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February 2009
- My much awaited Kindle has come. Vance got version 1 back in October of last year and loaned it to me for one day. I read the newspaper and decided I needed one. Oh no, there were rumors of a version 2. The desire was strong, but I didn't want to miss out on cool new features. Much hand wringing ensued.

When v2 did not come out before Christmas I got worried. What if v2 was just a pipe dream? Then in early January the delivery times for v1 were pushed out. "Due to incredible demand we are unable to ship Kindles right now. Place your order now..." Ah, I felt better. This means v2 is just around the corner.

v2 was leaked to the press on a Sunday. On Monday my brother sent me a note - version 2 was officially released. I had it on order before Mike's email arrived. Now I've started My Kindle diary so you can watch it tame my heart -  or not.

The Kindle Diary

Day 1
27 February 2009 - Friday

It was like waiting for a mail order bride to arrive. I could track the progress of my package in fits and starts at the USPS web site, but reports of the transit were sporadic and not timely. My Kindle2 was expected on Monday and I resigned myself to another weekend alone.

When I got back from lunch someone had put a USPS box on my chair - yea!! I opened it up, powered it on and slipped my new Kindle under the retaining straps of its Patagonia case. Oh how good it felt with my hand upon it. I walked around and showed it off to everyone at work. I kind of knew how to use it from the time I borrowed Vance's v1, so I was able to click here and there. Rob tells me he's been looking for a reason to buy a Kindle, but hasn't found one yet. If I read a technical doc and that works, then he might. But he keeps touching My Kindle...

I was so excited that I was 5 minutes late for a call. Damn. Luckily my conferencee owned a Sony eBook reader and he understood my joy.

I plugged in the charger and went back to work. Or tried to. The siren song of a new love kept dragging me off my keyboard. Maybe just to take a peek a the quick start card. I wonder if this one surfs the net. Double damn. I put it down. Then I picked it up. Finally I got involved in something else and was able to work.

Left work and went to Effie's for dinner. Kindles come with the manual loaded on it, so I read it - I'm a manual reader. Lots of cool features. I see that it DOES have a web browser. It has a way to send my own docs to it. I can send it pictures. Wow. I start to register it, but it comes pre-configured to my Amazon account! Smart. I click to Amazon and buy a subscription to the Merc News. That's really what I want the Kindle for. With a few seconds, literally, I have today's edition in My Kindle. Sweet.

Day 2
28 February 2009 - Saturday

I'm up and off to the Blue Rock Shoot for coffee, muffin, and My Kindle. It works as advertised. The Merc is there and ready to go. I'm a bit self conscious using it in public, but once I start reading my focus is on the print and the world recedes. At least until the first person comes up to me and asks if this is The Kindle. She has one on order and can't wait. Back to reading. Then a second woman comes up and wants to see it. She's wondering if the display is as good as they say. Yes it is, and she can see it now. Looks like she's going to buy one. Not that I mind these interruptions; it's fun to be so popular. Back to the Merc.

One article mentions a web site so I highlight that, which adds the text to MyClips. Nice. I also bookmark a page to see what that's like. I try to highlight a clip across a page boundary. That works as expected. I go to clip another bit from the Merc News and we have our first fight - My Kindle aborts. It just locks up, then after a bit it appears to be restarting. I think I had highlighted text across a page boundary and then tried to page back before committing it. The reboot preserved everything except my last reading position in the Merc. When I go back in it positions me a few articles behind where I had read to. Oh well.

After the paper I noodle a bit on the features. I try marking passages and setting bookmarks. My first disappointment is that I can't edit MyClips on My Kindle. In my messing around I clip from MyClips, which becomes another clip in MyClips. Grrrr. I just want to delete some lines. Why can't I?

I download Amazon's free sample of Obama's, The Audacity of Hope (TAoH) to see how book reading will be. I read about half of the download and find that book reading is excellent. I click back to Amazon to buy TAoH and start reading the real thing almost immediately. That was fast. There went $10. That was not my intention, but it is done and I feel good about it. This is going to be a love affair marked by excessive spending and additive behavior.

Back home I look through the packaging for the USB cable they claim to have shipped - I didn't get one. I got the charger but no cable. And the USB connector on the Kindle is smaller than a normal mini-USB. I'll have to buy another cable. But wait! As I go to put the charger in my laptop case... I wonder... YES! The end of the cable comes out of the wall plug part and there's the standard USB. Another nice touch.

