Friday, November 18, 2011
While I had wanted to quick-blog first impressions after 12 hours with the Kindle Fire Wednesday (which I more than enjoyed despite minor reservations), I've been doing the forums and trading information. There's always so much there that people find and relay.
BUT -- my Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi arrived today, so I looked into that.
And now I want to report on that first, due to a couple of unexpected items that impressed me.
And there are several changes I want to highlight.
The known loss of the Free 3G Web-lookup feature
Some, including me, have been disappointed that, unlike the 3G/WiFi Kindle 3 ("Kindle Keyboard") model and its much-appreciated free 3G webbing that's so useful when traveling -- locally even, but especially in countries where roaming charges for smartphones are sky-high -- the Touch models don't offer free 3G web lookups internationally as the older 3G Kindles did. But I can see now why Amazon decided not to offer it on the new Kindles. I wouldn't either if I were paying for it.
Web browsing speed (Web lookups are on WiFi-only, on the new models, except for accessing the KindleStore and Wikipedia, the latter a really worthwhile feature when reading a book)
The WiFi web-browsing, via my Comcast host and Netgear router, is actually usually quite fast with the 3G/WiFi SO (Special Offers) model.
I don't mean just fastER than the often-slow but free Kindle 3 web lookups, which could be slow with WiFi also. The new Touch model really can be very quick for an e-Ink device. I was startled by it.
When accessing web sites with the KTouch, you're often wisely taken to mobile versions of the web pages, but my over-long, over-imaged, site came up in normal desktop format 10x faster than it would before.
This is especially good for Kindle-Edition subscribers who are needing to follow a Kindle subscription blog link to information on another site.
When I went to the simple, text-focused drudgereport.com, it of course came up fairly quickly, but I was surprised to see, when I clicked on a Telegraph (UK) story, that the whole thing came up suddenly -- it must have been pre-fetched by the webkit browser.
New York Times web page as an example
Accessing Amazon's bookmark'd NY Times site, in its print-newspaper layout, it comes up pretty fast!, but with the full page seen in portrait mode on a little screen, so it's not readable. The zoom-box that used to be there to bring up sections so that we can read them is gone.
Instead, we can pinch-zoom on an area and it brings up a much more readable version of that, and we can then click a link to a story that is readable while showing the whole width of a column or columns as appropriate plus side stories. If that's not good enough, you can pinch-zoom THAT and it can look really good! But if that's still not good enough, then choose Menu to select "Article Mode" which puts it in a highly readable layout that's very pleasant to read but which, as said elsewhere here, doesn't offer the links from the article.
The Article Mode reformats a story into single-report form, usually with a small photo at the top.
The processor used in the Touch models is a faster one, and the Touch method's advantage for webbing is that it gives direct access to clickable links, so there's no added time involved in moving the older 5-way controller up, down, and sideways to active hyperlinks (and each cursor movement meant a slowing-down refresh of part of the screen). Much as I appreciate the free 3G web-lookups of the previous model when I'm outside the home, these changes are very nice. (But it's still my Kindle 3 I'll be carrying with me outside since I can almost never find unprotected WiFi anymore, outside.)
Pressing or tapping on a screen area
TIP: The lightest possible keypress to bring up a menu or dialog box will work best -- even when lightly tapping for a page turn or on a link. That doesn't seem intuitive but I found this works more reliably than using more pressure. That's true even when doing a long-press that is used to to bring up an option box. And it's true for the Kindle Fire also.
On the other hand, the e-Ink keyboard input is more resistant than it is on LCD, which means less errors from a light touch. My Kindle Fire keyboard, though, is so non-resistant that I can just hover over a key and it registers (dangerous, so I turned off 1-click buying). That's been true of my 7" NookColor tablet too.
The 3G web browser's "New Window" link problems on previous Kindles
The one thing that frustrated many of us 3G web users in the past was that Amazon had decided NOT to have the keyboard Kindles open links that used "New Window" processes.
