February 26, 2008

Kindle vs Iliad: Future! The Future I tell you.

So I'm sitting in Washington, DC's Union Station waiting on a train to take me north to Boston when I glance over at the dude sitting a few seats away. He's reading the Wall Street Journal and there is an article on the cover that I'd like to read.

I whip out the Kindle, download that days copy, and seventy-five cents later, I'm reading it.

It was pretty cool, actually, I read my article and the rest of the paper there on the Kindle, and it was really neat. The only real problem with the Kindle is the size of the screen, having used the Iliad e-book reader with it's significantly larger screen, reading a book on the Kindle feels claustrophobic, and the inter-screen flash that is endemic on screen readers right now (both the Iliad and the Kindle do this and it is part of the nature of the technology) seems worse on a smaller screen due to the fact that there is less information gained during any one page turn.

Anyhow, so I've been experimenting with the Kindle, and here's some thoughts I have on it and how it rates next to the Iliad. I've used both of them to read multiple purchased books, including the Diamond Age (Iliad) and Snow Crash (Kindle), blogs, and personal documents, when possible.

Also, the Kindle screen actually broke on me, but I'm not sure whose fault it was, as there was no precipitating event, but amazon was -really- great about replacing this, and I felt as if this was the norm, not an exceptional, event.


  • Really amazing software, seriously.
  • Bitchin' little scroll wheel display thingy.
  • EVDO whispernet is from the future.
  • Great battery life and sleep management.
  • Buttons everywhere. I challenge newcomers to the platform to pick up the device without hitting a button.
  • Absurdly silly keyboard. Angled keys seem strange and hard to press interesting combos like alt-p one handed or in low light.
  • No usb port for mounting a usb light, which is super handy to do for reading in low light situations on the iliad.
  • Weird importing rules. In fact, I'd say damn stupid importing functionality. Great on things you buy, shitty on things you don't/shouldn't have to like blogs /technical docs and pdfs.
  • Hacker hostile
  • No charging from usb (trickle-charging is a lie).
  • Stupid non-standard power.

  • Awesome, amazing, screen size
  • Decent battery life.
  • Just barely okay device software.
  • More hacker friendly, SDK is available as are some 3rd party programs.
  • Fantastic memory support.
  • USB port for handy use of a usb-light, external edvo/cell connection or memory stick (it's intended purpose)
  • Amazing device for on-screen editing (All hail the wacom stylus pad built into the device)
  • Shit sleep support, you basically need to do a full shut off/turn on the device to use it. It's fast at this, but still.
  • Shit fonts in the mobipocket viewer. Ever heard of serif fonts, iRex and Mobi? They make people happy when reading smaller fonts as it gives the eyes hints.
  • No bitching amazing whispernet.
  • Software is shit if you leave the stylus behind.
  • No charging from the usb.
  • USB/Power dongle makes me want to smash with hammer.
  • Deeply shitty/baffling client software (thank goodness for mobipocket desktop)
  • Bug on first power-on means the first or second rendered mobipocket page should be rerendered by doing a forward/back page.
  • Both are lighter than the Deathly Hollows.
  • Both hold tons of books.
  • Both are super readable during the day, in full sun.
  • Both have less albedo so night reading is trickier than a regular book.
  • Both have the same/extremely similar inter-page flash.
  • Both should have better client/pdf support.
  • Both should have better support for RSS feeds. Whether through Amazon or Mobipocket, they both suck. This isn't a coincidence, as Amazon uses and owns Mobipocket.
  • Both need a way wider selection of books (again, both are mobipocket consumers) or they will both fail. There simply isn't the selection to support the market. So I still carry books.
Final thoughts:

Domestically, the Kindle will win for the EVDO bitchenness. But I'll actually carry around the
Iliad. Both are too expensive and need more books to be made available before they'll be popular.


R said...

I have both devices, too. I prefer the Kindle to the Iliad because its lighter, doesn't feel cold in my hands, and Whispernet.

The Iliad's larger screen is nice but I'm used to reading on Palm screens and the Kindle's size is a great compromise between being too small to read and too big to fit in a handbag. Usability vs. portability.

There are tools out there to get just about any content, outside of DRMed PDFs, onto the Kindle. If interested visit the MobileRead forum and nose around.

Patri Friedman said...

I'm happier with my Kindle since I started downloading ebook torrents. Enough of them are .txt to keep me reading for awhile. But it's kind of ridiculous that I'm contemplating writing a program to convert the ebooks in my library from html, lib, pdf, and rtf to txt or whatever, rather than the device just doing it for me. I mean, it runs linux, can't they run rtf2txt on it??

Dan Abramov said...

A little typo: "Deathly Hallows", not "Hollows" :-)

The Cloudwalking Owl said...

I love my Iliad. I use it to download books from project Gutenburg, which has a gazillion works of great literature on it. I just got finished a novel by Joseph Conrad and am now reading Grimm's fairytales. It isn't the thing for people who read the latest bestsellers, but if you like classical literature, the world's your oyster with one of these things.

Patrick said...

I'd like to get one of these primarily to read PDFs of papers that have lots of equations and diagrams.... Any recommendation on one over the other for this purpose? Or neither??