Four minor issues with the Kindle 3

Woman: "Sorry but I dig guys with Kindles."

Calm down, Kindle 3 freaks.
This will not delve into the great big Apple iPad-Amazon Kindle dialectic.
Both have their upsides and their setbacks, not to mention their respective users who swear that their gadgets can establish world peace, make a cocktail, and hunt down Osama Bin Laden while fixing Grandpa’s diapers.
But one thing is as certain as President Noynoy Aquino’s alopecia.
The Kindle is far superior to the iPad as far as reading eBooks is concerned. The secret is in its eInk technology, eliminating eye strain that usually accompanies extended reading on color monitors. (Of course, reading comic books and graphic novels is another matter altogether.)
Despite this upside, the Kindle — and the digital environment that accompanies it — does have features that could be improved, and possibly even integrated into the Kindle 4 (or whatever Jeff Bezos or his marketing guys may wish to call it).
So if you haven’t got a Kindle yet, quit reading this and go get yourself one. That way you know what all this quibbling is about. [See: Five reasons why Filipinos should get a K3Five more things to like about the K3]

1) Limited screensaver pictures

Enough said.

The K3 enables a screensaver every time you turn it off.
Except that a couple of the pictures may not appeal to certain segments of the reading population.
Take myself.
After a hard day at “work” — quotes supplied — I usually look forward to reading anything that’s been loaded onto my K3 (a volume of Calvin and Hobbes, a novel by Martin Amis, a book by Michael Lewis, a text file of the latest piece by Lewis Lapham in Lapham’s Quarterly).
However, a screensaver pic, including but not limited to, Harriet Beecher Stowe — with all due apologies to her, her friends, fans and relatives — just doesn’t do it for me.
I would much prefer a picture of Joan Holloway and the two Mrs. Donald Drapers, the former and the current.
Which is to say that Amazon should allow users to change and/or customize their Kindle screensavers for enhanced user interaction.
But then again, that’s just me and the products of what arguably is my superficial mind.

2) The Zebra Effect

Now this is what I call a cool screensaver. Christina Hendricks as Mad Men's Joan Holloway

Or at least that’s what I call it.
It’s the bug that occasionally occurs when the text being highlighted continues onto the other page.
As the cursor — and the highlighting process — moves to the other page, the line under the first word in the next page disappears, thereby temporarily confusing users.
Fortunately, this doesn’t affect the file entitled “My Note,” a file where all highlighted text in the K3 is automatically saved. The same file can be copied once the K3 is plugged into a computer.
Now why did I call it the Zebra effect? It sounds cool for one thing.

3) Limited text status updates

January Jones as Betty Draper, ex-wife of Donald Draper, Mad Men's protagonist

Once a block of text is highlighted, it can be posted on a user’s Facebook and Twitter accounts using the K3 on a WiFi connection.
But if the text is two paragraphs long or more, then you can forget it.
Amazon will parse the text, thereby sometimes making it less understandable to Facebook friends and Twitter followers who bothered to read it.
This happened to me more than once while quoting Michael Lewis, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Louis Mencken, among others.
It definitely took the fun out of tweeting and Facebook status updating. Tsk.

4) The keyboard

Jessica Paré as Megan Calvet who becomes Donald Draper's fiance in Mad Men

Could a keyboard be any less ergonomic than the one fitted in the K3? Yes, it can be found in old typewriters made way before anyone thought of the word ergonomic.
But seriously, the K3’s keyboard could use some adjustments such as better spacing between letters.
Whenever I use it to post tweets, I have pressed the “N” instead of “M” and vice-versa for as long as I can remember.
A keyboard redesign may be called for, Jeff B.
But then again, that’s just me and the products of what arguably is my superficial mind.

Five more things to like about the Kindle 3

It's a nice view, anywhere you look at it. (From fuckyeahreading.tumblr.com)

No question about it: The Kindle 3 is perfect for reading eBooks, thanks to its much-vaunted, proprietary electronic ink technology.
The letters are crisp, clear, and sharp.
It precludes glare, strain, and other forms of visual torture associated with poring over a digital screen that doesn’t feature Angel Locsin’s Folded and Hung ads. [See: Angel Locsin’s Folded and Hung ads]
But that’s not the only thing the K3 offers.
While the add-ons may not be spectacular, these nevertheless increase the value to owning and using what may well be the world’s most famous eBook reader.
Which, I guess, is my way of saying: I love my Kindle 3 and I hope you love yours too. And if you haven’t gotten a Kindle 3 yet, go get one while the peso’s strong and the dollar’s weak and so I can shut the hell up about it already.

