Washington Post on Kindle: Screen problems, ‘often-awkward interface,’ lockup, wireless issues, but ‘you can get lost in a compelling book’

KindleKitArsTechnica The wrong guy working for the Washington Post Company wrote up the Kindle for Newsweek; Steve Levy filled his cover story with hype.

But at the company's flagship newspaper, WaPost "Faster Forward" columnist Rob Pegoraro went strictly by hands-on results in his review and related observations.

He does note positives, such as the ease of downloading books. At the same time, however, he refuses to gloss over the negatives and might actually be a little tougher than an Ars Technica review. Excerpt from the WaPo evaluation:

"...you can get lost in a compelling book on the Kindle. You can start to forget the plastic around the words---so long as the Kindle doesn't crash.

Froze on a page

"The review unit loaned by Amazon froze on a page I was reading several nights ago, then stayed stuck through the next morning. Nothing would clear the screen and wake the thing up---not pressing the reset switch beneath the back cover, not removing the battery.

"Amazon's tech support answered almost immediately but could only suggest replacing the Kindle. Finally, I tried plugging it in.

"That somehow revived the device."

Rob's not the only one with a Kindle lockup problem, alas, though the cure for occasional difficulties could be simple--also see David Berlind's info (via Kindle News).

A lemon?

In fairness to Amazon, maybe Rob got a lemon, but then David, too, encountered difficulties. I also find it dismaying that Amazon could only suggest a replacement for Rob. Hearing the reply from tech support, most customers would have groaned and sent the Kindle back---their faith in E lessened. Since when has you p-book frozen up?

Let's hope freeze-ups really aren't that common. I'd love to hear from other Kindle owners. Anyone else experiencing problems of any kind? Tips to share? My issue is with the machine, not the owners, toward whom I intend to be highly supportive.

More hassles for Rob Pegoraro

On top of everything else, Rob among other things:

--Finds that the current E Ink has contrast issues and others, an observation with which I thoroughly agree based on my Sony Reader. Look, I'm glad E Ink is around, and I know it'll get much better. But right now it's a long way from paper.

–Wonders about the number of titles in the Kindle library, 90,000, just a fraction of Amazon’s millions of books, although of course Kindledom will be growing.

–Says the books have price issues—thinks discounts should be steeper. Actually on this detail, Rob might want to check out Humayun’s price analysis.

–Complains that Kindle books “come wrapped in “digital rights management” software that prevents you from printing them, reading them on another device or loaning them to friends.”

–Says the “Sprint-supplied ‘Whispernet’ service,” used for transmitting books, “has major gaps in rural areas, starting as close as 30 miles from the District. Users in the country may need to download books to their computers, then copy them to a Kindle.” In a related vein, see this link kindly supplied by TeleBlog contributor Paul Biba—on the difficulties of using the Whispernet in Montana and other states with no coverage or spotty coverage. Bait-and-switch advertising for their residents? Or are they not reading fine print?

Close to home

Yeah, I know: Amazon has not sent me a Kindle. But believe me, rather than hoping to trash the machine, I’d love to be able to be more charitable about the interface than Rob was, despite the obnoxious DRM. As an e-book booster thrilled by the Kindle’s having made Newsweek (even if the story read more like a press release), I’d like to recommend the Kindle for newbies on the basis of a hands-on by me and my smart but somewhat technophobic sister—if the facts justify it. Alas, the more I read about the Kindle, the more questions I have.

Related: Nick Carr’s Kindle- and Web 2.0-related commentary inspired by the Post review (via Peter Brantley).

10 Comments on Washington Post on Kindle: Screen problems, ‘often-awkward interface,’ lockup, wireless issues, but ‘you can get lost in a compelling book’

  1. I have had my Kindle for 2 days now. I have not put it to extensive use, but I did buy an issue of the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and read them both without any freezing or hangups.

    I also browsed some web pages and for the most part, they looked pretty good and loaded fairly quickly. I searched the store as well and purchased a book. No problems there.

    I agree with the issue many have about accidental page turns due to the large buttons on both sides of the device. I am hoping a firmware update in the future will give us the ability to choose left or right handed reading that will disable the buttons on the side we hold.

    So far I haven’t needed to recharge it. Then again, I only turn the wireless on when I need to make a purchase or the one occasion I browsed the web.

