Monday, June 22, 2009

Kindle 2 web-browsing with an unusual purpose

[ Note: 6/22/09 12:46 AM - There was an internal formatting issue that prevented this post and anything after 6/16/09 to be readable by Internet Explorer for two days.  I've moved the blockquote away from the image and now IE can read the pages.]

[ Original posting 6/21/2009 07:20:00 AM ]
At the Kindleboards forum a couple of days ago, I replied to a thread about the Kindle 2 web-browser and its usefulness, if any.

I thought I should post some of it here (reworded), as I'd never thought to use the Kindle 2 with the aim I had in mind the other night -- I've used it mainly to look for information.  Here's the gist of what I wrote to the forum.
When web browsing (under "Home/Menu/Experimental"), you can press the Menu key to get the 'bookmarks' for the web, these are pre-set by Amazon for you and include news, sports, and entertainment sites.

  I have a section called Tips for working with the Kindle web browser - because there are three different modes for webbing, and each of them brings a fairly different experience.

  The Tips piece is at (shortcut)

  And there's a guide on bookmarks for small mobile-device-formatted websites as well.

  I tend to like to use the web browser when out of the house - and I've seen that a few others on that forum do as well, when looking for good restaurants, etc. ( like ). Amazon encourages us to use Google and Wikipedia, as you can see from the status bar options and the web bookmarks.

Here's a real life use with the web browser Wednesday night:

My cable high-speed internet connection went down just before I was going to order a Kindle DX and I was, at that point, bent on ordering one after mulling it for a week.
  That my internet connection went down was probably a sign for me that I shouldn't order another Kindle, but I ignored it.

  I got my Kindle 2 to Go To Comcast to look up the phone contact to get my cable probs reported.  The K2 crashed momentarily at that point! :-)  Another sign?
  But it came right back, apparently refreshed, and with no assist from me.  The Kindle 2 never balked again during the full session. I browsed back to Comcast, got the contact number, phoned, and found out that my entire neighborhood was down for Comcast high-speed Internet.

Here’s my path on the web with the small Kindle 2:

  1.  I went to the last website I had been on to read one more detail and then used one of the website links to start an order with the Kindle 2.
  2.  That took me to my Amazon account where I signed in.
  3.  I ordered the DX but then realized I should enter some gift codes that I had not put into the Amazon servers yet.
  4.  I then had the Kindle Go To (leaving my Amazon order) and pulled up the codes from my gmail.  Mobile gmail is not that intuitive, but key presses worked fine.  I was able to retrieve the mail and the coupon codes.

  7.  Then I pressed the Kindle's Back button and was right back on the Amazon order again with all the field-info still filled in, so I typed in the codes.
  9.  I then chose my shipping, completed my order, and got confirmation on the screen.

  I saw that my cable lights were blinking again so I went back to my pc and put my Kindle (which has a keyboard that one can't type fast on) to sleep.

  On my computer I checked my recent orders and there it was.  It’s not due to arrive until June 24. They're not in stock again until the 22nd or so.

  That I had been able to get right back to my Amazon order, and that the fields were still filled in, surprised me.  There were no memory problems for the Kindle after the initial 'crash' when first on the way to the Comcast page.
I do like that I was able to order my DX with my Kindle 2 :-)

Reviewers who try the Kindle for a few hours and tell their readers that the web browser is not worth using are comparing it to their computers or laptops.  Some barely try it or don't realize it can go beyond the 'company store.'  The free web access is a very useful feature when you're not near your computers and it is much better than having to look for WiFi somewhere and hoping it doesn't cost too much.

  Bezos is still saying (this week) that the wireless is free, and this statement is part of his marketing, including that it's a reason for the high cost for the Kindle in the first place (wireless costs built in).
  While Amazon is free to charge later on for non-store use, their current advertising push ("free wireless" - including promises to partnering schools) makes it extremely unlikely that they would risk their credibility by beginning any charges for at least a year, especially since he has explained this last Monday at the Wired conference that they would have had to charge monthly fees for wireless if they had priced the Kindle devices lower.  At any rate, it is Web access from anywhere you happen to be as long as there is Sprint cell phone service in the area.

 To see how Kindle users are using their Kindles in some unexpected and creative ways, see this Amazon forum thread.  The Kindleboards thread above also has some examples.  The Kindle DX web-browser is said to be somewhat improved in functioning.  I'm looking forward to the easier readability of full-width webpages after accessing these on the smaller Kindle 2 screen. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. Hello Andrys,

    Having read some of your past comments on the DX's PDF functionality (or lack of same), it seemed that you were lukewarm about the device [*I definitely am, particularly with regard to the lack of annotation ability, and, for me, the cumbersome design of the keyboard and navigation keys], so I was surprised to see that you had ordered it. What turned you around, if I might ask? Or perhaps I read your comments wrong, and you didn't have to be "turned around"(?). You seem to take an in-depth approach to your analysis of the Kindle franchise, so I'm curious to see if there's some redeeming aspect you've seen that I haven't considered. Thanks, and take care.

  2. Hi, Batman,
    I was somewhat appalled that Amazon wasn't implementing highlighting and annotations for PDFs in a product marketed most intensely toward students, business professionals and academic crowd, all of whom would "work with" PDFs, not just view them.

