Canadian Kindle Review

November 22, 2009

The international version of the Amazon Kindle eBook reader is now available in Canada.

I ordered one and have been using it for four days now so I thought I’d write up some my initial thoughts. Ordering the Kindle is accomplished through the U.S. Amazon site (amazon.com vs. amazon.ca). The Kindle Store where you can order books online via a web browser is also accessed via the .com site. The Kindle Store is also available directly on the device. It allows you to search for books, read reviews, and even write reviews.

Text input is via a Blackberry-esque thumb QWERTY keyboard. While reading a book you can start typing at any time. A small search box appears at the bottom of the screen which allows you to search the current book, a dictionary, Google, and others. The keys are round and flush at the edge but raised slightly in the middle of each key. Most of a user’s time on the Kindle is spent reading so the keys are designed to be unobtrusive during normal reading which makes them less than ideal for typing compared to a input heavy device such as a Blackberry. I think this is a good compromise considering the screen is fundamentally different than the computer screens we are used to.

The screen is the key new technology that distinguishes eBook readers like the Kindle from other mobile devices like a netbook or an iPhone. The text is beautiful to read which becomes painfully obvious when moving to a laptop after reading the Kindle for an extended length of time.

The screen is very different than anything I am used to. It is not backlit so it requires external lighting just like a real book. In natural light, even bright sunlight, it is gorgeous. The downside is that page turns are relatively slow and result in a very brief all black flicker. These screens excel at displaying text or static grey scale images but could not keep up with the refresh rates of say video. The onscreen menu and search box seems to be pushing the limits of what the screen can display and acceptably refresh quickly.

The e-ink technology screens only require power to refresh the screen so unlike a mobile devices it does not need to turn the display off to conserve power. Long battery life results, especially if you turn the wireless off. While wireless is off you cannot download books and you cannot sync the latest position back to Amazon to pick up where you left off on one of the other supported platforms, PC, Mac-coming-soon, Blackberry-coming-soon, and iPhone.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the Kindle iPhone application is not yet available 

Books for the Kindle cost slightly less than the discounted paperback version. The downloads take only a few seconds on the 3G GSM network supported by the international Kindle. The cost of the wireless service is hidden in the price of the books. There has been some speculation on why Canada was left out of the initial launch of the international version. Canadian support was launched shortly after Bell and Telus went live with their new 3G GSM network though I could not find any information on whether Rogers or Bell/Telus is being used as the Canadian wireless carrier.

There is a US$0.99 per MB charge for personal files that are downloaded wirelessly to the Kindle (vs. US$0.15 per MB in the United States). This is done by e-mailing the original document to _yourname@kindle.com (e.g. radthoughts@kindle.com) which is then converted to the Amazon .azw format and sent wirelessly to your device. If you want to avoid this cost you can e-mail your documents to _yourname@free.kindle.com which converts the document and sends it to the e-mail address associated with your Amazon account. You can then transfer the .azw file to the Kindle via USB. When the Kindle is attached via USB port it appears as an external drive.

The button layout on the Kindle is quite usable. The 1st generation received a great deal of criticism for the placement of the large page turn buttons since it was quite easy to accidentally turn pages while handling the device. The 2nd generation uses buttons that can only be depressed on the inside edge so it minimizes this problem. The Kindle can be easily read and pages changed with one hand and with its light weight it is easier to handle that a traditional paperback.

The software interface is controlled from a combination of a 5-way directional button, Home button, Menu button, Back button, and some QWERTY buttons (e.g. font size). The UI is quite useable but my first impression is that it could have been cleaner. I miss page numbers. Your location in a book is represented at the bottom of the screen as a percentage, a progress bar, and a strange canonical numbering system that works across the six different font sizes. Locations 1138-41 of 6664 just doesn’t stick in my brain, perhaps it will with time.

Overall I’m really happy with the Canadian Kindle. Its a superb reading device that works well outdoors and removes the need for the bag of books that I carry when travelling or spending time at the cottage.

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9 Responses to “Canadian Kindle Review”

  1. tom s. Says:

    I have the impression that the big version (DX?) is not available. Any ideas?

    How do you find the small amount of text per page?

  2. RAD Says:

    The DX version is not “international”. Originally the Kindle service used the Sprint network (EVDO). The international version uses GSM/HSPA+. At the very least I’m guessing that Amazon will wait until the next hardware iteration of the larger DX before changing the radio. For now only the smaller 6″ version is available for purchase in Canada.

    The small amount of text per page is by choice. I increased the font size to one larger than the default which reduces the amount of text per page. Flipping pages just seems to happen without thinking about it so I am not the least bit irritated by the frequency. The text is both left and right justified so there is sometimes increased whitespace between words when you increase the font size. I think I’m more aware of the between word whitespace than I am page turning frequency.

    I think I’m holding the device further from my eyes than I do a book but I haven’t done a careful comparison. Whatever it is, the slightly larger font size seems to be right for me.

  3. RAD Says:

    Web Browsing

    Web Browsing on the Canadian Kindle only works for Wikipedia. Other sites, including Amazon.com, result in the following message:

    “Due to local restrictions, web browsing is not available for all countries”

    The “Shop in the Kindle Store” options from the Home screen context Menu works fine.

  4. tom s. Says:

    I wonder how and why Wikipedia works if “browsing is not available” – is it actually browsing Wikipedia, or is it viewing a downloaded copy of it? Any idea?


  5. […] November 25, 2009 Amazon has released updated software for the 2nd generation Kindle including the Canadian Kindle. […]

  6. RAD Says:

    Its browsing Wikipedia. The results of a Wikipedia search show in the browser application with an address bar etc.. If you turn off wireless and do a wikipedia search a popup dialog appears asking to turn on wireless.

  7. e smith Says:

    why is ny times way more expenxive for canadians than americans, especially if I’m in US for winter

  8. Ajay Says:

    tonight when we finished, Hey mom you know that could be me. You know rdnaieg is tough for me, and I have a hard time. I told him I know, but you can do anything you dream of My son’s reply I know mama, and I know I’m not alone. . Your book choked me up as a mom because I see his struggle, but his response left me thinking he will rise above this and he will do great. He also left me blubbering! Thank you for this book and how the story is told he heard he could do this thing called life and come out on top.


  9. Hi Diane,I would love to win the $10 Amazon gift card so I can buy one of your books. When ever I get a chance I love to Historical romance. I’m disabled, so it’s hard for me to get out and go the library to get books. Very often I can buy a book because other things has to be paid first, then once in awhile I’ll have a little extra for my pleasures. I love to read late at night when everything is quite, if I don’t fall asleep after I read a few chapters. It’s what you call getting older.lol! Hope your Holiday is awesome! I just hope my is too!donna harris


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