This has meant that Facebook and Twitter links recommended by people could not be used, although we could see messages to us and reply to them. The recommended links, however, were lifeless.
I always felt Amazon did not want to encourage our exploring all those links and staying on Facebook and Twitter through the day, as that could really cost them, with free 3G program (for us) paid by them.
They had decided at some point to let Kindle Edition Blog-subscribers click through links requiring 'New Window' from a Kindle'd blog -- customers pay for subscriptions and I think they felt it was a service they should give, since blogs tend to have many links in them and can be worthless if people can't use them.
But that was the only circumstance, that I know of, under which they allowed "New-Window"-links to be clicked through and the user taken to the new site. Facebook and Twitter remained still-lifes for links.
With the new Kindle Touch, the Facebook and Twitter webpages are now useable for the links people are busily recommending at those popular sites.
However, the Kindle Touch web browser can't handle a ridiculously heavy page like Huffington Post.
It never loads. I tried Overdrive (for public libraries), and it now lets me through the 'New Window' problems I used to have but that is a super-slow site for some reason. They should have a mobile version available for it. It's too slow even for the new Touch Kindle.
NO Landscape mode on this
This mode has been crucial for web pages and for PDFs with the previous Kindles, giving the ability to expand the width and size of content.
The default for the new Kindle Touch is to show you the full web page and fit it to the width of the small 6" screen. So, the words are unreadable that way, but putting the device into Landscape mode on the older models has helped with those.
The earlier models with keyboards have Zoom boxes that let you zoom into areas to read the type (awkward but doable) and then you can choose 'Article Mode' from the Menu to read the article as very-readable text although that deactivates links in that mode, so the zoom-in and pinch-zoom versions can be better to use if you want to follow article links.
For more details on how to handle this, see the paragraph above on accessing a New York Times article and how that's changed from the Kindle 3. It'll work for this.
Image zoom-ins - on web pages
Kindles 2 and 3 allow zooms to full-page by clicking in the center. Kindle 1 allows it by moving the sliding silver column cursor to the line and choosing to enlarge the image to full screen.
On the new Touch Kindles, this is now done, when WEB-browsing, by pinch-zooms -- 2 fingers are used to expand the material seen or shrink it back. I hadn't expected this on e-Ink e-readers but it works.
It's choppy and difficult to control but when it's done for a full webpage it does expand the material so that you can read sections of it enlarged.
Image zoom-ins - in normal e-books
For normal e-books, a pinch-zoom actually enlarges the font size! And any photos.
This is normally done with the Aa -choice (for 'Aa keys on earlier Kindles) that is now found at the bottom of a book's footer if you press the area at the top line, which brings up options such as the old GoTo, which is now missing from the regular book Menu and I'd wondered where it was.
So, at the bottom, you can get Aa (fonts), Go To, and Sync by pressing an area near the top.
Also at the bottom are the Location #, the Page #, and the percentage of the book that's still unread.
At the top line, there's 1) a Back-arrow that corresponds to the old "Back" button, 2) a shopping cart, 3) a search box for searching the book, and 4) the Menu of options.
There's also a line up there for 1) the activity-indicator (spins), 2) the title of the book that's open, 3) a wireless-activity indicator (including what type of wireless is being used) and 4) the current time.
I really like that you can enlarge the font size by just doing a pinch-zoom.
I haven't found much in the User's Guide about PDFs, but trying it out I see that these are treated the way books are. You don't scroll down the page if there's more, you page left and right.
Pinch Zooms are used to enlarge a page, including both the fonts and images on the page.
I saw this on a PDF I made from taking images and text from the web and saving it in Word Doc to read later, on the Kindle. But I saved it as a PDF. So, this is a text-based PDF.
I wondered where Adjustment of Contrast is now chosen, as the Aa font menu is no longer findable. The Contrast Adjustment is selectable from pressing the top line area and pressing Menu at the top right. It's called, simply, 'Contrast.'
