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Old 07-28-2009, 03:44 AM   #1
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Post The New Yorker hates on Kindle

Nicholson Baker reviews the Kindle 2. Some quotes:

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This was what they were calling e-paper? This four-by-five window onto an overcast afternoon? Where was paper white, or paper cream? Forget RGB or CMYK. Where were sharp black letters laid out like lacquered chopsticks on a clean tablecloth?
Quote:
Monotype Caecilia was grim and Calvinist; it had a way of reducing everything to arbitrary heaps of words.
Quote:
Outside, I sat on a bench near L. L. Bean, eating an ice cream, and tried to order “The Bourne Identity” wirelessly from the Kindle Store. But no—there is no Kindle version of “The Bourne Identity.” What?

What else was missing?
About the most positive it gets:
Quote:
Then, out of a sense of duty, I forced myself to read the book on the physical Kindle 2. It was like going from a Mini Cooper to a white 1982 Impala with blown shocks. But never mind: at that point, I was locked into the plot and it didn’t matter. Poof, the Kindle disappeared, just as Jeff Bezos had promised it would. I began walking up and down the driveway, reading in the sun.
Full article here.
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:12 AM   #2
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The most positive it gets at the very end. He managed to make kindle disappear and enjoy the book he was reading very eagerly.

If you read about Mr. Baker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholson_Baker
You will realize that the article is the highest praise an electronic book reader could ever receive from him ;-)
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:30 AM   #3
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Ah, glowing praise then :P
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Old 07-28-2009, 05:21 AM   #4
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I have to say I agree with almost everything he said. Ebook technology is pretty poor, as is publisher support. Technology adopters often avoid too much negative criticism, afraid it will cause the public to reject a good idea. In my opinion, this leads to a bit too much complacency.

If you want to treat the written word as a form of manifest beauty in both tangible and intangible forms, ebook readers like the Kindle are pretty poor. They get words into your brain in a form a bit less painful than a bright backlit computer screen, but they don't do much more.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:34 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDBoblo View Post
I have to say I agree with almost everything he said. Ebook technology is pretty poor, as is publisher support. Technology adopters often avoid too much negative criticism, afraid it will cause the public to reject a good idea. In my opinion, this leads to a bit too much complacency.

If you want to treat the written word as a form of manifest beauty in both tangible and intangible forms, ebook readers like the Kindle are pretty poor. They get words into your brain in a form a bit less painful than a bright backlit computer screen, but they don't do much more.
I don't know about all this. I have found that reading on my eInk BeBook is more pleasurable than reading paper. For me the image is in fact more legible, due primarily to the fact that I can choose the font and font-size and formatting of my choice. I find I that I am pausing and savoring language more, I suppose due to the increased (for me) clarity of image. Anyway, for me there currently are no drawbacks, and I'm not (yet) dissatisfied with the availability of titles (free and otherwise) on the internet. Without too much exaggeration, I can say that this eInk reader has changed my life for the better.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:36 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ascherjim View Post
I don't know about all this. I have found that reading on my eInk BeBook is more pleasurable than reading paper. For me the image is in fact more legible, due primarily to the fact that I can choose the font and font-size and formatting of my choice. I find I that I am pausing and savoring language more, I suppose due to the increased (for me) clarity of image. Anyway, for me there currently are no drawbacks, and I'm not (yet) dissatisfied with the availability of titles (free and otherwise) on the internet. Without too much exaggeration, I can say that this eInk reader has changed my life for the better.
I agree with this as well.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:49 AM   #7
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Ahh, when I read the article yesterday I didn't realize it was written by Nicholson Baker. Good author. Anyways, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said.

Personally, my biggest gripe with my 505 is the poor fonts that it comes with and that get used by default for LRF and ePubs. The lack of a true italic is infuriating, and is the main reason why I won't purchase any more LRF files from the Sony eBookstore. Thankfully, however, you can use your own fonts in ePubs with a few minutes hackery. And double thankfully, you can get ePubs at competitive prices from the UK booksellers.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ascherjim View Post
I don't know about all this. I have found that reading on my eInk BeBook is more pleasurable than reading paper. For me the image is in fact more legible, due primarily to the fact that I can choose the font and font-size and formatting of my choice. I find I that I am pausing and savoring language more, I suppose due to the increased (for me) clarity of image. Anyway, for me there currently are no drawbacks, and I'm not (yet) dissatisfied with the availability of titles (free and otherwise) on the internet. Without too much exaggeration, I can say that this eInk reader has changed my life for the better.
I have to second this. I find reading on my Kindle much more pleasurable than reading paper - less distracting, more convenient and just a joy. Selecting a font size that's right for my lighting and not having to deal with some of the more odd and elaborate font choices.

And of course, ultimately, the most important thing to me is that the format of the book reader *does* disappear and the only thing that is left is the words and the story.
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Old 07-28-2009, 11:51 AM   #9
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Actually it's a pretty good article--the author has clearly read up on the various reading devices and formats, and concentrated on the best-known for his piece. (Just this morning, I was asked on the train "Is that [my Cybook Gen3] a Kindle?") He enumerated some of the current problems with ebooks and readers--though, curiously, never mentions DRM--and in the end he admitted that the device DOES disappear if the story is sufficiently gripping, even for such a determined Luddite as he set himself up to be in the article.
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Old 07-28-2009, 12:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ascherjim View Post
I don't know about all this. I have found that reading on my eInk BeBook is more pleasurable than reading paper. For me the image is in fact more legible, due primarily to the fact that I can choose the font and font-size and formatting of my choice. I find I that I am pausing and savoring language more, I suppose due to the increased (for me) clarity of image. Anyway, for me there currently are no drawbacks, and I'm not (yet) dissatisfied with the availability of titles (free and otherwise) on the internet. Without too much exaggeration, I can say that this eInk reader has changed my life for the better.
Since I have decent eyesight yet, I can't say that bigger, generally inferior fonts is the same as greater clarity. I see down to the details of each letter, which are quite hideous from a typographic perspective, even when laid out properly (which I rarely ever see). There's no feedback from the paper or global navigation, there's no convenient way to scan ahead, and the interfacing is pretty awful given the time the companies have had to design it. The contrast is poor, even ignoring the limited resolution, which together spell disaster for any delicate, beautiful serif font. As I mentioned...it's a way of getting content into the brain, albeit in a limited, highly linear fashion. In my opinion, it's convenient, but less beautiful than photocopied faxes or dot matrix prints. My paper books are a treat after doing some reading on the reader.

