Earlier this week, on Tuesday, my Kindle 2 showed up at my house. I breezed through the simple set-up instructions and before you could say "Stately plump Buck Mulligan," I had my first book, James Joyce's Ulysses, (an 80 cent download) installed on my new reader. The purchase and download of this 700 + page book took less than 60 seconds. Wow.
Boggled by the idea of having 1400 books at my fingertips, I searched the Amazon/Kindle bookstore for more more more. I did a search for some Sylvia Plath -- rats, no poetry just some biographical and analytical stuff. Her poetry is magical; her life was tragic. I wanted her words, not her history. I switched back to Joyce and searched for Finnegans wake, another misfire: more critical essays, no actual book. Ok, on to some philosophy and to a book I didn't actually have in print: Spinoza's Ethics. Bingo! $2.60 (and 30 seconds) later, I had my Spinoza.
I started reading right away in my dimly lit den and it was apparent I had to turn on another light to clearly see the Kindle's screen. I was a little disappointed with the brightness of the display (it has no back lighting), but the following morning on the train that takes me to NJIT, I found the display to be clear, legible and easy on my eyes. The electronic ink that the Kindle uses to draw each page is actually an ink-like substance and because there is no backlighting of the display and the electronic ink only requires power while it is drawing a new page, the battery life is reported to be about 2 weeks per charge. The time between charges depends on, I suppose, how many pages one turns.
So what does this have to do with the iPhone? Lifehacker.com reported a brand new iPhone application before I even got through all of Spinoza's definitions. The iPhone app, a free download, displays the user's Kindle books, keeps bookmarks and pages, and even will pick up on the page the reader closed the Kindle. My Kindle was in my office on the other side of campus and, when I opened the Kindle app on my iPhone, it automatically synced itself with the last page I was reading in both Ulyssess and Ethics. Ok, so reading weighty books on a 2 inch screen isn't exactly my idea of cuddling up with a good book, the existence of an even more portable library than the Kindle offers, is quite a feat in itself. And the built-in backlighting of the iPhone's display makes the text more readable in low-light environments. The Kindle app does not make use of iPhone's multi-touch --the ability to "pinch" and expand certain areas of the screen, but the font and the display was easy enough to read that I didn't miss that feature at all. There is the ability to select the font size that is displayed.
The iPhone app doesn't support all of the Kindle's features. There is no ability to highlight text and use the Kindle's built in dictionary, there is no Text to Speech function, no ability to annotate notes, and no access to buy new books from the Amazon/Kindle Store. The app is mostly a utility to provide a window to the Kindle's basic functions and those basic functions are impressive.
Jeff Bezos says that there are currently 240,000 titles available for the iPhone; the stated goal is every book ever printed. I'm fairly certain that for the short term I'll continue to search and read the classics on my Kindle 2, but when I need a more mobile quick fix of James Joyce or Spinoza, I'll pull out my iPhone.