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Using a Kindle 3 for web browsing and blogging

 

Kindle 3 web browser screen sunlight

The Kindle's E Ink screen is great for use in sunlight

 

I’m always on the lookout for new mobile writing platforms, so when the new Kindle 3 was launched a couple of months ago I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The eBook capabilities of the Kindle are well known, but its web browsing and blogging abilities are less established. In fact, even in the menus on the Kindle 3 the web browser is listed under ‘Experimental’. Plus, for writers/bloggers there’s no dedicated text editor. So at first glance it’s unclear whether buying a Kindle 3 primarily for web browsing or blogging is a good idea.

Some people have commented that it’s possible to add annotations to books and turn these into ad-hoc notes. Although this can be done, I’m going to concentrate here on blogging in a more direct way.

The web browser on the Kindle 3 is a Webkit affair and far superior to the browser on previous Kindles. The Kindle 3 is actually able to render plenty of pages correctly, although there’s no Flash or any of the fancy plug-ins that we take for granted on even a basic netbook. Pages can also take a bit of time to load, especially over 3G if you have the 3G Kindle 3.

The secret to enjoying web content on the Kindle 3 is to use mobile versions of sites wherever possible. The desktop site of the New York Times for example will render on the Kindle 3’s browser, but the newspaper’s mobile site will render far quicker and offers access to full articles in a way that’s much easier to navigate with the Kindle 3’s cursor keys.

The same principle applies to email sites. I have been able to successfully use Yahoo Mail’s mobile site, while GMail’s mobile site has been hit-and-miss and Hotmail has never worked for me on the Kindle 3.

That leads us to blogging. I’ve been able to use the Kindle 3 to access the mobile WordPress.com site, but there are limitations. The mobile WordPress.com site only seems to allow post creation and does not seem to allow access to saved drafts. This means that if you want to partially write a post to complete later on the Kindle 3 or save as you write, you’ll be out of luck. Plus if you’ve just finished writing your greatest post ever and the WiFi connection to the Kindle 3 drops, I assume your masterpiece might be lost. I haven’t experienced this myself, it’s just a risk I envisage when you’re creating a document online and are unable to save it along the way.

Fear not, there’s a way to blog more safely from the Kindle 3. Yahoo Mail’s mobile site does allow access to your Drafts folder, which means you can write an email and save as you go along. Then when you’re done, use the post from email feature that many blogging sites offer (such as WordPress.com) to publish your post.

Of course you could also leave your post as a saved email draft and then polish it up when you get back to a laptop. If you don’t have a Yahoo Mail account, it’s easy to set one up. As I mentioned I’ve had mixed success with GMail and no luck using Hotmail on the Kindle 3.

Writing with the Kindle 3 is a so-so experience. It gets the job done, but number and symbol input requires a lot of button pressing. The keyboard is also a little wider than ideal and the keys have poor tactile response compared to, say, a BlackBerry. However it does work acceptably and after a short stint of writing I started to warm to the experience. I also find that due to the refresh time of the E Ink screen, I sometimes write quicker than the screen can display the text. However the Kindle 3 always catches up.

Why all this effort when smartphones and iPads are becoming so ubiquitous? Well the Kindle 3 has some unique advantages. Firstly the screen is easily readable in sunlight, in fact it’s better in sunlight than in the shade. Secondly the Kindle 3’s battery lasts for ages and the device is extremely portable; it’s difficult to put a figure on the real-world battery life but I’ve enjoyed a full week of sporadic use from the Kindle 3 with WiFi browsing. Thirdly, for just $189 the Kindle 3 3G version allows you to read web content on a decent size screen in more places than a typical laptop that just has WiFi connectivity.

So the Kindle 3 can be a useful device for web browsing and blogging. Just go into the experience with your eyes open; it’s not an ideal platform for these use-cases but it provides functionality to get many of the basics done, and is one of the only viable options for use outdoors in sunnier climates.