Still in experimental mode, I take two of my web pages (my short story on the Flu and my analysis of 2008 Presidential contributions) and put them into MSWord format. I send one to my Kindle via the Amazon supplied email address, and the other I send to another email at Amazon that will convert it to AWZ format and send it back to me. I also send a photo to the Kindle. Each email to the Kindle costs $0.10. The ones that Amazon sends back to me are free. Out of the corner of my eye I see something move on the Kindle. What? Oh my God, the photo and document are already there. Unbelievable.

Day 3
1 March 2009 - Sunday

Again My Kindle has flawlessly obtained the Merc for me. I'm back at the BRS in the morning and read without incident. It's raining and there are few people around. One guy is sitting near me in a yellow slicker with a beer in his hand (at 10am? Really?). I go back to reading and lookup to find him suddenly gone. Poof! With my focus on the reading I didn't even hear him go. This is good - a normal paper or book will absorb me and it looks like My Kindle will too.

Rhona and Gary stop by on their morning walk and My Kindle dances for them. They like her!

It's evening and I'm at the airport waiting for her plane to land, it's 30 minutes late. I read another 50 pages in TAoH. No one bothers me. Not only is My Kindle a great partner, but TAoH is an excellent read.

In the evening she's beat from her travels and goes to bed early. I stay up for a little test. I put my short story in AWZ file format on my web site and then browse there via My Kindle. I download it from my web site and read it on My Kindle. Formatting is a bit off, so I do it a couple of more times to get it right. My plan is to convert several of my op-ed pieces to Kindle format and post them on my web site for free. I think there will be a lot of Google searches for "Free Kindle Books" and there's an opportunity to get my stuff read before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon.

On a lark I ask My Kindle to read my short story aloud while I work on other things. It's very odd to hear my own writing spoken in that electronic voice. Do I imagine this, or is it trying to add some inflections? I wouldn't listen to much this way, but it is another very cool feature.

When I give it up for the day I spend an hour in bed reading more of TAoH. I make the font size larger for my tired eyes. Wow, that's great. I am falling in love with My Kindle.

Day 4
2 March 2009 - Monday

I open My Kindle at the coffee shop and the Merc is there again, as expected. The battery is down to what looks like one segment. Not bad. I finish up and head to work.

I ask Rob when his Kindle is scheduled to arrive. He laughs. I show off the downloaded photo to Rob - it looks pretty good. I brag about the design of the charger and cable; Rob tells me the iPod did that years ago. OK by me, Amazon copied something good; that's good.

I plug it in to recharge and get my first cold shoulder - a complete freeze up. I notice that the charge light is not on. I slide the power button to wake up My Kindle and nothing happens. Everything is dead. I had this happen once when using Vance's v1 so I paid attention when reading the user's guide. I hold the power switch over for 15 seconds then let go. Nothing happens. I'm about to do it again when the display blanks and it reboots. Seems to have worked.

I put it to sleep and plug in the charger. Hmmm, again no light. Is it charging or is it hung again? I flick the power switch and it wakes up and the charge light comes on. I put it to sleep and the charge light stays on. Ok. After a minute the charge light goes dark again. What gives? Is it charging or not? I'll leave it plugged in to see if it gets up to full charge even though the light is off.

Well, it didn't. I plugged it into the wall. I'll have to look into this some more. Seems like My Kindle is a finicky eater too.

I spent another hour reading TAoH in bed. I like to work on one of the crosswords from the Sunday NY Times collection, but My Kindle is just too sexy to ignore.

Day 5
3 March 2009 - Tuesday

My Kindle and I have a regular routine now. The Blue Rock Shoot and the Merc News. It was blowing so hard outside that I sat in the back. Sandra, who I've only casually met in the BRS, got up and left, and then came back. "Is that a Kindle?" Indeed, it is My Kindle. She and her daughter looked it over. Sandra wanted college text books in it, then said it would even help to have high school books there. It would certainly work for English Lit.

I write now the next morning, I was too drained last night - we had another fight. Not a small one either; let me explain. I lay in bed and unzipped the Patagonia case. My Kindle has this cute feature of displaying an image of an author when it sleeps. Each time it's a different author - My Kindle must have 10 or so too choose from. When I flick the power switch the author's picture disappears in a black flash to be replaced by a list of reading material available to me.

