Kindle DX : Perspective from a biomedical researcher
I don’t generally write reviews, but I hope this one will be useful for other scientists who are contemplating a Kindle DX. My use for the Kindle DX will be different from most of the users who have posted reviews. I maintain a library of nearly 4,000 PDF manuscripts/grants/documents. I probably have minimal use for eBooks from the Kindle Store. The number of PDFs is constantly growing as new research manuscripts are published (and downloaded to my computer). My principle reasons for purchasing a Kindle DX were to:1) Carry the electronic equivalent of binders of PDFs with me when traveling. An iPod for PDFs. This is a metaphor that works for the way that I view an eReader, though it probably doesn’t apply equally well to everyone.
2) Have an easier way to read papers when traveling. Easier means not worrying about battery life, unfurling a laptop in a cramped airplane, or carrying a bag full of papers.
3) Reduce eye strain from staring at a computer screen by moving serious reading from the laptop screen to the Kindle DX.
From my preliminary use, I think the Kindle DX is a qualified success. Text in manuscripts looks great. Figures from manuscripts do not render well in portrait mode if there is a lot of detail; switching to landscape mode helps substantially. Zoom into individual images/sections of PDFs would be welcome.
Navigating large numbers of PDFs from the home screen is currently clumsy. Lack of directory support to organize large numbers of files is an issue. I’ve read about users using complex naming conventions to use ’search’ as an indirect way to find files. Renaming hundreds (or thousands) of files to make them easier to find is not a great solution. I suspect this will improve in time, either through a firmware update to this device or in the next generation of hardware.
I’m also hoping against hope that one or more of the reference manager software providers (Bookends, I’m looking at you) realizes that their software is to the Kindle as iTunes is to the iPod. If I could manage the content of my Kindle through a reference manager, I would be thrilled. The idea of downloading a paper and syncing it in one step to the Kindle to take with me is really appealing. This wouldn’t completely overcome the problem with a flat file hierarchy once the papers are on the Kindle, but it would help organize getting content onto and off the device.
The biggest surprise to me is the functionality of the web browser. Yes, it is pokey to render pages. No, I wouldn’t want to use it to web surf. But if I had a destination web site that is heavy on content, I think reading on the Kindle will be vastly superior to reading on the iPhone or other mobile/tablet devices. I do doubt, however, that wireless data access will remain free on the Kindle long-term. I can’t imagine how Amazon will be able to continue subsidizing the data costs. I think that this is a feature that should be enjoyed while it lasts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes away at some point in the future.
Though it adds another $50 to the cost, I think the matching case is attractive, functional, and creates an easy-to-carry package.
So is it worth the high cost? I don’t think I (or anyone) can really evaluate that until determining how well it integrates into daily work habits. I suspect that I will get heavy use out of it, but then I read a ton of PDFs. I do hope that the PDF support for dictionary lookup, highlighting, and annotation improves, but I base my review on what the product does - not what I would like it to do.
D. H. O’CONNOR