Friday, June 26, 2009

Chicago Sun-Times review of DX, and my first-look

Good review by Andy Ihnatko for the Chicago Sun-Times.  Two answers to his question re the DX looking "great but who's gonna pay $489"  are along the lines of Ihnatko and yours truly.  I got my Kindle DX on the same day that review was published, Thursday.

See UPDATE 6/30 at bottom re number keys and alt/shift-combo keys.

  I'll do some photos and a small write-up after trying it out more.  It looks huge in photos (and it's not small) but it seems smaller once in your hands although of course it IS heavier than the Kindle 2, which remains my take-out Kindle when I'm out and about, in the city.

  I'll say one thing right now -- the keyboard is far better than the Kindle 2's, as I can type about twice as fast on it and the 5-way speed going up and down lines is much faster.

  I've put many PDFs on it, and it's a beautiful thing.  Will do photo comparisons of font appearance and screen contrast also, during the next week.  The material jumps out at you it's so clear.  And I've already felt (and so have friends) that the 6" Kindles were both very clear.  But this is on another level.

  However, Amazon has managed to miscalculate once more and the DX is now again not in stock for another 4 to 6 weeks. So for those interested in getting the device, it's back to pre-ordering to get a better spot in the line.

  Ihnatko's very entertaining review matches my own reactions to the DX, but still, if I could have only one Kindle it would have to be the one I can easily carry around with me outside, the 6" version.  For men, it may be different.

  I did think about buying a separate shoulder-strap flat-carrier for the DX, but the Kindle 2 will do fine for portable use.  Also a determining factor is the strength of need for accurate viewing of PDF's.  While the Sun-Times headline asks who will pay that price, he does mention the usual $30-$60/month cost of 24/7 wireless, which alone pays for the 6" device in a year, not including book-cost savings.

  And for new people reading, yes, the Kindle accepts books from almost any source around except for copyrighted books with digital-rights put on by another company.  Sony and Amazon adhere to that kind of thing, which is partly from publisher pressure.  But if you've paid for a book, you should be able to read it on any device so they'll have to work on that and it seems the trend is toward that.

I did find out that when reading a PDF, the dictionary is available to you within the PDF via the SEARCH box which comes up at the bottom when you start to type a word.  You can type in a word that puzzles and then 5-way to the right to choose the 'dictionary' option, which then starts a look-up on the word and brings up the full definition and when you press the BACK button, you're back to that spot in your PDF.  That's it for now.

UPDATE 6/30/09 - KEYBOARD: Alternative, sequential alt and shift key combos
  The Kindle DX's keyboard numerals share the top row space with alpha characters, and this choice has drawn many complaints especially because it had seemed the alt-key would have to be pressed simultaneously with the number key.

  It turns out that the number-combos work if you press them sequentially.  While this still won't be workable for math students or for anyone needing to do notes with numbers, it's considerably better than having to press the alt-key and a number key at the same time when holding the Kindle.  The sequence should be done fairly quickly though, as there is a time limit, I found.

  The sequential key sequence also holds for capitalization of letters.
The shift key doesn't have to be pressed at the same time as the alpha-character but can be pressed just before it.  (This is also true for the Kindle 1 but not for the Kindle 2.) Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. I am very interested in the PDF capability, but not at the expense of the weight / size of my Kindle 2. I do not understand why Amazon does not provide firmware / OS upgrades allowing these newer features. I will not buy more expensive hardware to get an upgrade that should be backward upgraded like the iphone / ipod firmware OS. Amazon's strategy baffles me.

  2. Mark, I wouldn't give up my Kindle 2 either but I have to add that the DX (as the home-unit) is going beyond my expectations.

    However, as I've said in this blog after the DX was announced, to those who tell me a 6" Kindle 2 cannot read a full-page PDF in a way that won't kill the eyes:
    Amazon needs to upgrade the Kindle 2 firmware. They definitely should take a page from Apple when it comes to firmware upgrades for previous models. To be fair, they did this to an extent with the Kindle 1 when the Kindle 2 came out, offering easier navigation for book-deletes and giving K1 users the zoom and auto-rotation on images.
    The 5-way navigation was too different a process vs the scroll wheel to include, of course but they did something at the time.

    They did not, when the DX came out and I would hope they are working on firmware upgrades to the Kindle 2 as, when it comes to text-based PDFs and the more portable units, they'll become known as the company who couldn't, when Sony and Cool-er could.

    Add that they need to offer some annotation tools to the PDFs for the DXs too. Given my strong feeling about that, mentioned earlier, just viewing original PDFS on the larger screen is another experience entirely.

    1. Sony and Cool-er Reader can do it on the smaller screens with text reflow when a PDF is not solely image scans of pages. They apparently have Adobe licenses offering more capability, and the Cool-er can, moreover rotate. Obviously, pdfs that are image-scans of pages only would not be particularly readable on any small screen though I understand the Sony can zoom so that you can see isolated portions better.

    2. We know that when Amazon added a one-step zoom in on images in books and in subscriptions for the K1 (built-in with the K2), they display in landscape mode, filling the screen, when the width of the original image is larger than the height. So that's possible and would make a PDF more readable.

    If Sony and Cool-er can do it, why not Amazon?

    I think the strategy this time out was a rush to market with the DX to head off a lot of the new challengers coming out, but they need to make the K2 competitive, PDF-wise, with the smaller challengers. So I totally agree with you.

  3. The K2 does have sequential alt letter key combos, except for the first letter starting the note. Once the note is started, then you can push alt and then the letter and it is "sticky".

  4. Al,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I was trying to say that the K2 doesn't have sequential *Shift*-key combos while talking about the shift-key in that last paragraph.

    Since it's normally the first letter in a sentence that you want capitalization for, it's awkward that it doesn't do that.

    Does the shift key work sequentially for you after typing the first letter? The Kindle 1 makes it happen immediately, for that first letter.

  5. There's a relatively new 6" e-ink reader that has some very interesting features - not the least of which is native support for PDFs with 3 levels of zoom, (2 in portrait and 1 in landscape mode). It also allows the use of any TTF font, and can read DOC, MOBI, PRC, RTF, HTML, ePub, LIT, FB2, WOLF, CHM and extract from Zip and Rar files. It has a USB port and an SD card slot, as well. It comes with a case and a 2 GB SD card. Evidently Fry's will be selling them later this week for well under $300. Check out some pics at:

    So, if Aztak can display native PDFs in landscape mode (with zoom), the K2 is certainly capable if Amazon wanted to add this feature.


  6. Elmo, as usual, thanks much for your alerts. Intriguing device and I've asked him some questions. After he responds I'll do an entry on it.

    You're exactly right re Amazon and its ability to give K2 users native PDF support and the sooner the better. I imagine the EZ is pretty slow on many PDFs, considering the DX (which needs to process much more data) can be slow on PDFs with a lot of imagery, but I'd rather have that support than not!


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