like the either/or attitude of either side of the debate.... and I don't have to!  The Kindle has added immeasurably to my reading life, but hasn't and will never supplant sitting in a cozy chair and turning a paper page. 

Offline Meemo

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2009, 07:59:56 PM »
Great review... Very honest.

However, I have two small rebuttals:

1) I agree with you that the white bezel is distracting, makes the "page" look dingy and attracts dirt making the whole thing look dingy over time. Solved: Skins. Very inexpensive, and available in solid black as well as other patterns.

2) Battery drain while in "sleep": Did you leave your Whispernet on? That wireless radio *will* drain the battery while the Kindle sleeps, but if you turn it off, the battery will NOT drain. I keep wireless off unless I'm receiving a book, or want to sync my furthest page, etc.

Agreed on point 1 - and on point 2, it's also possible that his Kindle started indexing, which will drain the battery much more quickly. 

Mark, you made your argument well, and I understand your position, but I'm pretty much in the opposite camp - I've all but abandoned paper books - at least paperbacks - I did read one a few months ago and I just found it annoying to try to hold open.  I have a pile of unread books that I've been saying I'll get to since last August when I got my Kindle - the more I read on my Kindle, the less I'm interested in picking up those books.  Luckily I'd bought them all used.

I hope you'll send your thoughts on to the Kindle feedback department.  And if you've truly "abandoned" your Kindle, I hope you'll sell or gift it to someone who'll be able to enjoy it.  ;)
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Offline mlewis78

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2009, 01:23:07 AM »
Nice review, and at least you gave the kindle a try. 

Color is not an issue for me (unless I want to stare at the cover), since I hate to read colorful fonts.  I only like black print.  Colored font gives me a headache and is hard to read.  I will still read paper books occasionally, but the comfort level of a kindle suits me best.
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Offline koolmnbv

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2009, 02:05:12 AM »
This was a great review, and I am also glad you waited until several months of Kindle use before reviewing it.

I can see your point on a lot of your cons. But for me the positive outweighs the negative. I do love my kindle but I do not think everyone has to love it. I also hope that Amazon realizes the k2 is in no way perfect and makes upgrades with every new Kindle generation.

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #20 on: July 24, 2009, 06:44:34 AM »
Hey Mark -- Great Review (actually Great is a bit of an understatement -- more of an OUTSTANDING Review).

Its very nice to see a well thought out, well presented review from the other side -- someone who ACTUALLY used a Kindle and found it not fitting their needs.  So many of the reviews from "that" side come from folks who've never tried a Kindle.

I can disagree with you on any number of the issues you raise (for example, reading an e-ink screen produces far less eye strain for me than does reading a paperback book) but its really irrelevant.  They are all basically personal preference type arguments.  Things that may cause concern for, or irritate, you don't bother me in the least and vice versa.

I appreciate you coming here and posting this review and would strongly urge you to post it on Amazon as well if you have not. 

You provide a great, well thought out, well considered and well written counter-point to what many have to say.

THANKS!
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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #21 on: July 24, 2009, 07:57:11 AM »
Mark,
Great review with a lot of valid points. I still love my Kindle and I'm reading a lot more since I got it. I still read paper books because, as you say, so many books are not available in electronic format. I, too, would like folders and colorful covers. But that doesn't stop me from loving and reading my Kindle. I also read on my iTouch.

Offline legalbs2

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2009, 12:25:48 PM »
We all appreciate a well written review whether pro or con of our Kindles.  Thanks for expressing your concerns.  The Kindles are not for everyone, but, for me, I purchased my Kindle DX to save trees.  No more dusty books on my shelves.  You cannot take them with you.  They just clutter your life. 

Anything that gets you reading over and over again is a good thing.  Happy reading.  You can always use your paper books to warm your home when there are no more trees.

Offline akpak

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2009, 12:59:42 PM »
No more dusty books on my shelves.  You cannot take them with you.  They just clutter your life.

As much as I love my Kindle now, I'll bet I love even more the next time I move...

Offline karlm

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Re: Disenchanted with the Kindle--a review
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2009, 07:56:31 AM »
Thanks for your honest review. It's very well written. And the lack of fanboyism is refreshing alone.

I can see where you are coming from. But in my eyes the positives outweigh the negatives by far.

This technology changes so fast that who knows what will be the best in just 2 years from now. But this is all we have today. So why wait?
rehab is for quitters