On (the) Fire:

Posted: December 26, 2011 in Misc
Tags: ,

With Hanukkah and Christmas now over, people might find themselves with some money or gift certificates and a gadget itch that’s still to be scratched despite the clawing into of various brightly wrapped boxes. For all of the above, as well as in general for those who have debated the purchase or even decried the use of an eReader/tablet, I fully recommend the Kindle Fire, which I pre-ordered as soon as the news broke despite never before having owned such a device. Having had enough time to play with Fire, I decided to pass along some of my observations in hopes of helping others make a decision concerning the book vs. eBook battle.

It was hard for me to say no to a relatively low-cost ($200 US) tablet that combines eReader, WiFi-based Internet browser, and time waster (App store), even though I have an affection for paper and a perfectly good 3+ year-old laptop that has been faithfully serving my mobile computing needs since its acquisition. The Fire’s price point can be negated with each eBook bought (average cost for Kindle books are about half that of their physical incarnations), and the integrated functionality exceeds expectations. But I don’t wanna read literature from an electronic screen, I hear you whine (and in hearing so, have recognized an echo of my past self shouting to the ages).

To those who complain about the difference in feel, you are correct. The device has a paperback-sized footprint but is HEAVY (all that battery life has to come from somewhere). This makes the Fire quite cumbersome when lying down to read, requiring more forearm stamina than a lengthy masturbation session. Furthermore, the fact that the Kindle Fire doesn’t split open along a spine means there’s less of a span compared to bound books. Consequently, this presents a dilemma as to how to most efficiently hold the device (which, in the end, users will just get used to). Critics are also correct that there is a lack of intimacy in not manually flipping pages. However, the disadvantages I just noted are far outweighed or at least assuaged by the Fire’s reading-specific functionality and features.

While the inability to flip pages in the vein of the noble paper/hardback is lamentable, the touchscreen UI (user interface) does make advancing through pages of an eBook a novel experience. The liking of gadgets and appreciation of books are not mutually exclusive here; the UI combines the two into a horizontal slide, which readers may customize via any number of personal gestures. The effect won’t differ, but go grandiose…have fun with it! Turning a non-page by not actually touching it evokes a very Sci-Fi feel, which honestly makes me subconsciously giddy without distracting me from the content or tone of the tome at (in?) hand.

Speaking of distractions, say you’re reading an eBook when you come across a word you do not know. Usually, this would require the reader to stop, make a grab for their trusty pocket dictionary, and pray to Webster’s that there is an entry. With the Fire, all a reader needs to do is hold their finger on a word, and a little window with a quick definition from the included New Oxford American Dictionary pops up (and can be closed instantly just as easily). Still need to know more? Click on the option to see the full definition or use other presented options to seamlessly launch the Silk browser and search directly within Wikipedia or via Google.

And for those with horrible memories and annotation syndrome, the inability to dog-ear pages and write in the margins are hindrances rendered inapplicable by three amazing bits of electronic functionality: bookmarks, highlighting, and noting, each of which can be recalled via the eReader’s main menu with one touch. Bookmarks, just like slips of paper or a favorites menu, will keep track of your favorite pages, while highlighting lets readers replace markers with fingertips. The advantage to both is that the main eReader menu shows either a short preview or the entirety of text to help readers find the reference at some later time. Still not finding what you want to recall fast enough? Use the integrated search function to find exactly what you were looking for no matter where it is in the book.

If you’re concerned about battery life, don’t be. Fire never runs out of power (unless you forget to pay the electric bill or the adapter breaks). Even when not near an electrical socket, the tablet can be used continuously for about 8 hr (with wireless turned off) before requiring a recharge. Add to that convenience the ability to download new eBooks and previews thereof at whim (if an Internet connection is available), and you can see why I, a staunch supporter of paper books, fully endorse this eReader/tablet and am slowly moving away from (over)stocking my bookcases.

Recently purchased for my Fire:
Love in a Time of Robot Apocalypse by David Perez
the LAST TIME as WE ARE by Taylor Mali
Anatomically Incorrect Sketches of Marine Animals by Sarah Dawson
Gathering the Tide: An Anthology of Contemporary Arabian Gulf Poetry Eds. Samia Touati, Jeff Lodge, Patty Paine

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Comments
  1. […] I first wrote about the Kindle Fire, I didn’t adequately imagine just how much I would come to love it. App […]

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