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Moderator’s note: Rochelle Hartman, a librarian in La Crosse, Wis., and author of the lively Tinfoil and Raccoon blog, thinks the Kindle is almost toaster-simple to use. Legal and e-babel issues remain for libraries, but all in all, Rochelle is impressed. – David Rothman

rochellehartman2 The library’s business manager was very pleased to hand the Kindle to me. I started playing with it immediately, and took raw notes in Google docs and decided that’s how I would report my inaugural Kindle experience. 

I’ll keep updating this post as I continue to poke and play with it.  I should note that I haven’t read any extensive reviews of the Kindle since I wanted to have a new user experience with it. 

First Kindle day—at work

Crap. I was hoping to be able to unbox it, but it’s been unboxed, with books loaded already. (Update: I’ve learned that these books came preloaded and that I was, in fact, the first one to download fresh content.)

Trying to figure it out without looking at user’s manual. Giving it the Toaster Test.  That is, “Is it as easy to use as my 1959 Sunbeam toaster?”

Trying to mess with it and do a bunch of other things. Probably should just wait til I can focus on it. Don’t feel much more initial enthusiasm for it than for any other e-book readers I’ve tried, including Cybook, REBsomething and a Tungsten.

Oh, swell. Stephen King came out with a ringing endorsement of Kindle. Who cares what I say?

Putting aside for when I can focus on just Kindle and not have to multitask.

First day—evening

I keep wanting to use it as if it has a touch screen. It doesn’t. (*poke* *poke*)

Okay, so I read the manual, since Kindle was not as intuitive as I thought it would be. I think if I were more clear-headed and in play mode, I might have gotten farther without looking at documentation. The documentation is VERY readable, though, and relatively jargon free. It is, in fact, pretty excellent. This brings a tear to my eye.

Now that I know not to poke things to make stuff happen, I find that navigation is not too bad. Only problem so far is the “back” bar. To me, this means “go back one page,” but it means go back to last document (I think). So, if you are in a document and click “back,” it will take you back to last document you looked at before current one.  “Previous page” which is on the left side of the screen, is what you click to go back one page. Since I have the machine in its case, this is cumbersome placement. But, maybe machine was not meant to be kept in case while reading.

Not crazy about content that’s been loaded. I want high motivation to keep playing and learning, so I decided to download a book I’ve already started and am anxious to keep reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix. I stopped to read documentation about wireless since I am getting a message about not being able to access Amazon store.  I see that the high speed EVDO wireless is not available to me, but I do have a good signal to the slower network.  After a few tries, I finally get to the Amazon store. I clicked on some of the broader categories and was surprised to see that there is a lot more non-fic than fic available. Decided to use search function to find Sabriel. Wow! There it is–and it’s less than $5! Surely I am allowed to download this on the library’s dime, in order to become a Kindle expert.

Download was pretty quick. Although the resolution is really good, and there are five text size settings, something isn’t quite right. I’m thinking that it would be better with backlighting, but maybe just better contrast. I am reading in bed, with a not-great table lamp. It’s readable, but I don’t like the darkness of the background. “Muddy” is the word that comes to mind.

Because I really want to get going with Sabriel, I’m just going to try and have a good, ol’ fashioned reading experience.

*****

OMG. I think I am going to have to admit to not hating the Kindle. Managed to read a couple chapters without thinking that I was reading from a machine. Also, when I fell asleep, and book fell on my face, I did not get a black eye as with other, heftier readers I’ve had.  ;-)  Wait…I just called the Kindle a “book.”  More tomorrow.

Second day—evening

Turned on Kindle and it took me back to where I’d left off the night before, so I just started reading. I only got a few pages when the phone rang, so I put machine down to get the call.  When I came back, I fully realized one of Kindle’s biggest design flaws. It’s difficult to pick up the machine (outside of its case) without clicking a next/previous page toggle. The page toggles are right on the edge of the machine, running about 3/4 of the length on both sides, so that if you need to change hands, readjust position, or pick up the machine, it’s pretty easy to lose your place. It’s easy enough to get back to where you were, but it’s a nuisance and hopefully something that will be addressed with next the iteration.

Third day—at the ref desk

The reading experience has been pretty seamless, aside from occasional toggle bump, so now I’m trying to figure out how to make annotations or notes, if that’s even possible. When you are in a book or document, there is a “”My Notes & Marks” link in the menu. I’ve used the bookmarking feature with no problem, but have not figure out how to make notes. May have to cave and look at user’s manual for this. (Update 1/28: Sometimes, it pays to read the manual. You can make notes, and clippings and create bookmarks.)

My coworker at the desk was asking about it, so I did a quick demo for her. She asked if font size was adjustable, which it was. Her observation was that even if font within a given text was adjustable, the keyboard would difficult to use for people with low-vision or mobility. But, that’s a problem not exclusive to Kindle, but to any phones or handhelds with full keyboards.

 
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