All the hard work and experimentation I did to find a font that was reasonably attractive on my PRS-505 was pretty much futile, though I did manage to find one or two that I can easily process and ignore without being distracted by the poor quality overall. I also try to choose the lighting that maximizes contrast and reduces the feathered, drained look of the e-ink. These things annoy me to no end, and prevent me from enjoying my reading.

That's of course ignoring all the errors that crop up in so many ebooks...both free and commercial.

Perhaps it's just ADD or somesuch, but I don't feel like finding out.

I do admit though, these things don't need to bother everyone, but there are many people who these would bother, and they're casually ignored in a lot of reviews. It's good to see someone, even if they are a snob, point out that ebooks still have a long way to go for many of us.
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Old 07-28-2009, 01:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDBoblo View Post
Since I have decent eyesight yet, I can't say that bigger, generally inferior fonts is the same as greater clarity. I see down to the details of each letter, which are quite hideous from a typographic perspective, even when laid out properly (which I rarely ever see). There's no feedback from the paper or global navigation, there's no convenient way to scan ahead, and the interfacing is pretty awful given the time the companies have had to design it. The contrast is poor, even ignoring the limited resolution, which together spell disaster for any delicate, beautiful serif font. As I mentioned...it's a way of getting content into the brain, albeit in a limited, highly linear fashion. In my opinion, it's convenient, but less beautiful than photocopied faxes or dot matrix prints. My paper books are a treat after doing some reading on the reader.

All the hard work and experimentation I did to find a font that was reasonably attractive on my PRS-505 was pretty much futile, though I did manage to find one or two that I can easily process and ignore without being distracted by the poor quality overall. I also try to choose the lighting that maximizes contrast and reduces the feathered, drained look of the e-ink. These things annoy me to no end, and prevent me from enjoying my reading.

That's of course ignoring all the errors that crop up in so many ebooks...both free and commercial.

Perhaps it's just ADD or somesuch, but I don't feel like finding out.

I do admit though, these things don't need to bother everyone, but there are many people who these would bother, and they're casually ignored in a lot of reviews. It's good to see someone, even if they are a snob, point out that ebooks still have a long way to go for many of us.
One would think (or expect) EInk screens to be the same, no matter which device they're mounted on. However, i find that on my BeBook the screen appears fairly white with nice dark (black) clear type. I prefer and use the IBOOKN font, one of the three offered in the standard firmware (the others being "times" and "arial" -- both quite clear also) and I could load on other fonts than these if I wanted.

My preferred format is Mobibook, and I convert all my titles to that format using Calibre. I choose 19pt type, with full page justification.

With this reader I find my reading is almost always better and more satisfying than reading paper.
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Old 07-28-2009, 06:16 PM   #12
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FYI, Baker discussed the article on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show" this morning (NPR radio).

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episode...egments/137528
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Old 07-29-2009, 12:56 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
FYI, Baker discussed the article on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show" this morning (NPR radio).

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episode...egments/137528
Good link. I have to agree with Mr. Baker still...his points are legitimate and he doesn't paint himself as a hardcore Luddite at all. He's really just acting as a bit of an iconoclast, even though he namedrops another icon (iPod) in the interview.

Even the woman they asked regarding the screen admitted it wasn't pretty. People are so quick to defend its few good points that they want to casually ignore all the bad. Reminds me of a lot of trendy device adopters (old school like Moleskine notebooks to new tech like the iPhone) with confirmation bias.

Even the title of this thread implies a strong aggressive tone to criticisms, even when they're not meant that way.

As far as fonts that look good on the screen...there aren't any that look really good. There are ones that minimize the contrast problem and fit the pixel grid reasonably well, but nothing that can be described as "attractive" to anyone who can see individual pixels and the horrid smoothing combined with low contrast. That's a disadvantage of the screen technology. If your vision doesn't allow you to see it at normal reading distances, then more power to you. I unfortunately am not so lucky, and it has nothing to do with a faulty reader. In fact, the contrast in my PRS-505 is much higher than in some of the other readers I've seen (admittedly not many, since they're not sold in Taiwan), but even the best of the best is still pretty poor. Again, the quality is perhaps that of a photocopy of a fax, or an inkjet print on coarse bleedy paper.

I've personally talked quite a few people out of getting Kindles or Sony Readers...not because I hate them, but because I was straightforward about the problems. People deserve a reasonably complete impression, rather than just the happy. Imagine if Amazon eliminated all the 1-3 star ratings and only showed 4 and 5 for their books how many buyers would walk away feeling mislead and disappointed.
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Old 07-29-2009, 04:58 AM   #14
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDBoblo View Post
Even the title of this thread implies a strong aggressive tone to criticisms, even when they're not meant that way.
I wasn't entirely serious with the title....sorry, vague sense of humour I suppose

I'm no Kindle fanboy at all and love debate & criticism. I love my device to death, at the same it could be so much better...so it's not that I can't see that the article raises valid points.
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