Mar 162014

I had decided to never buy a Kindle because I take issue with Amazon controlling it, not myself. Also, I hate it that all Kindle e-books from Amazon are encumbered by DRM.

Nevertheless, as the price dropped below 50 Euros for the pre-Paperwhite version, I could no longer resist and bought it. The rationalization is that last holiday I run out of books halfway through and had to hunt through the hotel’s book stock and try to buy some English books in a Spanish holiday town mostly frequented by Germans (where there were quite a few shops selling used German books, but not a single one selling English books, used or new). So, next time this happens all I need is some Internet access. We’ll see how that works out.

As for the device itself:
The good:
The e-ink display is awesome. It makes reading a lot less stressful to the eyes than my phone or tablet display. Also, the Kindle weights a lot less and goes a for many days with one battery charge. I look forward to reading some “thick” books on it without hurting my wrists holding them.

The bad:
The positioning of the buttons for turning the pages takes a while to get used to. They are not where I could use them when holding the Kindle with one hand. Also organizing my books is more trouble than I would have thought. Where is the web interface for doing that task on my desktop computer? The built in web browser (which is beta) is not of much use. Since I already have got a smart phone and a tablet I don’t expect to use it at all.
Buying a book from the Kindle is a lot more hassle than I would have thought. Yes, you can browse through the categories but once you are down to the smallest sub category you are still left with a list of hundreds of books. Yes, you can search but I found that not very useful. Where are the suggestions that most of us like about the Amazon website? The actual buying on the other hand is too simple. You select the book and “click” on the buy button. That’s it, you get a confirmation, your credit card is charged and the download starts immediately. I would have preferred a shopping cart like in the Amazon shop (no I haven’t activated one click shopping there either), so I can still reconsider whether I really want to buy this / these books. At least you can cancel the order immediately on the confirmation page. I did that the first time I unintentionally ordered a book where I had downloaded the preview. The money was refunded and the book deleted from my account within a few minutes. I expect to continue buying through the Amazon web page rather than from the Kindle.
Instead of buying you can also download a preview (apparently the first few pages) of a book for free and -if you have Amazon Prime – lend one book every month for free. Of course one book a month is a lot less than what I read normally so I don’t expect to use that feature much. Also, only offers German books for lending, while I prefer English books.

The ugly:
One Word: DRM. You cannot read the Kindle e-books you “buy” on anything else but either a Kindle device or the Kindle programs/Apps. If at one time in the future I want to buy an e-book reader from a different vendor, I cannot transfer any of the e-books I bought in Kindle format to the new device. Also, Amazon has proven that they can and will delete books from their customer’s Kindles even though these customers had legally bought these books through the Amazon web site. Also, there are cases where they deleted a customer account and wiped all Kindle content.
So, if you buy a Kindle, you must understand that you are not actually buying the device, and if you buy a Kindle e-book you are not actually buying the book. Amazon can take it away from you and render the device useless whenever they think they have a reason for doing so.
On the upside the Kindle can also display other e-book formats that do not have DRM. So if you convert the e-books you already own to e.g. mobi format you can transfer them to your Kindle either via USB cable or by sending it to the e-mail <address> associated with it. There is a nice tool for doing that called Calibre. It also allows you to configure your Kindle’s e-mail address so it can automatically send the books to it.

And, of course, DRM can be broken and has been so in every single form that was sold so far. This is also true for the Kindle e-book format. There are multiple tools for removing the DRM from these e-books so they can be converted to different formats freely. They are probably illegal and I won’t link to them (that’s illegal in Germany too) but Google is your friend. I even managed to convert the one book that I had “lent” from Amazon for just that purpose (The book was crap, but hey, I never intended to read it in the first place.).

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