    And, to me, it was a "What's wrong with this picture?" thing - especiallly when I see the little UK competitors (Cool-er and Cybook) and the Sony PRS-700 able to do text-reflow on theirs and even, with the Cool-er, able to rotate the screen to get a better size view.
    Those companies seem to have opted for "full" Adobe licensing which supports Table of Contents hyperlinks. Is that what holds up Amazon? Or is there a technical limitation with the Kindle? I have no idea.

    But since I am in none of those groupings and I download PDFs mainly for viewing (user manuals, guides, informational articles), it doesn't affect me much although I love to highlight in my regular books. But being able to bookmark pages helps.

    Keyboard. The K2 is rightly blasted too, but I've learned to deal with it. Is the DX keyboard worse? I'll find out soon, but I kind of doubt it. We'll see. There's that 30-day trial period with returns accepted and full refunds.

    Also, there's the knowledge that if I want to do annotations on a PDF or be able to use the dictionary with it and also have its text contents show up in Kindle searches or have 'Tom' read parts of it while I'm doing something else, I can just convert a copy of the PDF to MOBI/prc easily enough with MobiPocket Creator and 'work with' that while having the original when I want to view the original layout of charts and graphs or photographs, etc. It takes only a few minutes and I can have the features of both worlds.

    I also am aware how expensive competing models are and what they lack - iRex iLiad, $860 with no wireless and a slow-response stylus; Plastic Logic in 2010 with no web browser planned but with a focus on business needs. Even a Mac reader-tablet next year would mean a fairly rich wireless-charge considering that Apple/AT&T are charging $70/mo. for the new $200 iPhone for basic phone plan with unlimited wireless. And that does not include any text messaging, which costs another $5/mo. minimum + tax and fees.

    So, I figure $60/mo. x 12 months = $720
    to add wireless access subscription to a $200 Novatel MiFi 2200 (making $920 for the year) and then I can more easily justify $500 or so for the DX.

    Also, I looked at the actual alternatives -- and since I actually use the Kindle web-access quite a bit when away from my computers (so then free wireless is a big! point for me), being able to see PDFS and even the Web in larger scale like that (especially when rotated) is fairly meaningful to me.

    I have lots of manuals for gadgets (Edirol R-09 HD recorder, digital piano, DVDRs, cameras, scanners, printers, faxers, etc.) on my K2 but I would rather see them correctly laid out when it comes to instructional photographs and that would be a big plus in my case.

    I also want to add sheet music to it (from my DVD of lots of sheet music), and since I have some travel galleries up, I can convert those to PDF and have booklets of them available in thumbnail layout as reminders, especially if the sites ultimately close down as they tend to and if I then want to replicate elsewhere the layout and how the photos were used.

    I love travel and history books and already have some of these and even Photoshop type books on my Kindle 2. This type of book will be a great deal better on a DX.

    So, all that pulled at me!

    - Andrys

  3. Andrys,

    Thank you for the detailed response. I am a part of the academic set (professor side), so my usage would be geared toward carrying/reading multiple research articles and annotating them for the purposes of literature reviews and the like. I probably haven't considered the conversion possibilities as fully as I might have, but since research is such a regular part of my work life, I think I would want something that handled the annotation a little more directly, preferably with a stylus and/or touch screen. And I’m a little doubtful of the ability to use the keyboard of any of these devices, Kindle or otherwise, to quickly take real-time notes (during a lecture, for instance).

    At this point, the Plastic Logic holds the most intrigue for me, given my desired criteria. For business use, the lack of the Whispernet capability wouldn't bother me as much, as I would most often be loading documents not available for purchase from Amazon, anyway. And I do have the Kindle 2 for pleasure reading [not that work *can't* be pleasurable ;-0 ]. I'm typically not an early adopter (at least not a first-generation one), so some of the uncertainties with regard to customer service, product integrity/durability, etc., inherent in any new offering will probably lead me to take a "wait and see" approach, at least for a while to let early users weigh in.

    I think it's nice that so many companies are throwing their hats in the ring, and hope that we consumers will be the beneficiaries of the competitive pressures in the near term. I'm old enough to still have a sense of marvel of about some of the technological advancements that we now take for granted, so my misgivings about the DX are not a complaint, per se, but commentary on a less-than-precise fit for me at this point. It sounds like it may well serve your needs, so if you've received it by the time this reply reaches you, have fun exploring, and if it hasn't, good luck staving off the anticipation/anxiety of waiting! Take care.

  4. Thanks, Batman. Totally agree with your take.

    If it's affordable, the iRex might be fairly useable right for you now as you can write on it. There's no typing mechanism though.

    Just looking very quickly, as I'm going out,
    ZDNet had this to say back in Sept '07 and they've updated it since then though this review came up first.,1000000736,39289156,00.htm

    And here are some pretty good ratings done recently, at

    Gives an idea if you want to explore it more, which you probably have ...

    Interesting how they solved the saving of a written edit to pdfs. You'd think Amazon could do the same since notes for regular books are added to a secondary file.

  5. Thanks for the cite, Andrys. I've actually done more in-depth research on Plastic Logic than iRex, so this will give me a chance to take a fresh look. Take care.


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