Amazon Kindle 2 Review

I got an Amazon Kindle 2 this summer, it has DRM, and I love it (The Kindle). More on that later. The Kindle is a great gadget that has re-kindled (excuse the pun) my love of reading for pleasure.

Kindle 2 Specs

  • CPU: Freescale 532 MHz, ARM-11
  • OS: Linux-2.6.10
  • Display: 6-in diagonal E-Ink screen. 600×800 resolution with 16 shades of gray
  • Size: 8-in.x5.3-in.x 0.36-in., 10.2 ounces
  • Wireless: Amazon 3G Whispernet using EVDO/CDMA
  • Sound: Stereo with Text-to-Speech
  • Storage: 2 GB, but no SD card slot
  • Battery Life: Appr. 2 weeks with wireless disabled.
  • Formats (Text): DRM-Free Mobipocket books (MOBI, PRC), plain text files (TXT), and Amazon’s proprietary, DRM-restricted format (AZW)
  • Formats (Audio): MP3 and Audible DRM AAX format.

The Good

E-Ink Display: The display is “worth the price of admission”. The E-Ink display is easy to read, and your eyes react well to it. I have read on the Kindle for hours with no eye strain. It is much easier reading from the Kindle than a laptop. It is perfectly visible in bright daylight but is not backlit, so you will need a book light at night.

WhisperNet: The Kindle comes subscription-free with 3G networking from Sprint. While Amazon hopes you will use the WhisperNet to impulse buy books from their store, it works very well with GMail and other simple web sites. Do not use it on heavy AJAX/Javascript based websites. The Kindle 2 must have a nice antenna. I’m yet to find a spot, even deep in a building, that I unable to get an EDVO signal.

Battery Life: The battery life is great on the Kindle, since the device only uses power for wireless, or when you change the E-ink display. I get 7+ days of battery life with the wireless on, so the claim of two weeks is believable.

Works on Linux: The Kindle 2 is detected as a hard drive by Linux, making it easy to use with it. Calibre software is installable for most Linux distros, and auto detects the Kindle allowing quick syncing of non-Amazon download books.

The OK

Text-to-Speech: While obvious a computer voice, the Text-to-Speech feature in the Kindle 2 is quite usable. The voice is very easy to understand, and does not lull you to sleep by being too monotone. Amazon did give the Author’s guild the right to disable Text-to Speech on certain books, but e-books that are purchased from from third party e-bookstores in mobi, prc, and txt allow Text-to-Speech.

In the “Amazon Irony” department, one word the Kindle has trouble saying is “Kindle”.

Selection: The Amazon Kindle store boasts 300,000 Kindle titles. That is stretch, since many titles are multiple versions of public domain books formatted for the Kindle. On a random search of 30 history and fiction books I have on my bookshelf at home, I found 11 of the newer titles for sale the Kindle store. There are many third party e-bookstores that have DRM-free Kindle formatted books for sale to help expand the selection of books available for the Kindle. If you are a sci-fi nut like me, I would suggest the Webscription store, that sell hundreds of classic sci-fi titles DRM-free.

Storage: The 2GB internal storage give you plenty of room for thousands of e-books. The lack of an external storage slot make the Kindle useless for large amounts of audio or audiobooks. I would preferred the Kindle 2 be a couple of centimeters thicker to add a SD slot.

The Bad

DRM: Books in the Amazon Kindle store are in the AZW DRM-encumbered format. What can I say about this that has not been said a thousands times before? How can I support DRM and look my look my OSS friends in the eye? Easy, I (mostly) don’t. 90% of the books on my Kindle are free public domain titles or DRM-free titles I purchased from a third party e-bookstore (see above). The only thing you lose by not shopping at the Amazon Kindle store is automatically deliver via WhisperNet, since the Kindle work so easily with Linux via USB, this is not a problem. Every time I purchase a DRM-Free book, I write Amazon to let them know my decision to take my business elsewhere due to DRM.

One thing the Amazon should allow is give authors the choice to use a DRM-free format in the Kindle store for their works. This would give independent authors a prominent selling point for their titles.

The Ugly

Remote Deletion: In July, Amazon remote deleted thousands copies of 1984 (Irony, thy name is Amazon) from Kindles, since they did not really have the e-books rights for that title. This was a poor decision by Amazon. Amazon should have worked a deal out with George Orwell’s heirs, and ate the cost as the price of doing business. While Jeff Bezos apologies for doing this and said it would never happen again, I think action speak louder than words. Amazon should update the Kindle firmware and remove this ability.

In Conclusion

While it has some some tarnish, I think the Kindle 2 is a great gadget, which I hope encourages the spread of e-book devices. Hopefully book publishers will learn that DRM is broken, and actually hurts profit margins.

What I’m reading now: “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon.

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Posted in Floss, gadgets and tagged , , by with 3 comments.


  • Rusty says:

    It is unlikely that Amazon will drop DRM at any author’s request. While it is widely touted that DRM is what Amazon needs to promote to publishers to say that their books will not be pirated, the only real advantage any DRM scheme gives is to the device distributor, not the publisher. You’ve been enjoying Grey’s Anatomy on the Kindel, but you are going ot be at the hospital and you want the hospital to know that you are not using a device that is emitting radio waves that may interfere with it’s equipment? Well, move the copy to your Sony eReader. Oops, can’t do that, you’re locked into a Kindel or device supported by Amazon, (Phones so far as I know, possibly a PC) None of which give you the same e-ink qualities.

    Audible comes closest to having a system that is ‘open’ on the user’s ‘end’ as they have made sure that the vast majority of media devices are supported, so you can switch from using your phone to a gps to your pda to your computer at work and so on. Or if you would rather, burn a CD thenrip it to the device of your preference.

  • Stefan says:

    Never used or seen the Kindle/2, but I have a Sony PRS505 and its also totally awesome :)

  • Kevin says:

    The biggest downside you forgot to mention about the Kindle is that, compared to other e-Ink portable book readers, the formats it supports is horribly restrictive.

    It supports neither PDF nor ePub — PDF is the most widely available format for digital publications currently, and ePub is quickly becoming the future standard for such devices. Amazon seems to be trying to force Kindle users to stick to their format so they have to buy their books through Amazon.

    …And while calibre will “convert” from these formats to .mobi which can be read on a Kindle, the conversion procedures are bound to be less than imperfect, and this is especially true with technical material (math and science), where the result is often unusable.

    I use a Sony Reader PRS-505 too, and I’m very happy to have it rather than the Kindle, since it supports both PDF and ePub natively.

    The Kindle DX looks to be a huge improvement though.

    for lots of information and discussion about such devices.