I've noted before that all of my attempts to invest in an e-reader have been thwarted by plumbing. E-reader? Basement floods! E-reader? Pipe needs to be cut open! E-reader? Bathtub armageddon! (I swear, there's some sort of conspiracy. Either that, or a poltergeist.) However, my parents took the initiative, and presented me with a shiny new Kindle Fire for Hanukkah. Some thoughts, bearing in mind that I'm interested in an e-reader, and not in a makeshift tablet:
- The touchscreen responds quickly, although it can be difficult to get back to the menu from a PDF file (one has to tap around a bit). It's easy to magnify or shrink the object on display. Print and images are sharp, without lots of pixellation. The display reorients from portrait to landscape automatically.
- The pages "flip" fast enough to satisfy a fast reader like myself. There's a handy menu bar that tells you how far you've made it into the text, although page #s would be awfully nice (I don't think MLA style has quite evolved this far yet). Books reopen where you left off. Search-inside-the-book was accurate and fast. There's also dictionary access (New Oxford American Dictionary).
- Download times were zippy for eBooks. However, it looks like you'll have to use a format converter to convince GoogleBooks PDFs to actually stay put once you've downloaded them (on my own machine, they vanished after one session). That being said, PDFs worked perfectly well otherwise. Video also streamed without problems, although the Fire's limitations as a tablet fill-in become obvious once you contemplate the picture quality; audio is about what you'd expect for an e-reader (i.e., tinny). Still, adequate enough if you want to stock up some TV for a plane flight.
- The one real issue: the touchscreen keyboard. Eeeeeyarrrrggggh. Much, much too small; even a small woman like myself constantly hits the wrong keys, so I can't imagine how a large man would deal with it. The same problem emerges any time two command keys are grouped closely together, which is why there's a "cancel order" button. This flaw is not hugely important if you're using the Fire for its primary function, but it definitely does it in as a tablet substitute (too frustrating for websurfing, impossible for e-mail, etc.). ETA: You can enlarge the keys by switching to landscape.