(The usual disclaimers apply. No arrangement, financial or otherwise, has been made between Amazon.com, its owners,  affiliates, and this self-styled, self-confessed Kindle 3 cheerleader. The check is still in the mail. Or so Jeff Bezos keeps on telling me. Right.)

1) It’s best for reading in the bathroom.

Here’s something that Jeff Bezos missed.
Owing to its weight, size, and form factor, the Kindle 3 is good for reading in the bathroom, especially while occupying the best seat in the house.
The K3 has dispensed with carrying a thick volume on the way to the can as well as the need for extra space in the toilet on which to place books, crucial when reaching for a roll of tissues.
Whether hunched like Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker or stretched out as if flying business class on someone else’s tab, the K3 is the best bathroom companion as the posterior comes home to roost.
Just make sure you turn on the lights.
(In case of a power outage or absence of reading lamps — common in certain cheap accommodations — you can always get the Mighty Bright book light.) [See: Mighty Bright booklight]
In the meantime, for the rich and ambitious, you can also use the K3 while in the tub. But remember: the K3 wasn’t designed for underwater use.

2) It’s an emergency music player.

iPod suddenly — and mysteriously — out of juice?
No sweat.
That is, if you’ve bought the K3 along.
Bigger but thinner than the Walkman, the K3 plays mp3 files stored in its music folder on its speakers or through a regular-sized audio jack for earphones. (You do need to drag and drop files beforehand using a PC or a Mac).
The feature is purely experimental though.
This explains why it lacks a shuffle, repeat, and loop mode and other related features found even in digital audio players made ten years ago.
But the K3 will keep on playing music even after the unit is turned off. Or once it runs out of power (which will take awhile.)*
(There are two ways to play music. For the first, go to Home, press the Menu button, choose Experimental, and scroll down to the play music command. For the second, press Alt and the space button. To skip to the next song, press Alt and the F key. To stop playing, press Alt and the space key. To make coffee, get off your butt.)

3) It’s a rudimentary web browser.

Let’s say you have a crummy phone (like some people I know).
As a result, you may be unable to access the internet even with the availability of a robust WiFi connection.
What to do?
Pull out the K3 and access the internet through its proprietary browser.
While the device will find it easy to detect and connect using the network, it will have difficulty recognizing certain graphic files and pictures on webpages.
Despite this setback, it’s still good enough for instant searches on Wikipedia and other sites.

4) Two words: Twitter and Facebook.

(Which is three words actually. But who’s counting? The Comelec?)
Struck by a witty aphorism, a moving account, a well-written passage you’ve read on the K3?
You can share them on your Twitter and Facebook accounts without changing screens, thanks to the K3’s social network features.
Of course, users need to manage their settings on the K3 first after they register their units on Amazon.com.
Don’t get too excited about sharing though.
If the passage is longer than two or so paragraphs, Amazon.com is going to cut it.
But don’t fret.
You can still share longer passages the hard way.
Just copy the “My Clippings” text file stored in the documents folder of the Kindle hard drive and take it from there.
In the meantime, if you want to overshare — if you know what I mean — there’s always torrents.

5) Yes, you can read comics and graphic novels.

Since the K3 can read PDF files, it can read comic books and graphic novels stored in that format.
Or at least theoretically.
But don’t bet the house on it.
After all, the K3 may find it difficult to load and render comics in color as opposed to graphic files drawn in black and white.
So it’s still touch and go.
And if you do succeed in installing and loading a comic book into the K3, consider it a small victory for yourself and the inexpensive eBook reader that — arguably — revolutionized the way humans read books.
*From the Go Get A Room Dept. It took my K3 18 days before it required recharging. Eighteen days — a lifetime for a device that I use everyday for tasks including but not limited to reading. Even my low-tech Treo 650 phone doesn’t last that long on a single, full charge. Meanwhile, charging the K3 took just about an hour or so.

Five reasons why Filipino readers should get a Kindle 3

Fan reading jackthescribbler.com on a WiFi-enabled Kindle 3.

(Disclaimer: No arrangement, financial or otherwise, has been made between Amazon.com, which produces the Kindle 3, and this blogger. But then again, if Jeff Bezos insists, I’d probably be willing to reconsider. After all, what’s a few hundred shares of Amazon.com between friends?)

