New Kindle Out, But Can You Read It at Night?

Before you get dis­suad­ed by my orig­i­nal com­ments, please see my lat­est update down below.

As we men­tioned ear­li­er this week, Ama­zon unveiled its new Kin­dle this morn­ing in NYC. The Kin­dle DX ($489) fea­tures a large screen (9.7 inch­es mea­sured diag­o­nal­ly) and it’s intend­ed to make read­ing news­pa­pers, col­lege text­books and PDFs a more user-friend­ly expe­ri­ence. Plen­ty of news out­lets have pro­vid­ed cov­er­age of the unveil­ing: Engad­get, Giz­mo­do, Ars Tech­ni­ca, etc. And it’s most­ly pos­i­tive. But I’m left won­der­ing if the Kin­dle DX address­es the major prob­lem with Kin­dle 2 ($359). If you spend some time on Ama­zon’s Kin­dle dis­cus­sion forum, you’ll see that one of the longest threads (so far con­tain­ing 857 posts) is devot­ed to com­plaints about the Kindle’s light fonts and dark back­ground — a bad com­bo, espe­cial­ly when you try to read it at night. (Oth­ers have kvetched about it here.) I bought the Kin­dle 2, and real­ly loved it in many ways. But I could­n’t use it in low­er light con­di­tions. At night, the screen gets mud­dy, and the words don’t pop off of the page. And that’s a deal break­er for me. Mean­while, with the same light­ing, a tra­di­tion­al book reads per­fect­ly well.  The major prob­lem with the Kin­dle gets down to this: Users can’t real­ly cus­tomize the look & feel of the read­ing mate­r­i­al. Yes, you can increase and decrease the size of the fonts. But you can’t make the fonts dark­er (unless you know how to hack the darn thing). Nor can you make the back­ground lighter. This one-size-fits-all approach is what Guten­berg gave us in the 15th cen­tu­ry. (Sor­ry, don’t mean to knock on Guten­berg.) It should­n’t be what Ama­zon gives us for  $359 in 2009. Could you imag­ine Apple serv­ing this up? Hard­ly. And speak­ing of Apple, it may have its own e‑book read­er com­ing soon. Accord­ing to PC Mag­a­zine, Apple may be rolling out the iPad ($699), which could be an e‑book/internet read­er and media play­er all rolled into one. For now, I’m wait­ing to see what Apple brings to mar­ket and hop­ing that Ama­zon finds reli­gion. When they get the Kin­dle right, it will be great.

UPDATE: A year lat­er, a new Kin­dle is out (see Wifi ver­sion here, and 3G wire­less ver­sion here). The con­trast is notice­ably improved with this mod­el. But, even bet­ter, Ama­zon now sells (sep­a­rate­ly) a case that has a built in retractable light. Tak­en togeth­er, you can now read the Kin­dle fair­ly well at night, under pret­ty much any light con­di­tions. This Kin­dle I kept, and I’m a big­ger fan than before.

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Comments (3)
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  • Pete says:

    Maybe my expe­ri­ence with the Kin­dle 1 is unique to that device, but I don’t have your prob­lem at all. I can read my Kin­dle any­where I can read a book, and the week-long bat­tery life makes com­put­er-like com­peti­tors (e.g., iPad) uncom­pet­i­tive. The Kin­dle 1 appar­ent­ly ren­ders text with more read­able fonts, I under­stand.

  • Carol A says:

    Read­ing at night would be a No.1 pri­or­i­ty for me — when do Ama­zon think most work­ing peo­ple get to read?
    I am look­ing at the BeBook, it seems to have a much more “eye-friend­ly” screen.

  • Dell Desktop says:

    Read­ing at night is a yes. I do it all the time. You can’t read in the dark, if that’s what you’re ask­ing. You have to have a light on. Read­ing in the dark is bad for your eyes any­ways.

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