I had a reason to use the Kindle last month – a couple of medium length train journeys. Normally I’d be quite comfortable taking a book on such a trip, but I thought I’d try out the Kindle and see if it really could replace the book experience.
I read Changes by Jim Butcher. To be fair, I’d read it before, but I wanted to re-read it before I got stuck into Ghost Story. In the end I read them both on the Kindle, not all on the train journey of course, but I stuck with it when I got back home.
You can’t fault the Kindle screen, it’s easy to read, easy on the eyes and very high quality. Equally, the interface couldn’t be simpler, click to turn the page, remembers where you are and the little flash was no where near as bad as I expected. It doesn’t really weigh that much either and it’s light enough to comfortably hold in one hand, so no issue there.
However, I do have a significant problem, and that is hand position. My natural one-handed book grip and two-handed book grip don’t work with the Kindle. I also have an ‘I’m being lazy and holding the book down with my whole hand’ thing going on which you can’t do either. Basically, if I wanted to avoid having my thumb on the Kindle screen (and I assume I did want to avoid that), there’s only one place for it to naturally go – and that place is occupied by the keypad that I never used.
I need a keypad-less Kindle.
I ended up settling on a ‘holding it in my hand like a smart phone’ which was okay, I’ve got pretty big hands, and I could turn the pages, but it tired my fingers out reasonably quickly. I had to switch between that grip and a ‘thumb between keypad and screen’ grip. None of them felt natural compared to holding a book, where it doesn’t matter where your thumb or fingers end up, you can always move them to read a word or two.
It feels like a pretty significant issue to me, although maybe I’m alone in the matter. Here’s a few photo’s to show you what I mean.
Normal thumb grip, with the book ‘resting’ on my fingers.
Another thumb grip, but I can put my thumb anywhere I like.
Reading with the book balanced on my leg.
Kindle – delicate thumb grip, tiring on the thumb.
Kindle – smartphone grip, tiring on the whole hand.
Kindle – side grip, not bad, but cramps the fingers.
In summary – I got on fine with the Kindle for actual reading. The screen is sublime and reading is as easy as real paper, but it’s just not quite the right shape. A larger section under the screen with no keys would have been ideal, or a ‘touch’ keypad that you can turn off and use as a thumb rest would have worked too.