Nope, it’s not the Apple iPad.
The Kindle 3 offers no sharp color images, no touch-sensitive screen, no huge digital storage.
However, what it does — which is to be an eBook reader — it does exceedingly well.
Once you turn it on and dive headlong into an eBook, the world disappears — just about the same kind of magic you get from reading a book with magnificent prose and effortless storytelling.
Of course, there’s more to the Kindle than just replicating and enhancing the reading experience on a digital screen.
Unfortunately, that’s where its features fall short. Sure, it can play podcasts and mp3 files.
Except you can’t see a fancy colorful icon representing the music being played unlike in other devices. (And the tinny set of speakers can barely hold its own against say, the hubbub of a regular household.)
The Kindle 3 can also connect to a wireless network even though typing on its keyboard is more tedious than texting on a touchscreen.
But then again, all this is beside the point.
Nobody intends to buy a Kindle just to use it for wireless surfing anyway.
You get a Kindle because you’re a voracious reader and, for one reason or another, you’d like to try your hand at eBooks.
Here are my five reasons why you should get a Kindle now.

1) It’s sexier than its predecessors.

Let’s face it.
Many people who use gadgets judge them by how they look and not just about what they do. This partly explains the popularity of Apple products.
Besides being easy to use, iPods, iPhones, iMacs, iPads, and MacBook Air laptops all look like the gadget equivalents of FHM cover models.
The same goes for the Kindle 3.
I never gave the first two Kindle iterations a second look. But that was then.
When Amazon.com reduced the Kindle’s size, replaced its sharp edges with smooth contours, changed its color to graphite from white, and introduced what is now called the Kindle 3, I was awed.
Jeff Bezos’s favorite company finally got it right the third time.

2) It’s cheaper.

The very first Kindle was launched in November 2007 and sold for $399. The second was released in February 2009, sold for $359, a price that was later cut to $259.
Kindle 3 was launched in August this year and was priced at $139, less than half of the launch prices of the first two.
At current exchange rates (roughly P43 to 1), the Kindle 3 is cheaper than the many cellphones used by most, if not all, salaried Filipinos.
If you can afford to buy a web-enabled mobile phone, you can easily get the K3. (That is of course if you read, like, you know, books. If you don’t, go get yourself a new textmate or something.)
Here’s another explanation: the dollar is currently weak.
As a result, dollar-based imports — including the Kindle 3 — are cheaper. Which also explains why fuel prices should be lower as well.
But that’s another story.

3) Tons of free eBooks.

And I’m talking about the classics whose copyrights have expired and are now in the public domain — Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, Henry Thoreau’s Walden, and any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s books in his Sherlock Holmes series.
History geeks will also be glad to find out that the six volumes of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon is also freely available in various eBook formats.
So are the Doctrina Christiana (the first book published in the Philippines), Ibong Adarna, and the Kartilyang Makabayan by Hermenegildo Cruz.
These and many more — including a Dutch translation of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere — can be downloaded for free from www.gutenberg.org. [See: Noli Me Tangere, Project Gutenberg]

4) It’s a handy, accessible library.

The K3 is slightly smaller and thinner than a regular trade paperback.
But it can store as much as 3,500 books.
Or at least that’s what Amazon.com says.
And I’m not about to verify that claim.
As far as I’m concerned, the 38 fiction, non-fiction, reference, and do-it-yourself eBooks I’ve downloaded have yet to make a dent on my K3’s storage capacity.
I still have three gigabytes worth of storage and I’m not about to complain.
Access to these many books can’t hurt especially if you’re in line that seems to go on forever inside a bank whose staff moves at a glacial pace. [See: Bank of the Philippine Islands]

5) It’s a professional tool.

Besides reading science-fiction and fantasy books on his Kindle, the friend who convinced me to get one uses his to store notes.
Useful, he says, in meetings where laptops are overkill because no one is really expected to deliver a PowerPoint presentation.
Yes, you can store and access notes and PDF files on the Kindle.
Notes can be converted to either mobi or azn — Amazon’s proprietary format — using freely available apps.
Meanwhile, PDF files can be read by the K3 in two ways.
They can copied and later viewed as native PDF files or they can be converted and viewed as azn files on the Kindle.
PDF files can also be converted to the azn format for free once you register your Kindle with Amazon.com. [See: Free PDF Kindle conversion]
The K3’s ability to store notes is so useful that I’ve begun to look forward to meetings.
After all, it’s just another opportunity to show off Juanita del Pablo.* (Yes, that’s the name of my K3).

*From the Trivial Pursuits Dept. JDP is a name of an actress in the adult entertainment industry mentioned in Martin Amis’ novel, Money. She is referred to by John Self, the protagonist, but she has no lines in the book, just like Diana Proletaria, an industry colleague.