Kindle Touch: First Impressions
The Kindle Touch is the most elegant Kindle to date.
I say that having had every Kindle model except for the Kindle DX.
My Kindle Touch arrived yesterday (two days past the estimate…very unusual for Amazon). Taking out of the box, I was struck by its appearance…it’s sleek. Even more so than the Nindle, it appears to be simply a place to read and a place to hold it.
Buttons are a reminder of the physical world. They have a certain steampunk quaintness, but they detract from the magic of just “me and the words”.
The Kindle Touch has one button on its face…and it doesn’t even look like a button. Elegance.
Similarly to the Kindle Fire, it has a push button power button, rather than a slide..I prefer that. It seems more natural…the slide seems to fight me more if I’m holding it long enough for to turn off the device. It’s easier to push straight on with the tip of your finger than it is to slide it sidewise.
That’s a minor thing, of course.
The bottom edge has: the USB port; the headphone jack; and the small power switch…it doesn’t even have a volume rocker.
However, I will say that the Mindle still feels more solid…I’m not quite sure what that is…maybe the need for speakers makes a device feel less of one piece.
Once you turn it on, the look is different from the Kindle Keyboard.
There is a ribbon at the top of the homescreen with a back button, a shopping cart, a search box, and a menu. Above that is something some people have wanted: a constantly-displaying clock (along with the familiar battery and wireless indicators, and the name of the device).
Interacting with it is simple. It is subtly wider than my Mindle, and I notice that holding it…I’ll get used to it, though.
The touchscreen seems very good at recognizing my touches…much better than my Kindle Fire. You can swipe to change pages, but you can also tap (except on the homescreen, from what I’ve seen). It is a bit harder to read left-handed. I’m ambidextrous (perhaps that’s why I see both sides of every argument) ;). When I’m in bed, I operate my Kindle with my left hand (I may be resting my arm on my nightstand, and that’s what side it’s on). Since I have to reach past the previous page zone to reach the next page zone from that side, it’s a bit of a stretch (but not uncomfortable).
It does seem odd to tap in the middle of a page to “turn the page”. Holding it on with my right hand, the tap can be much closer to the edge. Turning pages is a place where the Kindle Keyboard is less intrusive. With the KK, I just need to flex my thumb…I hardly even notice it. Where I hold it is where I change it. I have to actually move my finger…lazy, right? :) It’s not about moving my finger, it’s about not thinking about it. It’s still much easier than turning a paper page, though, and I expect it would become subconscious after a while.
You also have the choice* of having the “screen flash” or not when you go to the next page. I found it disconcerting without it, since I’ve gotten used to it. I made me less sure I’d gone to the next screen…I had to wait to get the visual feedback of the words changing. The flash happens more quickly than the next page can be drawn. I might get used to that, though.
There is at least one significant software improvement in this 5th generation (yes, you can call it a Kindle 5…the software version starts with a 5). You can search your archive. With the Kindle Keyboard and earlier, that was awkward…I have over 2,500 books in my archives, and only being able to jump alphabetically to find something was hard. It’s much simpler to type in a word in the title and have it find it.
That brings up typing: I’m finding it easier on the virtual keyboard on the screen on my Kindle Touch than the physical keyboard on my Kindle Keyboard. I can’t type on either one, in the sense of the touch typing I can do on a netbook or laptop. So, that means I am looking for the letters. On my graphite Kindle Keyboard, I find the buttons hard to read. They are simple to read on the Kindle Touch.
There are some negatives to the Kindle Touch. While it recognizes my touches easily, it seems to process slowly. When I first connected it to my network and it did a sync with Amazon’s servers, it slowly brought in the items in my Archived Items list…sort of like the Manage Your Kindle page. The Kindle Keyboard does that in under a second…this took several seconds. I tap something and it knows it…but it takes a second sometimes for it to carry out the command.
They’ve also started burying more things in menus. When I wanted to import my Collections (sort of like folders on a computer) from another device, I had to do
Home-Menu-View Archived Items…and then hit Menu again
On the Kindle Keyboard, that’s immediately visible in the archives. I was glad I followed my own advice with Kindles…when in doubt, hit Menu. :)
I wanted to know the software version. On a Kindle Keyboard, that’s Home-Menu-Settings and it shows on the screen. On the Kindle Touch, it’s Home-Menu-Settings-Menu-Device Info.