'Turn on Speech'
That's also found under the top-right Menu.
Go to... for PDFs, this is also found under the Menu.
This is all easier than selecting zoom-box areas or "150% 200% 300%" sizes as was done before. It's a gradual zoom controlled by the fingers now.
Overall Speed + choosing Kindle books from my other Kindles
I quickly chose, from my Archived Items folder, about 100 titles to use for exploring the new system, and they included a couple of very large encyclopedias to test how the device would handle having to download them from Amazon and index them for keywords. I then used Menu to "Import Collections"
With this unit, I was able to tap one item after another, lickety split, without needing to use 'back' button and it kept up with me. There's no slowness felt and I was able to do things on the unit while it downloaded the many items I chose for the new Kindle
Kindle Model Designations.
Kindle 1's have 1.x.x software versions; Kindle 2's have 2.x.x versions, and Kindle 3's use version 3.x.x.
They were also called first, second, and third generations.
It seems the Kindle BASIC (NoTouch/NoKeyboard - $79) uses software version 4.x.x and
Kindle Touch uses software version 5.x.x
So, we are sort of looking at the 5th generation Kindle with these Touch models.
Identifying software versions is now done under Menu/Settings/Device Info (which is scarily right next to the Reset to Factory Default option -- so touch-press carefull when in that Menu, even if they have a safety "Are you sure?" which I did not try :-).
Kindle Touch Special Offers - Or Without Special Offers
It's hard to know how we will react to any kind of ad. I've resisted them because I don't want to see them near my personal time with books. I want to be away from the madding ad crowd.
Nevertheless, I also don't throw my money away and have read that many actually like the Special Offers and the screensleeper ads were not bothering them. I have to say that they are designed very well, all have a classy look so far, and have not bothered me, not even in the lowest slot of the Home page.
BUT if they ever do, I've found that at the ManageYourKindle pages, there is an option to "Unsubscribe" from Special Offers by paying the $40 difference between the cost of the two models (the choices of With and Without Special Offers).
Anyway, this was a very nice surprise. I ordered it only because I should report on it :-) and be able to answer questions, etc. It's light but we knew that. However, its small size seemed to make my left hand less comfortable with it, almost cramped, and I felt I'd have to get a case for it pronto, as it would be easier to hold that way.
I got used to it though. As for the ads/special offers, whoever directs that does a good job.
Going from one chapter to another, if the publisher used that feature
In the past, if the progress bar (which no longer exists that I can find) showed markers indicating new chapter, we could navigate to each one with a press-right on the 5-way button.
Now we can't see markers like this, that I can find (let me know if you find these), but you can swipe up or swipe down to get to next or previous chapters, respectively. I saw this work in 'Cleopatra' by Stacy Schiff.
They've finally alphabetized Collections -- we no longer have to do workarounds, although, as of now, unless a future update fixes it, the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 Collections remain unalphabetized, a decision I'll never understand, so if we're still using earlier models, the workaround has to stay.
Text contrast against screen background
The Kindle 3 is wonderful in this regard, and I had been puzzled to see how greyish the Nook Simple Touch fonts seemed when I visited BN and tried every font face, type and size.
It was a disappointment for some on the BN forums too but they have just done an update to the Nook Simple Touch that is said to change this so that fonts, text, foreground images are darker when appropriate and the contrast is good now.
I'd been worried about the screen contrast, after reading a NY Times article that said the Kindle screen programmers had been having some difficulty getting the screen contrast the way they wanted, a few months ago. But what I see in my Kindle Touch is what I've seen on the Kindle 3, so those getting either company's e-reader will be very happy with that aspect.
Kindle Touch 3G Kindle Touch WiFi Kindle Basic (UK: KBasic) Kindle Fire
Kindle Keybd 3G (UK: Kindle Keybd 3G) K3 Special Offers K3-3G Special Offers DX
Check often: Temporarily-free recently published ones
Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources. Top 100 free bestsellers. Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.
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