I’ve held off on writing this review for perhaps longer than I should have because I’ve had such mixed feelings about the Kindle DX.
I for four months, I’ve been really enjoying my Kindle 2. I’m reading a lot more than I did before I got it. And I’m not the only one. Aside from all the marketing and press, my technologically adverse mother loves hers. She’s 88 years old and has had problems with her eyes for most of her adult life. She’s always read a lot but then she confessed to me back in October that she was finding reading books almost impossible now. I showed her my Kindle and got one for her in December. Now she’s back to reading almost one book per day; she told me that during NYC’s recent snow storms she was reading two books per day. “I just don’t do anything but read. I
haven’t done that in many years because of my sight but I have the bad habit once I start a book I just can’t put it down. The Kindle got me back to my old bad habit. This month so far I have bought 8 books. I am going to try and take it easier but it is so easy this way.”
I won’t claim that the Kindle is the best possible e-book reader but I think it is as good or better than anything else currently out there; certainly it has the widest choice of material that you would actually want to read and an e-book reader without any e-books that you want is nothing more than a paperweight. But Amazon has come to a crossroad now. They’re staring down the barrel of the Apple iPad gun. And publishers have been revolting (successfully) against Amazon’s attempt to institute an across-the-board $9.99 price for new releases and best sellers. Estimates are that to date they have sold over 3 million of these things but continued success is not assured.
In the past month, Amazon released the “international” version of the larger Kindle DX. And as I mentioned, they have generously loaned me one (and given me a small credit in their store so that I could fill it up) for review. I wrote up my initial impressions here. These are my final thoughts before I box it up and return it to Amazon.
I was of course curious about the larger screen and if it would make a noticeable difference in reading enjoyment. Here you can see the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX side by side. (You can click on any image here to see it full-sized.)
(In the second photo above, showing a side view, both Kindles are in the basic Amazon leather cover. The cover that came with my loaner DX arrived mottled like that; I assume that I was not the first person to receive this for review. But when you buy a new one, it should be fine.)
So as you can see, the Kindle DX is significantly larger than the Kindle 2. Of course, it’s not just a matter of a 6 inch diagonal screen versus a 9.7 inch one. The Kindle DX, at 18.9 ounces, weighs almost twice as much as the Kindle 2 (10.2 ounces). And that’s where the issue for me comes in. It’s simply easier to hold the K2 for longer periods of time – especially since I hold it and read using just one hand, not two. And it’s easier to take the K2 along with me everywhere I go thanks to the lighter weight – my standard “day pack” is already quite heavy and anything that helps lighten the load is welcome.
Had there been an appreciable difference in font sizes, that might have meant something to me. But as you can see in the picture below, selecting the same book and same font size (4th largest out of 6), the font sizes in the display are the same.
The next thing I was curious to investigate was how the e-versions of newspapers and magazines fared. This is something that I haven’t bothered with on the K2. Here’s the table of contents from an issue of Fortune Magazine, followed by the first page of the lead feature article in that issue.
As you can see, these periodicals have been formatted specially for e-readers and all graphics have been removed. So the KDX enjoys no special advantage over the K2 here. One extra note for international users – there is a surcharge for wireless delivery of newspapers and periodicals. If you’re subscribing to a daily newspaper like the New York Times, these can really add up over the course of a month. You are not charged this surcharge if you choose to have these delivered to your PC (and then transfer them to your Kindle via USB). On the other hand, a $2 surcharge for wireless is built into the price of every Kindle book for international users and you get charged this extra amount even if you download the books to your computer – a “feature” that I wish Amazon would reconsider as I think it’s quite unfair.
One place where the KDX edges out the K2 is in the display of PDF files. You have the option to email your PDF’s to Amazon for conversion (free but a surcharge if you want the converted file sent to your Kindle via wireless), to use one of several types of freeware software (such as Mobipocket Creator) to convert the PDF to an e-format or you can directly load and display PDF’s on the Kindle. There is no option to change font size or to zoom in on the page when viewing PDF’s, which I’ve found makes most of them illegible on the K2 but quite okay on the KDX. Some comparison shots below:
If you click on the images to see the full-sized images, you’ll note how small the text is on the K2 but it is displayed at a (for me) acceptable size on the KDX.
The last photo above also demonstrates how you can chose to view any text in either landscape or portrait mode. The KDX can automatically reformat the screen depending on how you’re holding it (this can be disabled) while you must select the option from a menu to change it on the K2.
An area of particular disappointment for me with both models is the display of graphics. I know we’re dealing with just a 16-color gray scale here, but my problem is that when the page is being loaded, it displays really well. But as soon as it fully loads, the image gets a lot lighter and harder to view. I suspect this has something to do with how the e-ink screen uses power – it only draws from the battery when rendering a screen and uses no battery power at all once the text or image has loaded (which is why it has a two week battery life).
So, where does that leave me?
The advantages of the Kindle DX, as I see them, include:
- Seeing more lines of a page at a time seemed more natural to me
- The DX’s keyboard is far better and easier to use, especially important for taking notes
- The larger storage capacity (the DX has 4 gig, the 2 has 2 gig) means you can carry up to 3,500 books with you
- More usable display for PDF files
- The larger screen might prove useful for certain types of books (textbooks and manuals) (though for basic fiction and nonfiction books it won’t make a difference for most people)
The advantages of the Kindle 2 are just its smaller size and weight. It’s easier to hold with one hand, easier to hold for extended periods (especially when reading in bed), easier to take with you without thinking about it.
Honestly, before I received the Kindle DX, I was worried. Would I like it so much more than the Kindle 2 that I had just paid US$259 for that I’d want to dump the K2 and spend the US$499 for the DX? That didn’t prove to be the case. With both of them on the same table and with both loaded with the same content, every time I wanted to read, I found myself reaching for the Kindle 2 rather than the Kindle DX. And while you’d only be able to take my Kindle 2 away from me at gun point, I’ll be shipping the Kindle DX back to Amazon, curiosity sated and happy with my original choice of the Kindle 2.
(P.S. If you liked this review and are thinking about buying a Kindle, please support my blog by clicking on the links provided in the review. Thanks!)