I find the design of the home button quite odd. It looks like a grate or a speaker (it has four raised horizontal ridges). That doesn’t say home to me. Worse, it’s basically the way that Amazon indicates something is a menu on the Kindle Fire. When I’ve talked to people about designing applications, I tell them not to have two buttons on the same screen that say the same thing, but do something different. In this case, it’s pretty much the same icon that does two different things…that’s confusing. Why not have the button look like a house, the way Amazon (and other programs) often indicate “home”?
It also turns the wi-fi on automatically when it needs to do that, without asking for a confirmation. I don’t think it turns it off again, though. That’s going to run down the battery more quickly if people don’t notice that (unless it’s much smarter about how it connects than the earlier Kindles).
The marquee feature is X-Ray. One major negative: I asked Amazon how to find a book with X-Ray, and they said there wasn’t a search to do that. I tried searching with Google, but it doesn’t appear on the page…why not? Do they not want to advertise it for people who don’t have Touches?
Fortunately, I was able to turn to the Amazon Kindle community, and IamReadingMore there recommended The LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch. It was a perfect suggestion…I’ve wanted to read it, it doesn’t have text-to-speech access blocked…and it’s available to borrow for free for Prime members. That also gave me a chance to test that…it was easy. We are limited to one book borrowed per calendar month…but it’s more than half way through the month, and there are only thirty days this month. ;) That’s going to make February a bargain. :)
I tried it to write this article…interesting! You tap the top of the screen (which is how you pull up the menu generally), and the X-Ray button appears at your bottom right.
It brings up a choice of telling you where terms appear in the entire book (the default), on the page, or in the chapter. The chapter was grayed out on mine…maybe no chapter marks?
You get a sort of spectrograph image of where each reference appears in the book. I don’t know how to do a screengrab from the Kindle Touch yet (it’s Alt+Shift+G on older Kindles…but I don’t have those buttons), so I’ve taken a picture with my Samsung Captivate and included that.
You can choose to look at all items, just people, or just terms…and it gives you the count of how many.
I noticed James T. Kirk right away. I thought that would be a great test…many Americans know who James T. Kirk is, but I can certainly see people reading this book who might not get the allusion. The description (from Wikipedia) was good…it was a bit detailed on who played him in the beginning, but without going out to Wikipedia, it told me that Kirk has been “praised for his leadership traits, and criticized for his relationships with women.” I had the option to tap and see the full Wikipedia article. I got a bit of context for each reference…if he had been a character, that might have been enough for a spoiler, but it shows them in order…only the first two references showed initially, which would make it pretty safe.
I clicked the back arrow, then I tried CT scans…excellent.
As advertised, this is transformative. It will change the way students do research for the better. In a way, it’s as important as the invention of the encyclopedia.
Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration (you think?). ;) However, not having to go somewhere else and get something else will mean people will look up just what they need when they need it. I love reading reference books and the discovery of that, but for elementary, high school, and college students? Huge plus.
I’d really like to see some sort of indicator on the page itself that the term has X-Ray capability. As it is now, you just tap the top of the page and hope. For example, Carnegie Mellon was referenced early on…but isn’t X-Rayable. That would be nice to know before tapping.
For me, this is the best of the wi-fi reflective screen Kindles so far. I’m not crazy about touchscreens…I like them, but I can’t type on them (I still need to train myself to do that) anywhere near as quickly as I can on a big keyboard. I’ll go back to my first thought…elegant. X-Ray is well worth it…I wish that it was on every book right now! Searching the archives? That’s a considerable enhancement.
At the time of writing, you can get a wi-fi only ad-supported version for $99…just $20 more than the Mindle. That seems really worth it, to have audio and X-Ray.
One negative (which I haven’t tested)…you reportedly can’t use the web browser with 3G, just with wi-fi. That would make it less convenient…although that isn’t a major focus of my use of the Kindle, it’s been nice sometimes.
I would say that this is the reflective screen Kindle to get for students…and that it really is the top of the line.
Feel free to let me know what you think. Am I unreasonably abandoning physical keyboards? Didn’t George Jetson show us that buttons are the future? Is it too hard for those with disabilities to use touchscreens? Is the lack of 3G web-browsing a deal killer? Is Wikipedia a bad source for X-Ray to use? I’d love to hear your opinions…and your questions.
* To change the page flash: Home-Menu-Settings-Reading Options, Screen Refresh
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.