Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kindle Touch: my review

I'll look at ergonomics, files, battery life, Prime Lending Library, public library access. and public domain free texts. I received a Touch six weeks ago as a gift--I hadn't considered buying one. Here's my highlights. [Nearly six thousand reviewers preceded me on Amazon US, for Kindle Touch Wi-Fi 6" display with ads--as pictured. Now it's 2.5 years I have enjoyed it, so here's a review.]


As with many devices, the sweet spot between portability and our fingers, eyes and hands can elude our physical dimensions! This means the size of gadgets these days must be "one fits all." It's a decent compromise, better than reading on a Droid-X for me, certainly, and less bulky than the laptop it will not replace (until that perfect combination is invented that does all on one--I figured the Fire is not there yet, and is more a vehicle for Amazon understandably to deliver its own content more than a true web browsing, word processing, document saving machine that I need--with music, phone, and video to boot, and a long battery, and lightweight--you can see why I await the ideal model. For now, the Touch with ads is affordable, and I am glad I have the Touch as the clicks of the keyboard and its external buttons appeared to discourage potential buyers.

With "Amazon Basics Leather Folio Cover with Multi-Angle Adjustable Stand, Updated Design, for Kindle Touch, Kindle (Black): MP3 Players & Accessories" (also reviewed by me 8/11/2012), this is an affordable pair. This allows you to prop up the Kindle on a table, a lap, or your chest depending on your angle of repose. Not perfect for reading in bed and you get an awkward limit from the USB and headphone jack placement, but it's otherwise a handy way to use but a finger, if the Kindle's balanced right, to turn the pages. 

File Sharing/ Web Browser:

The keyboard is fine, and as one who needs the large setting on a Droid-X to type easily, I like the Touch's look for my limited typing on it. It's not a high powered browser; the Experimental category includes it, but I have a feeling it's not a priority for Amazon; but I like it and I certainly would not recommend it without it. Sites can be bookmarked, and basic functions carried out, nice to know as backup. The audiobook feature is a welcome touch; you can move files via a PC to your device, as you can send files as pdf and the like, all great features. The audio files cannot be re-ordered: they come in the way you first uploaded them, and similarly the titles on screen archived for books are in the order of appearance. I wish this could be a drop and drag approach instead. If you figure out very simple downloading and file transfers, you can also find easily how to move Kindle files from the Net through a PC to your Touch, allowing more options than may at first seem apparent if you think of Amazon as the only purveyor of content. Mobi files mean Kindle-friendly, and that's the extension you want to look for, or convert to.

The Touch takes some time to get used to. Not that it's complicated, but I find I still lose my place if I mix up the back key in the menu with the lower function that opens the home page. Within a book, the ease of navigating to and fro is mitigated by the relative danger of jumping back to another page with a slip of the finger or a moment of inattention. While pull-down bookmarks exist, I find these cannot be annotated to make mini-tabs for chapters or subsections of my own, not those in the Table of Contents or settings of the Kindle file itself (even an Aldiko e-book reader on my Droid allows me to do this!) as opposed to notes on a passage.

Speaking of which, I'm not a big fan of seeing other people's notes and underlining of texts, but I admit for classes or reading groups the advantage of this addition. It'd be better if it could be limited to such a group option or individual one, so we don't have to see it if we don't wish to. You can fine tune this to allow for your own opt-in to add your own notes, but as I found, you cannot add your own annotated tabs.

Battery Life:

The battery is embedded beyond one's access. I guess as with Apple products it's meant to remain if under warranty beyond a user's control. It eats up the power faster than I'd predicted, even off wi-fi. It takes a long time to charge via USB to a computer. I am unsure if the Touch can be charged via the same AC adapter a USB uses for my phone or a music player: the instructions do not explain if this is possible or advisable.

Prime Lending Library and Public Library files:

Here's the complication. My wife is a member of Prime. So, I must use only her account to use Kindle to manage my device. That limits my options as to how I work with my Kindle. I cannot re-register it under my own account unless I wish to lose the Prime access to the Lending Library as one of its perks. You cannot transfer a Prime membership for a Kindle even from one family member to another: it must be kept on the original buyer's account for Prime, unless you wish to buy another membership and re-register it, which I doubt many buyers will be willing to do.

She (and I) thought the Lending Library would have a lot more popular titles (or legitimate academic or small-press ones, for my needs). Oddly, you cannot access the catalogue of Lending Library titles easily: it is via the Kindle interface itself on your device, not the Amazon site. But, amid the handful of titles I'd be eager to check out (only one per calendar month and the title must be returned before a new one is checked out) it's an awful lot of self-published e-books, and odds and ends that remind me of a remainders table at a undiscerning bookseller. Maybe I'm too demanding, but it's less than I expected. And, my local public libraries appear to be lagging as to Kindle-file titles, so far, compared to ones for PCs and Macs. Waiting times can be long or longer for print titles, as electronic access does not mean the titles are (unless some public domain) able to be checked out by anyone anytime. You still have to get in the queue, same as waiting for a print title to come in from on hold.

Public Domain Texts:

So much for instant gratification. All the same, it's great to have the way to have books on hand and in hand. See my reviews recently of such public domain Kindle or Project Gutenberg versions of "War and Peace;" "Don Quixote;" "Moby Dick;" the illustrated "Huck Finn;" "Adventures of" and ""Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes;" and "Ulysses" for proof of what I first found to upload to my Kindle for free. Some are public domain but Amazon may not list it as free, while it may list more handsome versions for sale. These often have illustrations, notes, and better fonts than the free versions, so you get what you pay for.

You can check Gutenberg-dot-org also. Kindle Mobi files exist. It may take a bit of workaround the Amazon set-up for some public domain titles, and translations or editions may not be as elegant or up-to-date, but for reference or finally getting to take along a classic, it's wonderful! (Amazon US 8/11/12)

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