  2. I’ve seen the freezeup a few times, including where the reset button wouldn’t work. Yes, I was able to solve this by plugging it in — the problem was when it froze I wasn’t anywhere near either of the two charging cords I’ve got for it. I expect my Win Mobile to freeze up occasionally when I load a bunch of third party software on there. No reason at all a single purpose device with all the code written by Amazon should lock up. I’ve *never* seen the RocketBook I grabbed from Fictionwise freeze up.

    What’s annoying about the buttons is that if you close the cover they ship with it, it will push the buttons for you. So you have to remember to put the Kindle in a special suspend mode. Ugh.

    The Kindle…its the worst dedicated ebook reader…except all the other ones.

  3. Brian-

    Are you talking about using the cover while reading? I don’t use it for that, since I don’t consider it a secure fit like the Sony reader. I consider it more a protective case and only use it when I am putting it away.

    When your unit froze up, was it when you connected it to a pc or did it happen while using the book independent? Let’s hope that Amazon is working on a fix for this soon.

  4. Nate the great // December 6, 2007 at 8:09 pm //

    The screen only draws power when it is being refreshed. If it is not being refreshed, the screen will not change. His Kindle didn’t freeze. The battery died.

  5. LC and Brian: Well, keep us posted—especially on the positives of the Kindle (in the interest of balance). You can use this thread if you’d like. If you have tips to share for fellow owners, please do so! Thanks. David

  6. Nate: Thanks. Sounds like a likely explanation. Of course, Amazon would do well to make that clear in a quick start guide or whatever. Notice? Even the Amazon tech support guy didn’t have an answer. For all practical purposes, it might as well have been a freeze, even if it wasn’t. Happy holidays. David

  7. Since when has your p-book frozen up?

    A few years ago I bought a second-hand detective story paperback, read it through with mounting interest, got to the second-last chapter — and discovered the rest was missing. Does that count as a freeze-up?

    I’ve also owned pbooks in which chapters were out of sync, single pages missing and whole chunks bound upside-down. Tight binding which cracks the book when it first opens is commonplace (planned obsolescence, perhaps?)

    Technical flaws are not confined to electronic media.

  8. I bought a Kindle 1 as a birthday present for my wife on 8-JUN-2008. It locked up once about 6 months in. I did a reset using the button in the back and it was fine. One year and 20 days after the purchase the device locked up and continued to do so after every reset. I have talked with customer support 3 times. I tried a firmware reset and a firmware update and still no improvement. The device constantly locks up and takes multiple attempts to reset even while plugged in just to get to the home page. I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist but this certainly makes me wonder. A $359 electronic device should last longer than 1 year unless maybe Amazon decided it was time for us to upgrade (exactly 20 days after the warranty expired). My wife spent about $125 on books in one year. I was given the option of paying the full price for a Kindle 2 or sending in my defective unit and getting a refurbished Kindle 1 for $180. I don’t believe Amazon will get any of our money ever again.

  9. I purchase the Kindle DX, and just 2 months later one night when I put it to sleep it did not work and in the screen several lines appeared and the back screen became very dark, making it impossible to read on it.
    I searched on the web after trying many things including depleting the battery and found out that this problem was not so uncommon, and that the only solution was to get a new kindle. The customer service of Amazon was very kind and immediately sent me a new one. But I´m very worry that this problems with the Kindle that can only be solved by having it replaced, and also the warranty that only last for a year is another concern, but buying another year extender warranty for $100 dollar is just too much, after making such an investment in a E-book reader like the Kindle DX

  10. I wrote this to Amazon,

    I would like to close my account and have my name removed from your company, I know I have an credit account with you and will get that paid and closed. I am not at all happy on how I was treated when my kindle first generation screen went bad or whatever happened to it, I have always treated it with care; it’s never been dropped or damaged. I have at the most used about 15 times, now it does not work or the screen it covered with black lines. I am told by your support people that I will have to pay a $99 to fix it or replace it. I haven’t done anything to have it fail!! You can look at my account and see that I have always been a loyal customer, I have recommend you on many occasions, telling potential customers to “buy from Amazon because you can be trusted and get a good deal”, that for me has changed and ended. There will no longer be any recommendations, I will tell others of this occasion, and that they will buy it at their own risk, I paid a pretty penny for that little device and I did so because I believed in you and wanted to support you on this endeavor, I bought it because I knew you would be around to support it, that you would be there for updates, I could of stayed with my PDA and read books from there as I have for many years, and now I will have to go back to doing that. I guess it’s not time for E-readers yet. Thank you and good bye.

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