Friday, July 10, 2009

$299 Kindle 2 or $489 DX? plus How the Kindle works

I've been doing the forums to see what everyone thinks about the price drop for the Kindle 2.  Some feel they can finally buy one; others want to buy more for their families, and many still wonder whether to get the larger Kindle DX or the lighter and now $-lighter Kindle 2

Also, a few people have said that they haven't been able to get a good idea of how the Kindle works, so I thought I'd highlight here a web page review, by Kelly Hodgkins, that gives the best description of Kindle functioning that I've seen.  (Click on that last link to read it.)  The review is of the Kindle 2, but the Kindle DX navigation is exactly the same except that it can also rotate to landscape viewing if wanted.

Both the DX and the Kindle 2 are able to read PDFs correctly, with layout unchanged and multi-columnar information where it should be.  The Kindle 2's smaller 6" screen makes it more difficult to see the text and text labels in complex PDFs (important in academic and business environments and often used for information offered by websites), although viewing them in Landscape mode (a recent software feature) enlarges the image quite effectively in some cases.

  Also, Amazon offers to convert a copy of any non-rights-protected PDF for us to Kindle's normal format or we can do it ourselves with free utilities.  This assumes a PDF that is not 100% image-based but which is, for the most, part text-oriented.

  A conversion from PDF is usually to Kindle's basic format (Mobi, Prc) , although the layout for charts, diagrams, and multi-column material can be confused during the conversion and thus hard to read.  PDFs that are primarily text will usually be fine.  Complicated PDF pages with words running across multiple columns or special labels in illustrations may not convert well.

Adding to the complexity of the choice is that PDF text on the Kindles are not indexed by the Kindle, so information inside those books or pamphlets doesn't show up in full-Kindle-device searches.
  Also, while highlighting and annotations can be done for any normal book or document, the Kindles don't have those features for PDFs.  And the text-to-speech feature cannot be used on original PDFs either.

BUT, even when the PDF itself is quite viewable as-is, I'll make a copy of a PDF I am working with, in order to convert it to use the Amazon Kindle features to highlight and add notes or to use the faster Kindle search routines and even text-to-speech when I can't sit down to read at the moment.

Kindle's coming software update v2.5 being delivered in stages allows panning and zooming of PDFs and that's espcially helpful with the Kindle 2's 6" device.

Again, there is the workaround in the meantime for this situation, in that if you want to use those standard Kindle study capabilities for PDFs, you can convert a copy of the PDF to a Kindle-compatible format with a free utility and then do annotations and text to speech on that copy while leaving the original PDF for reference viewing of charts, diagrams and multiple columns.

PDF books that are only images of each page of a large book can only be used for viewing, of course and are slow-to load on any e-reader.  Not worth the time.

In the forums, we've discussed this a lot.  Here are some questions I felt people should ask themselves when needing to clarify which Kindle would be best for their needs.

It really depends on how you want to use it.

1. Would you want to carry it in a pouch or purse everywhere, as I do?
    For me, it's the Kindle 2 if that's ultra important

2. Do you need native support for PDFs?
    These are displayed accurately and beautifully with the DX.  Many complex PDFs can't be viewed easily with the Kindle 2, as the screen is relatively small when most PDFs are made specifically with 8-1/2 x 11" paper in mind.
    Novels in PDF format will generally work fine. Any single column work that does not include diagrams with small text will be just as readable as any other book file on both the DX and the current Kindle 6" device.
  Sheet music online tends to come in PDF format too.

3. Do you care about the DX feature that allows you to display web pages or PDFs in landscape mode with auto rotation?
    The Kindle 6" offers a manual rotation option.

    The alternate landscape mode makes both webpages and PDFs much easier to use and more readable although the lack of color will bother some with either Kindle.  I have samples of these at PBase.

4. Is super clarity of text and screen contrast important to you?
    The DX has a beautifully clear, big display, but the smaller Kindle 2 also has a clear display with somewhat less contrast.

5. Do you need very large text?
    The Kindle 2 gives you a choice of 6 fonts, including rather large ones.  The DX makes very large text possible while still displaying many words at a time per page.

6. Is it important for you to read while holding the Kindle with only one hand because you need to use the other one for something else?
    Believe it not, this is important to quite a lot of people.  The Kindle 2 is better for that, of course.

7. Do you have weakness problems with the wrists or even shoulders?
    While more than a few have written in forums to say that although they have arthritis and other ailments the DX is not a problem for them, others prefer the lightness of the Kindle 2.

