Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Kindle DX and I

I've fielded more questions about my Kindle, and how I use it in Australia, than just about anything else I've mentioned on Twitter so I thought I'd put the information in a blog post.

After October 7 this information is really only useful if you want a Kindle DX - if you're happy with the smaller Kindle then you should buy an internationalised version and avoid all the issues I'll describe.

Why a Kindle?

Books are heavy, and I often want to carry around more than one for reference, especially if I'm doing some writing. At lot of the things I want to read these days are also in PDF and I haven't found a good way to read those - I end up reading a lot either on public transport or just before bed and my laptop isn't convenient in those environments. I tried using my iPhone to read PDFs but that doesn't work for me (other people seem very happy).

The Kindle is great for reading material that's been formatted for the device - I haven't found it to be that good for PDFs (more on that later). It's much better for me than either my laptop or my iPhone. The screen has great contrast, a huge viewing angle, and when I first opened the box I couldn't believe the starting image was being displayed on something electronic.

First Problem

The first problem is that Amazon won't sell you a Kindle DX if your shipping address is outside this USA. My first solution was to have one shipped to a friend in the USA and then shipped on to me, but it turns out that there are people on eBay who can help. My KIndle DX arrived in the original Amazon packaging, with the original seals intact, with a new shipping wrapper pasted over the original.


The Kindle arrives with a USA style power adapter, but the approach is the same as the iPhone - it's a USB connecter that plugs into the adapter. Since I already have an iPhone charger I can plug into that, or I can charge from my computer.

The Kindle is fairly frugal with power. Since you won't be using WhisperNet you can turn off the wireless connection to reduce battery use. The screen is bi-stable, so it only uses power when you move from one page to another. I charged my Kindle last Friday night - it's currently Thursday morning and I'm still using it happily.


Amazon (who I'll get to later) isn't the only source of content for your Kindle. You can use .mobi files from other sources, or PDFs. For example, I buy combo packs from the Pragmatic Programmers, so I have .mobi versions of all of their books, and their magazine comes out in the same format.

If you want to buy content from Amazon you won't be able to do it with an Australian credit card/address. I've set up a separate Amazon account for my Kindle purchases and given it my old Brooklyn address (you can use that too if you ask me nicely). I buy an Amazon gift voucher on my Australian account and then use the gift card to buy the content on my Amazon Kindle account. It's an extra step, but it's not really that much of a problem. I download the content to my laptop and transfer it to my Kindle via USB (the Kindle looks like any other disk drive).

Carrying an extra device

Yes, it's one more device, but I've put my Kindle in the back pocket of my backpack and I really don't notice the extra weight at all. It's always there if I want to read, and I use it with one hand even if I'm standing on public transport.


There's no economic reason for me to have a Kindle, but I'm really enjoying the experience. The proof of the Kindle pudding will be how it scales to having the majority of my library on a device I carry around with me. I suspect that this will change the way I treat information.


  1. How's the e-ink screen for long-ish reading stints (say > 45 mins)? Not being able to take advantage of 3G in Australia and lack of wifi-support is why I don't have one yet. The longer I hold out the closer we get to the long-awaited return of newton-style tablets. I'd be interested to find out what the transition from paper to e-paper has been like for you...what you've gained, what you've lost...

  2. I don't think I've used it for more than 45 minutes in one burst yet - my reading habits, especially for technical material, doesn't really support that. My impression is that it wouldn't be an issue - I'm more curious about how my hand feels holding it for that long.

    What I've lost in the transition from paper is the ability to flick quickly through a book looking for something based on physical location (hmmm, it's early in the book, on the top right of some page). So far that's it. In principle I've exchanged the ability to write notes for harder-to-type electronic notes, but the truth is that I almost never wrote notes in my books, and if I did I'd never be able to find them anyway. I think I'm *more* likely to annotate them this way, where I can scan and search the notes independently, but it will take a while for me to change habits.

    Given the frequency that I load new material, not having 3G or wifi really isn't a big deal. The only thing I miss is magazine subscriptions, but I'll still be tempted to give that a crack for MIT Technology Review, which is the only magazine I miss from the USA.

  3. Thanks for the post, Steve. Natalie and I are coming back home to Australia with our US Kindles and have been wondering how it'd work out. Seems like we'll have to keep using our old BK address too!

  4. Thanks for this Steve - I was surprised at how much I like the Kindle. I regularly use it for long stints and find it's great and more comfortable to hold than big books. Not sure I'd use it for technical reading material though and I don't like reading newspapers/magazines on it. I've read a 20+ books so far... I'm hooked. Nat Hall (Park Slope; soon to be Melbourne).