Thursday, April 16, 2015

GEAR REVIEW: First Generation Amazon Kindle

You get this with technology sometimes, where the first generation of a device often has superior construction to its descendants, and the kindle is one place in which this is true. Much like Apple's successful iPod mp3 player was not the first mp3 player, the Kindle was not the first digital book reader to reach the market. Both did however bring the technology to the masses. I jumped on during the first generation of kindles, and never really moved on ahead. I've got my reasons though. It's not perfect, the square corners that I prefer the look of are, at least I'm relatively certain, part of the reason I keep breaking screens. I think it works like airplane windows, where a curved edge is stronger than a square corner when handling a load. A shame, really, I prefer the look of the first generation's corners. The buttons are also a little easy to accidentally toggle. I do however still like the layout and number of buttons better than subsequent generations of kindle have offered. The one feature I really wish the first generation had that was added later on, is the option to buy one in black. the white plastic can be a little difficult to look at for extended periods of time in bright sunlight. And, again, as I've mentioned they are a bit fragile, I wouldn't mind reducing that.

So, why then, I am sure you are asking, do I prefer the first generation to all the others even in light of those flaws? First off, subsequent versions of the kindle have the battery soldered to the circuit board. The non-removable battery is a down-side for me because I've collected a number of spare kindle batteries AND I've been known to exhaust the batteries. It's nice to be able to replace them. It DOES require it's own charger, rather than utilizing the mini usb port that you can use to feed data onto the book, but I consider that a small price to pay for the removable batteries. Since this is a wilderness blog, the removable batteries are a salient point, I often charge two or three of them before a camping trip and bring them along. With those three batteries, I can read heavily for the better part of half a month without having to recharge. Second, in addition to the removable battery, the first generation has a removable memory card. Flash memory that devices like this use is relatively young. It can be burnt out with a sufficient number of writes and rewrites. Are you likely to reach this limit on any device short of a solid state drive for a PC? not terribly. In a decade and a half, I've burnt out one flash drive and it was one of the first ones I ever owned. But still, it's nice not having the memory built right in. Second generation and onwards, the memory is non-removable. First generation includes a SD Card slot. If I need to, I can pop the card right out and plug it into my laptop, or if I break a kindle, I can pop it right into the new one, the whole library right there on the card.

I also like the keyboard. Some of the newest editions of the kindle don't have a keyboard. I used to use my kindle as a poor man's smartphone, making the built in 3G and Browser access my gmail account. I've got a smartphone now, and this is really hard on the battery so I don't do it anymore, but it's been handy before and I'd like to retain the option. Additionally, the 3G isn't a given anymore the way it used to be. Wifi is more ubiquitous than it was a decade ago, and most phones are coming with a whole additional G over the kindle's dated data connection. I definitely prefer the E-Ink screen over the color LCDs, and a non-touch screen like the first gen has over the paperwhite's touch sensitive screen. Add to all of this that First Generation Kindles can be had online for roughly $50 compared to the two to four times that you can spend on newer options and it's tough to argue with!

Now, I believe in being prepared so in addition to my kindle I tend to carry at least one paperback with me when I travel. I know there are some people who strongly prefer the printed page to e-ink readers, and while I understand their passion for the texture and smell of a real book, I don't share in it. To me, the ability to carry hundreds of books with me vastly outstrips the visceral romantic aspects that these literary hipsters espouse.

Mine's on the left. The right is a much newer model. Shows how the device has changed over time. (newer kindle courtesy of the amazon employee who rode with me for a leg on the train last summer)

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