Monday, November 28, 2011

Kindle Fire Lights My Fire

Frankie Blue-Eyes checks out the Kindle Fire

Okay, so I wasn't the first person to get my Kindle Fire, even though I was surely one of the very first to order it. Impatient though I was, especially when the one I ordered for my son on Nov. 1 arrived several days before the one I ordered for myself on Sept. 28, I'm okay with the fact that it finally got here the day after Thanksgiving. I tracked its progress across the country, through Phoenix, then Los Angeles, where it took a long nap, then right past me on the freeway which runs only 2 miles from my house, all the way north to Kent, Washington, where it again got a nice, long rest before heading south again, reaching my "local" post office in time to spend a lonely Thanksgiving there. But my post person is pretty super. Even though it was after 5:00 p.m. when the truck came by my house, she made sure I got it before she quit for the day. Two weeks after it had been shipped.

Never mind all that. I'm now perfectly happy. It's pretty much what I expected- few surprises and minimal drawbacks. But they might be significant to other people so I'm not going to pull any punches when I tell you about it.

The first thing I noticed is that it's quite attractive- although it looks pretty much like all the other tablet type devices available now. The back is sort of rubberized- probably a silicone backing, that helps to make it feel more secure in my hands than other tablet type devices I've held. It probably helps to keep the ceramic glass face from breaking if dropped, but I'm going to do my best not to test that. At 7 inches, it's smaller than the 10 inch iPad, so it's lighter and more comfortable to hold. But it appears to be about 50-75% heavier than my old Kindle 3rd Generation.

The display has the shiny black border we've come to expect, and the display itself is sharp and clear, but also has some anti-reflective properties. I was worried about the possible glare, since I find the reflections from the glossy screens very annoying. I can still see some reflection from the black border, but not enough from the display itself to be noticed. At a resolution and size of 1024x600 @169pixels per inch, pictures are sharp enough for me, despite my vision problems. I have no trouble reading even when it's set at the smallest font. Brightness is fully adjustable, and the display can be set in any of three combinations: the usual black font against white background, as well as white font on black (great for night reading in a car), and my favorite, a classy brown font on sepia background. The display can rotate when the reader is rotated. I find it convenient to lock it when I'm reading because it shifts very easily. I've heard some people say they can't read on a backlit screen for long periods of time, so they believe they can't use the Fire. I'd be surprised, since everyone I know who has said that hasn't given the Fire a chance, but maybe it's so. I have severe visual distortion problems, and I find the gray-on-gray straining, but I do very well with the cheery color screen. I do dim it slightly, and I find the sepia background soothing.

Some e-readers I've tried recently almost require a stylus, pressed rather hard, to send commands, and I would not buy those devices for that reason (as well as blurry display which is extremely annoying). The Fire responds to a light touch. You have to spend a little time finding all the settings and learning to manipulate the bookshelves, but it's not hard. All my books from my older Kindle loaded quickly with no problem. And I'm sure it's no surprise to you that buying a book is a simple one click. Amazon would never give up that feature!

The battery does last a full ten hours. Not much compared to the e-ink devices, I know.That's with wi-fi turned off. You should do that anyway, for any of the Kindles. I wish it lasted longer, but until color e-ink screens become practical, that's going to continue to be a problem with backlit color readers. I understand the new color Nook battery life is slightly better, but that won't really matter until it becomes perhaps 50% better.

I don't really like the transformer type charging cord, which is probably minimal in size, but it's still clunky compared to the cord for the e-ink Kindle. I'm guessing the backlit screen requires current conversion that the older e-ink design didn't need. No USB cable is provided. The old Kindle cord is convertible to a USB cord, a very neat arrangement. I bought a retractable  USB-to-micro-USB cord because I will need to import my manuscripts to the Fire. Incidentally, I also picked up a very small AC/DC charger that works in either a car or airplane, and it will work for the Fire as well as netbook, camera, phone, etc.

I wish it had a SD card slot. I don't think the memory capacity is good enough to not have any way to supplement it. There's the Cloud, of course, but I'm mildly opposed to having Amazon store all my personal documents there. I admit, it will probably not become a problem for me, since I bought a reader for reading pleasure, and I have my mini-laptop for actual work when I'm away from home. But I can see how a lot of people won't be happy with this.

So overall, I totally love my Kindle Fire. I can easily forgive its shortcomings simply because I know most of them are limited by existing technology. It's sort of like, way back when I was a kid, black and white photos were "good enough"-- until color became practical and inexpensive enough to actually use. And I remember when black & white TV was "good enough" because color wasn't all that good, and cost too much anyway. But nobody clung to black and white TV, once it became reasonably affordable. E-ink is "good enough", sure. But now that I have a great color option, why would I want dull gray?

The first book I read with my Fire was GABBY, about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I was completely absorbed in it and read till I conked out from exhaustion, then picked it up the next morning to finish. That's something I haven't been able to do for years. I have to say, the Kindle Fire made reading an entire book much more pleasurable, with no eye strain or headaches. I'm resolved now to not read or buy paper books again except for those reference books that can't adapt well to ereaders. And that will continue to be a problem for me because color pictures have to be limited in size to the screen size. So maybe someday screens will unfold to expand to the size of full page spreads.

I'll rate it 4 3/4 Stars because I think the next one will address some of the issues I have with this one, like the SD slot. Technology will eventually solve all the difficulties, I'm certain.

Coming Next: Four EBook Addicts Compare their Devices, Cases, Etc.

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.