Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part III

Welcome to kindle fire

I ordered my Kindle Fire late Thursday morning and it arrived Friday, charged, linked to my Amazon account and brandishing a batch of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

Okay, so I made up the last… But my Kindle initiation was almost that perfect.

Of course, honeymoons don’t last forever, and three days of drive-my-bride-crazy-intensive-Kindle-Fire-field-testing later I’m ready to share my first impressions of the Kindle Fire. This post follows up on “Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part I” and “Kindle Fire Pros & Cons, Part II”, but my review doesn’t depend on first reading those posts, so if you’re heart is racing because you’re a mouse click away from investing two hundred clams in a K-Fire, skip the back story and scan, read, consider the following.

First the Kindle Fire pros, as I see them:

  • Kindle Fire is cheap!
  • Kindle Fire is a user-friendly ereader (except for one frustration discussed below).
  • Backlighting and white-on-black reading option are ideal for nighttime use.
  • Seamless Amazon integration is easy, quick, virtually frictionless.
  • Kindle Fire size/dimensions are ideal for ereader.

I don’t think that these Kindle Fire benefits demand much explanation, nor do I want to diminish them as I move into my list of Kindle Fire downsides. Suffice to say that the $199 price tag makes me an optimistic and tolerant K-Fire owner, despite some significant frustrations that I trust will diminish with future software updates.

As for what users like most about their Kindle Fire, it may come as little surprise that its cost came top of the list, with 59 percent citing the $199 price tag as a big plus. (Digital Trends)

It’s also worth noting that my principal interest in the Kindle Fire is as an ereader, so my cons are primarily concerned with this single aspect of the gadget.

Kindle Fire cons, as I see them:

  • No text-to-speech option on Kindle Fire
  • No text sharing/blogging functionality in ebooks
  • No marginalia aside from highlighting and “clunky” notes
  • In short, no dramatic ereader advantage to Kindle Fire over Kindle app!

Although I like the e-reader experience on the Kindle Fire, I also like it on the Kindle app for iPhone and Mac. I’ve used the Kindle app on my iPhone, Mac Pro and MacBook Pro long enough to appreciate it and depend upon it. But I’d anticipate an decidedly superior  reading experience on the Kindle Fire. The fact that Amazon opted to exclude the test-to-speech (TTS) option already available on other Kindles frustrates me just as Amazon’s unwillingness to address this issue frustrates me. I suspect that it is tied to increasingly complicated (and monetizable) copyright issues, and Amazon’s ownership of likely is likely a contributing factor. Although I dream of a digital bundle (see also “Digital Book and Audio Book Integration” and “Kindle Owner’s Lending Library”) that lets me flip between the digital book and the audio book, I was hoping to weather the wait with a device that offered seamless TTS integration. A British R2-D2 might massacre Michael Ondaatje‘s lilting storytelling, but it would be better than trying to read The Cat’s Table while driving winding Adirondack byways or slogging away on the elliptical machine… I hope that Kindle Fire text-to-speech is only a software update away!

My second complaint undoubtedly finds its root in copyright issues as well, and as a writer, storyteller and content producer I am well aware of how important (and how tricky) it is to protect intellectual copyright. But the fact that I can’t share small text sections via email and/or social media while reading an ebook on my Kindle Fire is a major drag. As a blogger, I want to easily and quickly embed quotations in blog posts and/or mashup cited quotations from multiple sources à la Storify. Frankly, enabling readers to post cited, linked quotations from ebooks could prove to be the very best marketing available. If I share content from an ebook via email, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. and others like the content, click the link, sometimes purchase the digital content, and then share it forward, Amazon could effectively dilate its growing monopoly overnight. Let’s figure this out, wonky developers. Amazon needs you to make them richer! And I need you to sate my craving for quick and easy, frictionless storytelling… ;-)

As for the marginalia, I suspect this is a niche concern and that I’ll need to be patient for a long while before I can scribble arrows and notes and doodle in the margins of my digital books on a Kindle Fire or anywhere else for that matter. But taken together (with emphasis on the first two) these three Kindle Fire shortcomings have lead me to wonder if there’s any significant advantage to the Kindle Fire as an ereader over the Kindle app. So far, I’m not convinced. One more device to purchase, charge and misplace. One more package of distractions (especially videos on demand which — even in such a small package —  are enticing) to compete with books. One more account to keep synced (and this time dependent on wi-fi), I wonder if Amazon either intended the Kindle Fire as a lateral step instead of a step forward, or if they were simply racing to get this colt out of the barn before the holiday buying spree. In either case, I’m choosing optimism over disappointment. I believe that a software upgrade just might be able to solve these problems and teach my K-Fire how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

In closing, reading a digital book on my Kindle Fire is user friendly. And grabbing a new book if/when I desire is easy, quick and often free. This is all good. Really good! But I had hoped for more. And I’m still hoping.