@kathtrinder kindly offered to let me try out her new kindle. I’m firmly wed to the paperback so I don’t feel I’d use one for my day to day reading, and part of the joy of reading is to pass books on to others – so I’m not interested in an e-Reader for that reason, but I do like the idea of using it to read journal papers. How practical is it for this purpose?

Kathy put a couple of papers on for me – each as pdf’s and converted into kindle format. here are a few first impressions.

  • Screen etc.: Fantastic – as pleasant as reading off paper – though in truth I don’t ever complain about having to read from the screen – I just know I should minimise it.
  • Ergonomics: very good – easy to turn pages etc, though I can imagine preferring to hold it if it had a flip cover which made it feel more like a book. Also, anyone who uses a touchscreen phone will find the lack of pinch/zoom etc a bit of getting used to.
  • Readability: well this was the key test. The PDFs display well but an A4 journal results in text which is far too small to  read comfortably: even smaller format journals are slightly too small to read. This is frustrating as these PDFs often have significant whitespace. Do you think the journals would change their layout to make it more kindle friendly? You can of course change the zoom on PDFs, but there are only limited options (100%, 150% etc.) so no option to have the text area fitted perfectly into the screen. The kindle format solves this problem and reading papers in this way is probably most convenient. One of the papers had some full page tables though – which the kindle seemed to (in)conveniently forget to convert/display, though the smaller inline figures converted well.
  • Annotation: when I read papers, I usually scribble notes in the margins. Despite PDF annotation tools being available through adobe, I’ve never really used them that as they seem too closed. Indeed the initial charting tools we are developing are trying to find ways of breaking ideas and notes out of silo’s (email pdfs etc). Interestingly, you can make notes on the kindle, and it seems to offer the possibility to share with social networks – I didn’t try this out but it could be very interesting if it let you post to any network (i.e. not just ones they promote) and highlight short excerpts to accompany the links.  The note feature seemed more usable than I expected, especially given the keyboard.

Anyway, thanks to Kathy for the tryout – very impressive, but still as unsure as when I first saw it announced back in August.