Neil Berman

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Oct 22, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Guides, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Just a year ago we thought no interesting tech stuff would come out a recession, but it’s been a great year for both hardware and software. Here are my three favorite purchases of 2010 so far:

1. Apple iPad 3G

cat ipadNothing less than a revelation, and the only computer I use at home unless I’m working or watching/listening to media content. The iPad set the bar so high for the sector that it’s only now that other multinationals seem almost ready to launch true competitors, and even those look likely to disappoint on the software front. Rumors of a new iPad for the holiday season are surfacing; if it does happen then my money’s on an additional 7-inch version with Facetime camera, rather than a straight replacement for the current model.

2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The Call of Duty competitor hit a high with this year’s FPS release. Set in wildly varying scenery with plenty of variety of both weapons and gameplay, Bad Company 2 is a worth adversary to Modern Warfare 2 and a must have for any FPS lover.

3. Kindle 3G, 3rd gen

I’ve never been a huge reader, but the $189 combination of an E Ink screen, Webkit browser and free 3G data make the Kindle 3G a winner for sun worshipers. It’s no YouTube player, but if your outdoor surfing needs involve sitting at a beach/park/Times Sq catching up on the New York Times then the Kindle 3G is just the thing.

Neil Berman

Sep 19, 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware | , , , , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Reflecting on the past year, I’ve done some wacky things to accommodate my gadget obsessed lifestyle.

Take my old BlackBerry Bold 9000 for example. A great smartphone in almost all respects except that it has a weak Bluetooth transmitter. I mean weak to the extent that I would get music streaming dropouts when walking in open areas where the Bluetooth signal had nothing to bounce against. I always carry my phone in my trouser pocket and it seemed that the only way to fix this was to reduce the distance between the phone and my heaadphones. I couldn’t relocate my headphones so proceeded to buy an army of T-shirts with top pockets. Problem solved. Incidentally the Bold 9700 has a superb Bluetooth transmitter so I’m back to wearing whatevs again.

Kindle 3 web browser screen sunlight

The Kindle's E Ink screen is great for use in sunlight

Speaking of headphones, regular readers will know that I’m a serious fan of stereo Bluetooth. While there are plenty of headsets that are great for the summer, only a few offer genuine wind protection which is a must-have for New York winters. I sought out the Sony DR-BT50 specifically because they have snug-fitting earpads that do double duty as fair-weather ear muffs. So long wind chill.

Now that we’re onto the weather it’s no secret that I like using my gadgets outdoors. This has led me to convert Apple’s iPad case into a sunshade, choose the BlackBerry Bold 9700 over other smartphones due to its sunlight readable screen,and more recently buy the Kindle 3 just for outdoor web browsing. Am I the only person out there to buy the Kindle just so I can read online content for hours outdoors in places like Battery Park’s WiFi hotspot? Weird eh, but I’m lovin’ this gadget life.

Neil Berman

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Sep 4, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindle 3 works with Wordpress.com

The new Kindle 3 has arrived at theONbutton HQ (and this is the digital proof the Webkit browser works – painfully!! – with WordPress). Stay tumed for our review.

Aug 31, 2010 Posted by | Hardware | , , , | 1 Comment

Where next for Kindle?

Down and across. That’s the answer for those who like to read the end first.

Down: The price of the Kindle hardware looks to be in a race to the bottom with the Nook and every other eBook reader out there. I’d say that’s just fine for Amazon, and I reckon the Kindle’s selling price is almost inconsequential to the e-tailer. Kindle is all about wrapping the consumer up in its online store, after all Amazon is perfectly happy for you to read Kindle books on your compatible smartphone or computer. The overriding priority is probably to ensure that consumers choose Kindle over competing ecosystems, and in the standalone eBook reader market I’d say that means selling the Kindle hardware as cheap as chips if necessary.