Last night a gentle nudge of the power switch did not wake My Kindle. Some times it seems reluctant to awake so I waited. I nudged the switch again. This time the screen did a flash-flash-flash and a new author appeared. Odd. I nudged the switch - nothing happened. I waited. I nudged it again and the flash-flash-flash again. A new author and back to sleep. Oh, playing hard to get? I repeated the cycle again and again and again, until it bordered on insanity. My Kindle would not rise. Looking more carefully it seems that the sequence was:

  1. Return to home menu. Put My Kindle in sleep mode.
  2. Wait 13 hours.
  3. First power-on, no response
  4. Second power-on, the standard delay, then flash on to the home menu, then flash back to sleep mode.

I had no choice. Really, I was out of options. I'm not one to slap a Kindle, but My Kindle seemed to be in need of resuscitation. I moved the power switch over to ON for 15 seconds to cause a reboot. No response. I waited to see My Kindle begin to breath; it did not. I did it a second time and then the screen went blank and a reboot occurred.

After this I brought up TAoH and read for an hour. I put it My Kindle to sleep and fell onto my pillow exhausted. Let's hope today will be better.

Day 6
4 March 2009 - Wednesday

I guess My Kindle wanted to make up - my Merc News today was almost too big to read. Fifty Six articles in the front page section alone! Holy Cow. The last several days the front page section was only 20 or so articles. Why such a big section today? And the valley section was also double the previous days. I'm still in my first week, so maybe this is the natural variation in week day papers.

It was not satisfying today. I felt like the front page was a dog pile of articles. Same for the valley - it had a number of articles sourced from The Saratoga News. I hope this doesn't become the norm. I look to the editors to select significant articles, not just a gaggle. If they really want to give me 120 articles a day, they might want to make some sub-sections. We'll see.

I did a little web surfing to Wikipedia today. My Kindle worked well. However I noticed that the pagination was rough. The last line on the display was only partially revealed. When I page down that same line is at the top of the display, also just partially revealed. Some web browsing is better than none. Still, this should be fixed.

Tonight was another Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture. My friend Dave Beckwith's brother gave the talk. My Kindle was with me and I got in a few more pages of TAoH under my belt.

On the drive home it occurred to me, if My Kindle can hold 1500 books - well... just how many *is* that? If I read 3 books a month, that's 36 a year. If I got this right, My Kindle can hold just over 40 years worth of books. I'm 52. If I make the decision to use My Kindle for every book I ever read from this day forward, then when I die My Kindle will know everything I do. What will be the proper way to deal with it? Do we bury it with me like a modern Pharaoh's slave? Will My Kindle stand next to me in perpetuity like some modern version of the terra cotta warriors of Xian? This requires more thought (and maybe some scotch).

Day 7
5 March 2009 - Thursday

Thankfully My Kindle cooled down the size of the Merc News to a more reasonable 30 articles in the front page. Somehow I accidentally came across a new feature in the Merc. The Section list had both the name and the number of articles, like this

    Front Page   (30)        Valley    (17)

My fumbling fingers found that each title is two separate links: the title and the number. Clicking on the number brings up a list of the articles with the first sentence or so. Very helpful.

I also found that when reading an article there are small dots at the bottom which show how long an article is and how many are left in the section. That is quite handy!


Day 12
10 March 2009 - Tuesday

I'm catching up from a long weekend. I thought My Kindle and I had settled into a routine. Then Sunday I was greeted with a new twist, "Sorry, we could not deliver the Mercury News to you today." Huh? Sundays we have to buy the paper anyway - we spend the buck just to get the NY Times crossword - so I wasn't newsless, just disappointed. My Kindle never did come up with the Sunday paper.

I showed My Kindle off to my family and they liked the feel of it. Katie and Mike both read my short story The Devotion on My Kindle. Katie let out a little yelp when she got to the end; Mike did not. I'm happy to report that I took effusive praise for the story. (Kindle users can get the document here and regular web surfers can read it here.)


