Feeling sorry for the Kindle (or “eReader rocks”)

Using the HTC Advantage as an eBook readerBefore Christmas, Amazon brought out a new device – an eBook reader called the Kindle. And, it seemed like the blogosphere pretty much lined up to take turns bashing it.

A shame, really. Because I was quite excited by the whole thing.

I’ve been a fan of eBooks for years now, but they’ve never seemed to have very wide appeal. And with a company as big and mainstream as Amazon pushing them now, I thought this might be time that someone took the case for eBooks to the masses.

Doesn’t seem to be working too well, so far.

Other than what I’ve read in reviews, I don’t know the actual device itself. But some of the features look similar to what I use already, and I’m surprised more positive stuff isn’t being said about them.

So I thought I’d use my first attempt at a video(-ish) blog post to make the case for eBooks, looking at one of my favourites of the Kindle’s features as I use them on my e-book reader.

the HTC Advantage in it's normal PDA mini-laptop modeI use the HTC Advantage as my main ebook reader. I’ve mentioned before that it’s a great ereader.

This (see pic right) is how I normally use it as a PDA.

But when I want to read, I can pull off the (magnetically attached) keyboard, and rotate the screen into portrait mode – giving me a device with the size, weight and feel of a small paperback book.

080103-pic3The bright, high-resolution screen makes for very readable text.

And the screen is big enough that I can fit enough of it to read comfortably like a book. It doesn’t feel like peering at a book through a tiny viewfinder, like it can feel when I read on smaller screens like on my Sony Clie.

Held in portrait mode, I can either tap the screen to move through pages, or flick through pages using the external mini-joystick-style button by my thumb.

I’ve got dozens of eBooks on the Advantage at the moment – I love the fact that I’ve always got a book in my pocket, ready to while away a short moment with a page or two, or to sit quietly for an hour lost in a story.

my first video blog! the screen capture software makes my phone crawl a bit, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what this is all like

We were at my parents’ on Boxing Day, and after they had gone to bed I sat up to read. By about 11pm, I had finished reading the second of a trilogy of books. It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I was hooked – I had to see what came next. With a traditional book, I’d have been stuck. But with my ebook, I didn’t have to wait.

I tapped the menu button on the ebook reader, chose the button to ‘show me other books by this author’ and my phone searched the ebook online store for possible matches. The last book in the trilogy was the fourth match in the list – I tapped on it and chose ‘Buy’. The book was downloaded to my phone and my credit card was billed automatically, using the information they have on my account. I didn’t even need to dig out my card to find the card number – it was all seamlessly done.

In total, it was only a minute or two from finishing the second book, to starting to read my new copy of the third book. In the middle of the night on a Bank Holiday in a house with no computer, let alone an internet connection. (My parents are the teensiest bit technophobic 🙂 )

How cool is that? I didn’t even need to leave the ebook reader application or remember a web address. No need to find a PC and dig out a USB cable. I can seamlessly move from a list of books that I have a copy of on the PDA, to searching and browsing the titles available in the online store – all within the ebook reader on the phone.

The Kindle comes with an integrated EVDO radio, and offers the same sort of ability to browse the Amazon catalog from the device, and order and download books without needing to connect to a PC. It’s very cool.

I can see some benefits to having a separate, stand-alone device like the Kindle. But ultimately, I think I prefer the integration opportunities you get when you combine your ebook reader with your PDA.

080103-pic1For example, I can copy some text from a book that I find interesting, switch to Outlook and email it to a friend.

Or copy a quote that I like and store it in the wiki I use for note-taking.

Or look up a word I don’t know in the ebook reader’s integrated dictionary, or online in Wikipedia.

Or I can read a book in bed late at night using the phone’s backlit screen so as not to disturb my wife when she’s sleeping.

Or, use the phone’s Bluetooth connection to share books with a friend. (Although, I’m still not entirely sure that this last one is technically legit!)

In the absence of a compelling argument for eBooks from Amazon so far, there are other better descriptions. Cory Doctorow gave a talk in 2004 on eBooks, the text of which was later made available, rather appropriately, as an eBook itself. In it, he comments that people who make the case against eBooks all too often compare them too literally with paper books and argue that paper books have benefits. And of course they do. It shouldn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Ebooks don’t have to be better than paper books. Or worse. They can be different, each with their own strengths and advantages.

And I think eBooks have lots of advantages. Even with the expected shortcomings of an early-adopter, first generation product like the Kindle, I hope that more people will come to see some of these benefits as Amazon starts to promote them more.

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10 Responses to “Feeling sorry for the Kindle (or “eReader rocks”)”

  1. avagee says:

    Yes! don’t turn paper books into a fetish, just use the method that is best for the circumstance. You PDA has a phone built into it? What eBook store do you use? I like the magnetic keyboard idea.

    I have been using my regular cell phone as an eReader. I love the super portability of it, I carry it everywhere anyway – now it has a library of books in it. I get a lot of free books from http://www.booksinmyphone.com I can install direct from the mobile version of the site.

  2. Nice post! And makes think why shouldn’t I use my TyTN to do bedtime readings. I was also wondering if there are any free books in eReader?


  3. Gigi Reynard says:

    Thanks for this piece — I leaned something about the HTV Advantage. Have been wondering about it for a while.

  4. dale says:

    @avagee – Yeah, I use a Windows Mobile smartphone PDA – the “HTC Advantage” (sold by T-Mobile as the “Ameo”). The magnetic keyboard is quite neat… although it has a habit of trashing my credit cards and tube tickets ;-(

    I tend to buy ebooks from eReader.com. The main reason I chose them is because I switch between Palm OS (Palm Treo and Sony Clie) and Windows Mobile (HTC Advantage and Universal) quite a lot, and wanted an ebook reader that supported both platforms. I can share my ebooks between the two at no extra cost.

    booksinmyphone looks interesting though – I’d not heard of that before, so will have to give it a try. Thanks very much for the pointer

  5. dale says:


    eReader.com does have a limited number of free and cheap books, but not many.

    However, you can get free out-of-copyright books in the eReader format from http://manybooks.net – I often use that site for ebooks, and their selection is pretty good

  6. […] Ebooks Are Now This embedded YouTube video is demonstrating reading and purchasing ebooks via a Windows Mobile device running eReader software. The particular unit here is an HTC Advantage (which is very expensive) and the video has a companion article. […]

  7. kriss says:

    Hi there

    Nice video. Can you do full screen there? What’s the name of that e-reader-software?

    Greetings from Berlin

  8. dale says:


    Thanks very much.

    The software is called eReader – it can be downloaded for free from http://www.ereader.com

    It doesn’t do fullscreen – good point, though. It really should.

  9. […] Reading ebooks :: reading a page or two in snatches of time like the walk from my car to my desk, or whole chapters before bed […]

  10. Vereen says:

    Does anyone else have any experience with this?