8. WHAT KIND of reading do you do?
    If it's almost entirely books and not large, technical documents, the Kindle 2 is an excellent choice.
    If you need to do a lot of technical reading or prefer magazine-size reading, then the DX is likely a better fit.

SIZE can be all important.  I think it would draw too much attention if I were to slide the largish DX out from some jacket/holder when waiting in line somewhere.  But others are managing and use larger purses or pouches.  If you have a large purse or carrier and you don't care about the size, then the DX is probably a good choice.

It's not that heavy, but with a protective case it's more than most of us normally want to have for everyday purse contents.

To get an idea of how the Kindle 2 displays books or web pages, see the older screen comparison of the Kindle 1 with the Kindle 2.

And, as mentioned earlier, my recent DX screen-display samples are at PBase.

As for me, I use the DX at home and the Kindle 2 outside the home.
Feel free to ask any questions about this.  It's a tough decision. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. I got a K2 in February and the DX about a month ago. I haven't use the K2 since getting the DX for books or newspapers. The K2, however, is perfectly adequate for books. After the first hour, the K2 became transparent - I got into a book just as if reading print and paper. Same with the DX - I just like the size of the screen better. Plus the DX will pay for itself for me in about 8 months given the savings on newspaper subscriptions. In that sense it was free.

  2. Anonymous,
    My reaction has been very similar to yours! I just concentrate better when reading on the Kindle. People talk about the texture of a book but I think of the Kindle as a window to the author's words and I get almost mesmerized.

    The DX IS a good reading size to my surprise, though I felt the K2 was also, but now it looks so tiny :-) Either one, it takes just a few minutes to get (re)adjusted to though. Love the DX but wouldn't give up the K2 and glad I didn't have to make that decision. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Andrys,
    I have read all your information and I am still torn on which Kindle to get. If you use larger font on the Kindle 2 does it get frustrating turning the page all the time?

    Also you said you use 2 away from hom ad the DX at home. Can you download the same books to bothe Kindles?

    S.L. Curtis

  4. S.,
    It -could- get frustrating to turn pages more often but it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers others to turn the page a lot, as long as I can see. On the other hand I never need more than one step above the default. And sometimes go down to one step below the default to see more on a page (not to avoid page turns).
    The letters are very sharp.

    Yes, anyone can have up to 6 Kindles on one account (family members, friends whose books you are paying for), and all can share one book.
    The one account holder is responsible for all payments for books.

    So, since I had the K2 before the DX, I've kept the K2 for carrying around outside.

    I was out last night at 9pm ordering 3 dinners from a restaurant and I had the little Kindle. I think it calls less attention to itself when I bring it out. It's just the size of a paperback. But, I had a half hour wait, and it's great to never mind waiting anymore because I have so much to choose from to read.

    In fact, re the K2, I'm going on a 3 week vacation in a few months, out of the country and for awhile wanted to find a larger purse, so I could carry the big Kindle but decided it was just too comfortable to have the small one when outside and that's more likely the one I'll bring.

    Here's something. Amazon gives you up to 30 days to make up your mind in that you can just return it within that time if for ANY reason you don't want to keep it.

    As long as it still looks fine you get a full refund. So, you could try the Kindle 2 right away since you didn't want to wait for the DX and if you have doubts then you can return it and get the DX as a separate order.

    They are no-questions-asked about the 30-day period.

    Does that help?

    - Andrys

  5. Yes it does!


  6. Sherri,

    Great! If you return here, check out the right hand column too as it has links to a lot of helpful support areas and tips on using the Kindle.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

    - A

  7. I really think the ideal is to have both, the DX for papers, technical reading and larger formats, the kindle for portability and reading while in bed.

    Having both is still very pricy though, so let's hope these devices will keep getting less expensive with time.

  8. jarod,
    Good point and I agree, though I did get both. While travelling right now, I'm using the DX, since it does everything and is no longer 'too big' for me. Even if/when they give the 6" pdf capabilities (w/text reflow, it's hoped), it would be too small to read as an unmodified PDF.

  9. jarod,
    It might be worth it to call Kindle support at 866-321-8851 to ask if anything can be done at that end.

    I realize probably not, though...

    - A

  10. Time's a changing.

    DX already had better contrast, and now it has eInk Pearl. Double ouch for the plain Kindle option.


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