Kindle Touch: First Impressions

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?

X-Ray

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.

Overall?

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.

Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only
Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi

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.

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26 Responses to “Kindle Touch: First Impressions”

  1. American Child Says:

    I love my Kindle Touch, I purchased it the day it came out after realizing the Kindle Fire just wasn’t the device for me. At first turning the pages was ackward but now I don’t even notice – though I think i would prefer buttons like the Mindle so left and right handed operation would be easier. Bufo you said you like the press power button however I have accidentally powered mine off a couple of time – wish it was on the top. I use the web browser to enter my food eaten and activity at fitbit.com and the Touch makes it so much easier than the Kindle Keyboard. I have yet to figure out how to open an email in Hotmail – I get to Hotmail and see a list of my messages but when I tap on the subject line to open nothing happens. Another plus with the browser is that I am able to log into my library’s digital site and borrow books without need for the computer (yes using the computer is much easier but it is a nice option). And the best plus of all is that it is so small that it easily slips into my small cross body bag, I take my Kindle everywhere so this is huge for me. Overall I am delighted with my new Kindle.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, American!

      I appreciate you sharing those impressions!

      Have you tried “long pressing” the message? Hold you fingertip on it for a second or so.

      I was going to suggest that you change the page orientation so it was upside down, but we can’t even make it landscape on the Kindle Touch…that can be a disadvantage.

    • American Child Says:

      My Kindle Touch is now officially the perfect e-reader. To access hotmail you must go to mail.live.com/md which is the mobile version. Found the information on the Amazon website forums from a Kindle 3 post.

  2. Kay C Says:

    I just subscribed to your blog this week, and I’m loving it! Finally, a blog with great Kindle information for real people without loads of ads to wade through (though I do understand and appreciate the need for ads on other sites, but I guess I’m not that bright and had trouble getting to the “meat” of the matter ;-)).
    I have a Kindle (now Keyboard) 3 with Wifi, and absolutely adore it. I’m strongly considering buying a Kindle for my kids for Christmas, and this post on the Touch was very informative (though is making the decision on WHICH ONE TO GET??? a lot harder ;-)). My son (age 12) is a voracious reader of classics and I’ll save money by being able to let him read the classics for free. My daughter is a good reader, but at age 8, is not terribly motivated to read, though she does enjoy using my Kindle. Because we are on a budget, the kids fully realize that I will probably get a new Kindle for me, and one of them will “inherit” my (not-so-very) old Kindle.
    After doing reading and meditating, I like the idea of a 3G Keyboard Kindle for me, and maybe the Mindle for my daughter? But I do love the “auditory” part of my Kindle – I have an Audible subscription and listen to those books while on my long commute. OTOH, after reading your post about the Touch – maybe a 3G Touch for me? But………. there’s a possibility that I might need to use the 3G for the odd check of my email – and I understand that’s not possible on the 3G Touch? And what about that X-Ray feature – I don’t wanna be left behind (*insert anguished cry here*)
    Ok, most of this is me talking out loud to someone who understands my words (I only get blank stares from my husband for any word after “Kindle” – he’s not been converted yet ;-)).
    If you have any brilliant insights, I’d appreciate a word or two, but mostly I just wanted to say – thanks for the great blog!!
    Kay

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kay!

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you are enjoying it, and I really appreciate it when people take the time to tell me that. Thanks especially for subscribing! That really helps. That’s what allows me to do this without advertising, and I’d really prefer not to do that.

      I would suggest that your 12-year old gets a Kindle Touch. He’s at the right age to really benefit from X-Ray, and it has a higher cool factor with the touchscreen. It’s great for him for reading those free classics. If you get a wi-fi only one, there may be an advantage in it not web-surfing (although that may not be an issue for you and your son).

      I think the Mindle is right for your daughter. It feels a lot more solid to me, and audio may not be as important for her. You can play some games on it, which may get her to carry it. :)

      If your husband is a reader and just unconvinced by the Kindle, maybe you can use the “example argument” to say your daughter will read more if he has a Kindle, too? Maybe they can both read the same book about a mutual interest?

      How about this? You get yourself a new wi-fi Kindle Touch (so you can play with X-Ray and still check your e-mail), and you give your husband your current Kindle? He won’t feel like you bought him one that way. :)

  3. Sherri Says:

    After a few days use, I’m liking my Touch more. At first, I found it difficult to hold, because I had to train myself not to rest my thumb on the screen anywhere anytime. I realized that when holding my KK, sometimes if I looked away to do something or reach for something, I’d move my thumb onto the screen to have a more secure grip on the device. I do wish there were hardware buttons to change pages, but I’m getting used to tapping to change pages and it’s not a big deal. I really like touch to select a word, and typing on it is easier than on the KK, because the keyboard on the KK was sluggish; the display didn’t keep up with my typing.

