Kindle First Impressions

As I already mentioned, I got the Kindle some time ago. I was interested in the idea of an E-Book reader ever since the first Kindle was released. However, the early technical issues and the high price prevented me from getting one. Also, it wasn’t available in Germany anyway. So I decided to let it slide for a while until it’s safer to do experiments. With the recent price drop and the 3rd generation being out it occurred to me that it’s a good time to resurrect that project.

Kindle Overview

We can make them better. We have the technology.

It seems like it might have been a bit premature still. The biggest problem with the Kindle is the fact that it doesn’t really work in Germany. Doing it the legit way, you end up with a laughably small selection of books. In order to enjoy the full offer you need to jump through a lot of hoops. That spoils the entire experience. For example, I can’t really buy books on the Kindle itself anymore. And even then, there are still a lot of books that didn’t make it to Kindle yet – for example Harry Potter or The Catcher in the Rye (you figure out how the two are connected). Especially inconvenient is the fact that there are actually almost no German books on the Kindle. I expected that part at least but it will prevent me from getting one for my parents.

That quite unfortunate as the device itself is QUITE amazing.

For starters, the E-ink display messes up my brain. It’s just such a different display technology. It doesn’t look quite like paper but it is certainly very close to the experience of reading printed material. Maintaining the screen content doesn’t cost energy. So there is something on the screen all the time – even when the device is off. When I first got the Kindle there were some instructions on the screen. I thought that was one of those transparent stickers they sometimes put on devices. I tried to peel it off until I realized that it’s the device already displaying something. I never really bought into the “reading screen is like staring on a lightbulb”-argument. But it’s immediately obvious that the E-ink display is simply made for reading.

Kindle E-Ink

Not quite paper. But good for reading anyway.

The form-factor is quite remarkable too. The first thing I noticed about the iPad was that it was surprisingly thick and heavy. The Kindle is the exact opposite. And now the iPad feels even more awkward. The funny thing is that it’s one of the things I didn’t care about at first. I read in in the ads and in other reviews but I disregarded it like a minor point. It turned out to be an essential part of the experience. The Kindle is lighter and thinner than a novel. It’s literally just a thin, feathery sheet of plastic. And once you hold it, it makes all the difference.

The Kindle might look like an weird, complicated way to do the same things books can do since hundreds of years. But once you start reading it all comes together. I didn’t think you couldn’t improve the reading experience of a book. I stand corrected. The Kindle is lighter and thinner than a book. You don’t even need to hold it open. The text is just there. It’s incredibly comfortable. It’s flexible too. You know that problem when you read in bed lying on your side? You can put the book on the bed when you are reading the right page. But when you read the left page you somehow need to hold the book in the air and force it open at the same time. Especially annoying with thick paperbacks. No such problem with the Kindle.

Also, I never realized how turning the pages and simply feeling the length of a book distracts from the reading experience. The fact that you can turn a page with the simple press of a button combined with the flawless handling creates this amazingly fluid, streamlined reading experience. I found myself eating up pages like hardly ever before.

Kindle in Bed

Try this with a book.

Of course there are still a lot of little problems. The keyboard is a little awkward. It’s very difficult to share the Kindle with another person. You can put down bookmarks but you can’t label which bookmark belongs to which person and accessing them is way too complicated. To add insult to injury, bookmarks appear in the same list as notes so when one person starts putting a lot of annotations in, the bookmark system becomes almost useless. And of course there is the problem of accessing the content I mentioned before.

But those are technical problems which can be solved. I pretty sure they will be solved with time. For me, the far more important realization is that E-Book can surpass the paper book in regard to the reading experience alone.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

5 responses to “Kindle First Impressions”

  1. Wikzo / Gustav Dahl

    Very good read. I have been curious about buying the Kindle and iPad since the first time I saw them.

    I am eager to buy the iPad when it – hopefully – gets released in Denmark in November. Even though I know that the Kindle has superiour display when it comes to reading books, the iPad seems to be able to do so much more. I am especially keen about getting the Read It Later app, since I use the service very much on my computer. It’s nice to just hit the little “read later” icon in my browser for those articles that I don’t have the time to or don’t want to read on my computer. I think the iPad is a perfect way of reading stuff like that, for example in a bed or couch.

    As you probably know there is a Kindle app for the iPad. Have you tried this, if yes, how would you compare the reading experience on the two different devices?

    1. Krystian Majewski

      I don’t have an iPad so I can only speak from my limited experience. The Kindle App on crashed a lot in my iPhone. iBooks on the other hand has a laughably narrow selection.

      Some of the points I’ve mentioned may very well apply to the iPad as well. But from my experience with the iPad the two devices are VERY DIFFERENT.

      The Kindle is perfectly made for long reads. You CAN read books on the iPad but it’s clearly not specifically made for it. It too heavy and unwieldy. You can read on an iPad but you will always need some kind of support to deal with the weight. Note that in all ads you see people balancing the iPad on their knee. It’s not just a pose. It’s a necessity.

  2. David

    I’ve also bought the new kindle and found it enjoyable to read from.

    Just want to point out that there is a site called project gutenberg, which hosts public domain books (such as Sherlock Holmes, War of the Worlds, The Man Who Was Thursday etc.). These are free and legally available books in a wide range of formats.

    To download one to your kindle, simply browse to the book on Project Gutenberg, click on “Kindle” for the appropriate format. Next connect the Kindle to your computer via USB cable and drag the file to the “Documents” folder on your Kindle.

    Project Gutenberg:

  3. axcho

    Cool, I hadn’t even considered the possibility that the Kindle (or equivalent device) could actually be superior to books.

    And now that Daniel Cook’s Triple Town game has been released for the Kindle, I’m almost starting to think about considering getting one. Almost. :)

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Daniel Cook is doing a game on Kindle? Sweet!


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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