The iPad has created some downward pressure since its perceived value as a multi-function device is significantly higher than that of the Kindle, which is designed to do one thing well. It’s nice that Kindle 3 will have a Webkit internet browser and some other candy on the side, but its core competency is presenting books from a huge library, which leads me to…

Across: Well, “Smooth” might be a better word. One of the things that makes companies like Netflix attractive is their smooth and partially predictable revenue stream, due to their subscription model. I think Amazon may move to offer an x-books-at-a-time tiered subscription model for Kindle alongside the existing buy-once model. This would be perfect for pulling bookworms into an unlimited plan, while Kindle newbies could experiment with a one or two books per month plan. Plenty of similar models exist for digital content distribution; Zune Pass, Rhapsody and of course the aforementioned Netflix.

Perhaps the most compelling example is the cellphone contract model. Consumers buy a cellphone for a fraction or sometimes 0% of its full MSRP and the hardware cost gets recouped by the carrier over the life of the contract. Whether Amazon would follow a contract or no-contract model is a pointless discussion since this whole article is pure speculation but, if you’re waiting for a $99 Kindle, I think it will come. Heck by my logic it may end up even cheaper than that.

Thanks to Eytan and Charlie for helping to trigger my thoughts about this.

Neil Berman

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Aug 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I’ve pre-ordered the next generation 3G Kindle

kindle beachI’ve never had a strong desire to own a Kindle. I don’t read books, I’m not excited about reading electronic books and I spend more time ‘curling’ the page corners of Winnie-the-pooh in iBooks than actually reading the marvelous work. So why did I buy the new Kindle that was announced yesterday?

Simple: It has a sunlight readable Webkit browser with free 3G. As regular readers may have picked up, I enjoy my time in the sun and I sometimes choose my gadgets based on their sun-tolerant capabilities. My Dell Latitude ATG is a case in point. The iPad unfortunately doesn’t fare quite as well. While being great for indoor use, it’s just okay outdoors. The screen is viewable as long as you have a sun shade but contact with direct summer sunlight sends it into a heated frenzy.

Kindle NewspaperThe Kindle is an entirely different proposition. Designed to be used for hours in the sun, it’s e-ink screen has no glare and its battery life is measured in days. On the downside e-ink has notoriously slow refresh rates and the Kindle’s display is grayscale rather than color. That’s fine by me since most of my web surfing when I’m lazing outdoors is text based, so I can live without video-capable refresh rates and vibrant technicolor.

Now that the new Kindle 3 will have a Webkit browser, which is the foundation of Chrome and Safari, it should render web pages pretty well. I’m not expecting pages to be works of art, like I said I just want to read the text content. Having that browser available on 3G without a subscription in such a lightweight and daylight readable package was too compelling for me to refuse. If the browser is good enough I may even cancel my monthly data subscription for my iPad 3G.

I’ll let you know if that’s really a viable option on August 27th, when the Kindle is released and delivered into the ‘wild’ a.k.a. My Messy Apartment.

Neil Berman

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Jul 29, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dreams Of Oceania Come Scarily True: Amazon Dives Into Kindles

KindleI had a dream.  In my dream someone entered my apartment when I wasn’t there.

I wouldn’t have even known but they left a note to say they were sent by a bookshop.  Apparently a book I’d bought was no longer eligible for sale.   So, and this is where it gets really funky-dream-weird, the bookshop was visiting everyone who had bought the book and taking it back.  They weren’t knocking, they were just going to each buyer’s address, finding a way in and taking the book back.  They were even leaving checks on the table!!

In fact it was all bizarrely similar to what Amazon did when it deleted MobileReference-published Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Animal Farm from buyers’ Kindles and refunded their account, saying the title was no longer available for purchase.  It turns out that the publisher did not have the rights to sell the titles.

However this really begs the question, “Do you own a Kindle?”  I mean do you really own a Kindle?  Does it have a lock and who has the keys?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jul 17, 2009 Posted by | Mobile, News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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