    I hope you like The Last Lecture. Randy was a friend of mine, gone much too soon.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sherri!

      People are very adaptable…after all, we live in virtually every environment on Earth (and off it, in the International Space Station). :)

      I’ll let you know what I think of the book. It’s special that you knew him, but if anyone recently isn’t completely gone, it’s him. I know many people who know him through the book, and while that doesn’t make up for your loss, you can be comforted to know that he is still touching other people’s lives.

  4. Jules Says:

    I would really like a better idea how you handle your content. I have mine organized in Collections, but now that I have a new Touch, I’m not sure how to pull that new content in. I see how to pull in the actual Collection names from the previous Kindle and have done so, but I have hundreds of books organized across these collections – am I supposed to pull these back from my Archived content one at a time and sort them all back manually?? Ugh! I’d still have to look back and forth at the old Kindle to do this, to know what ones are in what collections vs. what ones are left Archived because I’ve already read them. I only have 800 – you said you have 2500 – how do you manage this? I am most curious! Thanks so much!
    p.s. I also agree that I do not like the on/off button on the bottom – I hit it by mistake or when it rests on a pillow/leg/stomach/etc and it turns off. I turn the Fire upside down when possible and that reorients itself nicely so I can avoid this on that device but I think this is poor design putting this on the bottom of these 2 new devices. Do like the push button instead of slide alot though!

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jules!

      The trick is that the books have to be on the Kindle when you import Collections to have them automatically go into the Collections.

      I only keep about ten Kindle store books on my Kindle, but let’s say you are like a lot of people and keep hundreds. I’m going to say, for this example, that you normally keep about 500 of the 800 on your device.

      Let’s further say that you download 100 of them to your new Kindle Touch (you do have to download them one at a time).

      At that point, you import Collections. On a Touch, that’s

      Home-Menu-View Archived Items-Menu-Import Collections

      All of the books on your Touch that were in Collections that you imported will automatically go into those Collections.

      Now, later on you, download another book from your Archives. It won’t go into a Collection automatically, even if it was in on the device from which you imported the Collections.

      However, you can just import the Collections again. You can do that as often as you want, as long as the Kindle that holds the original Collections is still registered to your account.

      I haven’t had the issue with accidentally turning off my Touch, but I may just hold it differently than many people. One of the issues with putting it on the top or on an edge is for people who use covers. I prefer a cover that flips over the top, and I’d have to open the cover to get to the button. Of course, I would have the cover when I’m sight-reading (but not when I’m listening, necessarily). Also the cover would tend to push the button, I think. The same thing with a button on the side…the people who like covers which open like a book might have that problem. There would also be the handedness issue…you’d need a button on both sides to make it equally easy for people who are right or left-handed (or ambidextrous like me…of course, we wouldn’t tend to care as much).

      Due to the Touch zones, I don’t think they can let the image rotate…you can’t even put it in landscape mode, from what I’ve seen.

      They could conceivably give us some sort of lock or cover to prevent accidentally pushing it…sort of like the Deal or No Deal buzzer. :) That might be fragile though (battery doors come off all the time), and would interfere with the sleekness.

  5. shuggie Says:

    Hi Bufo,

    How does the viewing experience compare with the KK? Is the contrast noticeably different. I think I’d like a Touch (when they release it here) but I’ve heard the touch screen on say the Sony eReaders has a slight dimming effect on the eInk.

    How do you find it?

    Cheers
    Shuggie

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, shuggie!

      Unfortunately, I’m not the best person to ask…I have some color vision deficiency and superior night vision, and even the older Kindles didn’t seem dim to me. I also know there is individual variability.

      I just held them side by side for you…I don’t see that the Touch is any dimmer. In fact, on the homescreen, I’d say the Touch had better contrast, and within a book, the tiny edge might have gone to the Kindle Keyboard.

      I doubt that you’ll find that a problem, from what I’ve seen.

  6. American Child Says:

    I find no difference between my K3 and the touch screen except som ghosting when I use the internet, for reading I see no ghosting. The more I use my Touch the more I adore it and of course my best friend is thrilled that she inherited my Kindle Keyboard.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, American!

