19 March 2009

Kindle...Kindle 2

All right, so I've been getting fan mail regarding...okay, I need to stop laughing, it wasn't fan mail. But please just humor me.

Anyway, I got an e-mail or two from Boss Mongo, asking me my opinion on the Kindle and whether or not it would be great for a combat environment.

I was actually interviewed on the Kindle Chronicles (view the transcript and podcast here) on my opinions of the Kindle while deployed, and I have to say that, overall, I've been pleased. So much so in fact that I bought the Kindle 2 as soon as it hit the market. Hey, flight pay more than covers it.

It's tough to improve on a classic, but it can be done. The HMMWV replaced the Jeep. The Black Hawk replaced the Huey. And now, the Kindle2 replaced the Kindle. I have to say, Amazon took a lot of the criticisms of the product seriously, and have not only made the product less bulky, but they've also been able to add a number of neat new features.

Anyway, I get frequent questions about the Kindle, and I'll try to address them in turn.

1.) First of all, it really is easy to read for extended periods of time. Most people think that it's like looking at a computer screen, where it would strain your eyes after reading for hours. Actually, it's a lot like looking at an etch-a-sketch. You can read the thing in the sun on a beach, and you won't have to worry about glare. On the flip side, however, you won't be able to read it in the dark without a light.

2.) I just tested it out, too. If you're wearing a flight uniform, it will fit in the cargo pocket, and it will also fit in the pocket of the Army Combat Uniform. It is fairly durable, but I found that it's also best to carry it in its hard binder, lest you have issues damaging the screen.

3.) If you're the type of person who usually has a lot of books open at any one time, this is the device for you. You can bring it anywhere with you, and whenever you find yourself delayed for an extended period of time, you can whip it out. Hypothetically speaking, if you find yourself broken down at a large Air Force base in Iraq for days at a time, you could either try to visit one of the two swimming pools to be found at said US Air Force base, or you could read your Kindle. I picked reading my Kindle, largely because I didn't bring a swimming suit with me. But I digress (and now I have my bathing suit with me in the go-bag. Hey, it's survival equipment when you go to Air Force bases).

4.) If you're stateside, your books are downloaded wirelessly to the Kindle, using Verizon's EV-DO network. If you're anywhere outside the US or outside EV-DO coverage, you need to go to Amazon and select "download to computer" and the books will transfer to the computer. In my case, if you have a lot of books already and you need a new Kindle, you can just have someone stateside turn on the Kindle for you, leave it for a few hours, and then mail it to you.

Also, big thing: I can't tell if Kindles will ship to APO addresses (I believe not). Maybe someone from Amazon can elaborate on this for me.

5.) The big issue I have is the book selection. Most new releases are being released in Kindle format for abour $10, but there are some exceptions. For example, I tried to check out The Moneypenny Diaries on Kindle, and it's not available yet. Some books are inexplicably expensive--about a year ago, John Nagl's Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife was about $80 on the Kindle, but has since come down to $10.

Many big classics, such as the complete works of Homer, Ovid, Dickens, etc. are also available in Kindle format, and you can sometimes obtain complete works of great authors for $5. On the flip side, many older books or rare books aren't available, and sometimes you get what you pay for. I tried to download T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom on Kindle in August of 2008, and found out that it's only the first few chapters of the book. Well, there went 99 cents down the drain. Fortunately, it looks as if the problem has been rectified with the latest release.

6.) Pictures and maps are the biggies. We're all used to books with pictures and maps on the facing page, so you can trace where the action is taking place, or see a picture as the text talks about it. Not so with the Kindle or Kindle 2. You will have to find a way to bookmark a map so that you can flip back to it as it's being discussed in the book, then flip back to the electronic page you were on. I'll take reading the massive edition of Thucydides as opposed to the Kindle, thanks.

7.) Back in the states, newspapers and magazines will download to the Kindle almost instantaneously. Sadly, the pictures won't turn out well. That means no juggie magazines (sorry, Boss Mongo).


Josh said...

Can you verify that it is possible to sync new books over to the Kindle using USB on a military computer? We're thinking about sending my cousin, a marine stationed in Iraq, a new Kindle.

Starbuck said...

If he has a personal computer, he should be able to do it with no difficulties. Many of the bases in Iraq have a civilian-based internet that he can access with his computer.

If that's the case, all he'll need to do is connect to the Internet, then go to the "Kindle" portion of Amazon, then "Manage My Kindle", then scroll to the bottom of the screen and download the book to his computer. He'll then need to plug his Kindle into his computer (it comes with a USB cord for this purpose. Might be handy to get him a second cable, because it's an odd size!) From there, he just needs to drag and drop just like a USB drive, and he's good to go.

It's very important to ask him if he has reliable Internet access, and how he gets it. If he has to use a military computer to access the Internet, he won't be able to use the Kindle. The military banned all USB devices (security issues) from their network, so he won't be able to plug the Kindle into a government computer. If it's some sort of civilian service (one service is Sniper Hill), then he should be able to use it on his personal computer.

Hope this helps!

Josh said...

That helps tremendously. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can confirm - Amazon WILL ship a Kindle and Kindle accessories to an APO address.

@Josh - Your cousin had better not be plugging -ANY- USB devices into a military computer. His comm unit will know immediately and he'll likely lose rank for it. Better to download books to his personal laptop in the AOR using morale Wi-Fi and transfer the books from his personal laptop to his Kindle.

Anonymous said...

Actually Amazon will NOT ship a Kindle to an APO address. I just attempted and got denied. Anyone know why they won't?

Anonymous said...

Probably changes in the classification of the kindle... Seeing as they don't typically ship electronic devices that use wireless anyway. Overseas wireless operate on additional freqs and US devices can sometimes interfere with emergency service channels.

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