Browse Month: November 2011

My Thoughts on the Kindle Fire

I’ve got the Kindle Fire. I’m not writing from the point of view of a techie; you won’t find stats, numbers, comparisons, and contrasts to other tablets here. I’m your average (well, I’m far above average, but you get my point) lady user, who was seeking a device for browsing, reading, social media, and gaming. Word processing would be a plus, but not absolutely necessary. Price I’d be willing to pay for said device? I could be flexible within reason. To give you an idea, my current laptop is a wonderful, chic Sony Vaio with very decent processing power and great battery life; it cost $650 on sale. I used to want an iPad, but when I saw that I could get a computer for the same money, I never looked back. The Kindle Fire is my first tablet. I’ve held it and used it; here are my thoughts…

I love the compact size of it. When I hold it vertically, I can type on its keyboard with my thumbs, as though I’m texting on my phone. The keyboard is comfy horizontally too. I like e-mailing from the device. Movies and videos run smoothly on my Netflix app and on YouTube. Angry Birds, Bejeweled, Stupid Zombies, and a slew of other games run well, much to the delight of my nephew. The speakers have good sound. Unfortunately, there is no external volume button on this device; the volume can only be raised and lowered on the touch screen. Once you touch the settings icon, the volume bar becomes visible, but I feel a physical volume button would be best. I listen to enough loud music on headphones to know that a physical button can mean the difference between immediate relief to your eardrums and deafening noise.

I love reading magazines on the Kindle Fire. Between my husband and me, we’ve accumulated many magazines, and that’s not the best thing when you live in a two-bedroom condo. So far, the ones I read regularly–O the Oprah Magazine, Saveur, and Food & Wine among many others– are all available on the Kindle Fire, and they look gorgeous on its screen, so I’ll be switching to digital subscriptions for all my magazine reading.

Books look good on the Kindle Fire too, but I still prefer my old Kindle for full-on reading. When I travel, I’ll only take the Kindle Fire with me because it serves multiple purposes. When I’m at home, however, I will still rely on my old Kindle for reading books. As a bibliophile with lots of books in her keeping, I was surprised by how easily I took to the Kindle years ago. I still find reading on a traditional Kindle to be the experience that most closely simulates reading the printed page. Although I only buy printed books on certain occasions these days (I try to read electronic books in order to prevent accumulating more objects around the house), reading a book–even on a machine– remains a quiet, sacred act for me. I was reading one of my books on my new Kindle Fire and I noticed some notifications on the upper left screen, letting me know that I had a few new emails, three new rounds on Words With Friends, and some tweets on my Twitter feed. I don’t care for such distractions while I’m reading. That said, it’s nice to have access to my books on a multi-function device because it’ll help cut down on the number of gadgets I take with me when I go places.

My nephew playing games on the Kindle Fire

Cookbooks, however, are another story. I never bought cookbooks on my old Kindle because pictures in recipes are important to me. I’ve looked at recipes from food magazines and cookbooks on the Kindle Fire, and they look perfect. I’ll be able to stop buying printed food magazines and most cookbooks, and refer to my electronic copies in my Amazon Cloud whenever I need. The Kindle Fire also displays illustrated children’s books beautifully.

The web browser is nicely integrated with my social media–from the page I’m reading, I can share from the bottom of the browser window, enabling me to email the link to the page, or share the link directly on Facebook or Twitter. I find that clicking from drop down menus can be difficult if the page is not zoomed in a bit, meaning I sometimes end up clicking on something just above or just below what I actually mean to click. This can be frustrating because a page I don’t need opens, and I have to get back to the previous page, etc. But I hope that as I use it more often, these types of errors will happen less frequently.

I didn’t get this device mainly for writing, but I love it so much already that I regret it didn’t come equipped with some type of basic notes/word-processing feature. Just simple word-processing, formatting not necessary. There is a QuickOffice suite on the device which enables me to read Office documents, but I can’t do any kind of editing. Ah well, I can rely on apps for that.

The biggest gripe I have with the Kindle Fire is a flip-side of what I love so much about it: it’s a very personal device–as soon as you turn it on out of the box, you sign in, and all of your personal Amazon content is there. And when I say it’s there, I mean it’s visible and there ain’t no hiding it, because whether you’ve chosen to download it to your device so that you can access it outside of WiFi, or whether you’ve only kept it in the Amazon Cloud, it’s still visible. This was a problem for me because I was eager to share my tablet with my relatives, most especially my 7-year-old nephew. Thanks to the Kindle Fire’s “bookcase” setup in which all of your apps, music, videos, and books are neatly displayed on a screen that resembles a bookshelf, there was no hiding my books on sexuality, some of which have diagrams and renderings and revealing book covers. On my old Kindle, I don’t see the covers of my books, and if I want to remove a particular item from the reader because I know I’m going to be passing around my Kindle, or showing it to children, I can archive the book and bring it back later. I don’t have any shame about what I read, but if I’m sharing my Kindle Fire with a child so that he can play Plants vs. Zombies, I don’t need him scrolling through my content and asking me about orgasms. I tried to delete my books from the device, but they remained on the Cloud, so they were basically still there. Because I spend a lot of time with my nephew on a daily basis, and as I want him to be able to play games on the Kindle Fire as well as read children’s books on the device, I ended up deleting any books that I didn’t want my nephew to encounter. They are permanently deleted from my Cloud, so if I want to read them again, I’d have to re-purchase them. Now that I know this is the case, I won’t be buying books on adult sexuality on my Kindle anymore unless Amazon comes up with a way for customers to personalize the appearance of their Cloud content.

I know there are a lot of people out there who complain that the Fire isn’t a content-creator, that it has only 8 gigs of memory, that it doesn’t have a camera, and worst of all, that it’s just a device to promote Amazon as a retailer. Well, the thing is, I have a laptop for content creation and it’s got roughly 600 gigs, I have two cameras for taking pictures, and I buy a LOT of my stuff on Amazon. Amazon could beef up this device with more bells and whistles to make it more like its competitors, but then the Fire would cost as much as its competitors too. At $199, the Kindle Fire comes in at a good price point for a great toy. And a nice toy is what these are, by the way, no matter what brand of tablet you buy. Make no mistake about it: people can bitch and moan and brag all they want that this tablet does this and that tablet does that, but in the end, the general public is using tablets to read, send email, play games, and chat with their friends. There’s nothing wrong with that.