      I appreciate you sharing that! I haven’t done much on the internet yet on the Touch…my Fire is playing that role (in both cases, I have wi-fi only…no choice on that on the Fire, and that’s what I chose for the Touch).

    • Nikki Says:

      American Child, you may be able to get rid of ghosting by changing the refresh rate in Settings. I think the default is that the screen refreshes (and flashes) after every few page turns. I changed mine to the regular refresh rate.

    • American Child Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion Nikki. Changing the refresh rate got rid of the ghosting. Now if I could just get my hotmail messages open I would have a perfect ebook reader.

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, American!

        I’ve been able to read webmail on my K3…what happens when you try on the Touch? Have you tried adjusting the browser settings? I’ll try to look at this for you.

    • American Child Says:

      Hi Bufo,

      I have java enabled, I tried turning pictures off but that did not help. I have tried long touching but messages just will not open. I have not tried yahoo or gmail only hotmail. Any assistance would be appreciated.

      • American Child Says:

        Just found out that there is a mobile version of Hotmail at mail.live.com/md and it works perfectly. The Kindle Touch is the greatest!

  7. Kay C Says:

    Hi again Bufo

    Thanks for your insight on my “who gets what for Christmas” quandary ;-) I’m liking the idea of getting a Mindle and a Touch – I’ve thought about a Touch for me (passing the KK to my son), but not sure I’ll like the touch screen. So with my daughter having a Mindle, and then also getting a Touch – my son and I can see who likes what the best. He’s had a laptop at school since 4th grade (learning differences) and his teacher said she wasn’t crazy about a Kindle because of “no page numbers”, but I think we can win her over and make it work ;-)

    Unfortunately, hubby is not a reader, though if we left a “spare” Kindle laying around, he might just pick it up…… ;-)

    And a bit off topic – regarding any (general) discussion of “which is better, Kindle or book” (assuming they are mutually exclusive, which they are not, IMHO), I have to say, since I’ve gotten my Kindle, I’ve read more, read more variety, and “found” more new authors, books and genres that I did bumbling through libraries and bookstores searching for reading material. And living on a strict budget, I can “afford” more to read on the Kindle. But that’s just me. Had to throw that out there ;-)

    Kay C.

  8. Marvin Says:

    Bufo, what about fingerprints on the touch screen ? I know it is not the same as on tablet, but after using it for some time there must be smudges on the screen. Or not ? I know I sometimes touch my Mindle’s screen accidentaly and I can see the spots and it distracts me.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Marvin!

      It’s interesting, but I certainly don’t see fingerprints on my Touch more than I do on my Mindle. It’s very different from the Fire, which I find myself wiping multiple time in a day. That may have to do with the light background on the Touch compared to the flat black when the Fire is sleeping.

  9. Sara Miles Says:

    Bufo, you mentioned searching the Archives, but I’m having a problem with that and hope you can help.

    When I open my archives, which are sorted by Title, and want to go to the titles beginning with “m”, the only Search seems not to work. For instance, I searched with that letter and the results did not take me to the page in Archives where the m titles begin. I then tried a search on the word “murder.” That brought up books with murder in the title, no matter what the beginning of the title was.

    Is there a way to search within Archives or a collection as I have always done with the K 2,3, and 4. I love the Mindle and so far am not so fond of the Touch.

  10. Sara Miles Says:

    Bufo, I found the solution (tapping on the page range at upper right). Sorry to have bothered you!

  11. Zebras Says:

    Bufo: My Kindle Keyboard broke accidentally today, and thanks to your great information, I have chosen to go with a Touch as the replacement. Seems like in the long run switching between the Fire and the Touch might also be more smooth. I contacted customer service about the books currently on the broken device. Won’t those count against my 6 liscences forever, since I can’t delete them before de-registering? The person I got didn’t seem to know any right answers, so I figure I would ask you. Thanks in advance!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      I’m sorry to hear that!

      Kindle Customer Service should be able to release the licenses for you, but they may not do it until you’ve deregistered the old device. If you have Collections on the old one that you’d like on the new one, don’t deregister it until you have the new device.

      When you get the new one:

      Download the books you want to have in the Collections.

      Then

      Home-Menu-View Archived Items-Menu-Import Collections

      If you don’t download them first, it won’t work…the books won’t go into the Collections.

  12. Round up #58: estimated pages, X-ray info, Kindle Nation app « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] a feature on the Kindle Touch that lets you download information about the book with the book. I’ve written about it [...]

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