Day forever
14 March 2009 - Saturday

We have now dropped into a routine, My Kindle and me. I take it to the coffee shop and read the Merc. Once in a while someone will ask me about My Kindle and I do a little show. Mostly I just read. Last night I finished The Audacity Of Hope on My Kindle. It was an excellent read and My Kindle made it possible. I bought a copy of US News & World Reports for a buck. I browsed it but found it boring. If I remember correctly, the print is the same. I wish my more regular magazines were on the Kindle: Science News, The Economist, MIT Technology Journal, PC Weekly, Consumer Reports. I'd like to carry them around with me.

This is what I was hoping for - a normal relationship with My Kindle. Some ups, some downs, but not too many hang-ups (ha ha ha). Unless something really big happens, this will be the end of My Kindle Diary. Dear reader, be content in the knowledge that unless I write more here, we are very happy together.



More Bugs
9 April 2009

Now on a 10-day quick trip to the UK My Kindle has a chance to shine. I downloaded three books before leaving and turned off the wireless. I've read two and half of the last and still had enough battery to make it home. I still recharged today just to be safe. Today it also came clear that I'd need more books. I opened the manual to read about USB transfer and found that I never had it properly hooked up to my PC! Turns out My Kindle's cable is a bit odd size in some way and does not seat well to every USB port on my laptop. I jammed it into another one and the screen went blank declaring "USB Mode". Super. Now that all works. I bought a couple of more books - cha-ching - downloaded to my PC and copied them to My Kindle. Sweet.

More bugs have popped up. Once while reading a book straight through I realized I was back to page one. Or at least I was back to the contents of page one. I could navigate around, back and forth, and just found the first part stuffed in the middle. I powered it off and on, no change. I had to go back to the home page, shut it off, start it up, and then return to the beginning of the book. Page, page, page to where I was and every thing was straightened out. That was a pain. But it also leaves me wondering, have I missed some text? It seems that if My Kindle can cross link some pages into the middle of a book it could just as easily link over some pages. Crap. I like to read books that are less than linear in plot. I might not even know that I missed something. This is a horrible bug.

After I copied the new books to My Kindle I found them at the top of the home page, as expected. I opened one to look at it, then went back to the home page and it was gone! Oh, there it is, at the bottom of the home page. Each time I open a document and go back to the home page that document is at the bottom of the list. My home page is sorted By Most Recent First. This has always put the most recently read or received documents at the top of the list. Now they are going to the bottom. This is also bogus. I tried changing the sort order to Author, then Title, then back and still no change. I rebooted it but that still didn't fix it. Is this something due to my use of My Kindle via the USB? That would be bad, and stupid.

[Update on April 10]

The Amazon kindle support folks are fast and I got this explanation and workaround:

Hello from Amazon.com

I'm sorry to hear that you are encountering trouble with your Kindle. If your Kindle has been reset while the wireless option is off, content you read or add afterward will appear the bottom of your content list while your Home screen is set to sort your content by Most Recent First.

When Kindle is reset, the clock reverts to 1979 and then updates wirelessly after restarting. If Kindle hasn't connected to a wireless signal since its been reset, a 1979 time stamp will be applied to items you open or add since the reset, which will then appear at the bottom of your Home screen list.

To help resolve this sorting issue, turn your wireless option on, even if your location is outside of the Whispernet service area. Although a functional data connection to Amazon is not established if you are outside of Sprint's high-speed data network coverage area, the connection with another provider's EVDO signal does impart a clock time as part of the EVDO wireless network synchronization process, and the Kindle uses this information correctly for setting its internal clock.

Strong customer feedback like yours helps us continue to improve the service we provide, and we're glad you took time to write to us. I'll send your comments to the Kindle team.

I hope this helps! Thanks for checking out Kindle!


May 2009

The Amazon page for the Merc says, "The Kindle Edition of San Jose Mercury News contains most articles found in the print edition, but will not include all images and tables." In my three month experience I have NEVER received ANY Merc News images on my Kindle.

I asked Amazon and they tell me they have no control over what the publisher says or does. I think your Amazon web page for the Merc News should be updated to be more accurate.

Update: The Amazon page describing the Merc News is now updated to say, "but will not include images and tables." Thanks!

On another note, I found myself traveling to the UK this month. I loaded up my Kindle with a couple more books before heading off. I read all the way there and back, and some while I was there, all on ONE CHARGE. That's great. On the plane I also saw two other Kindle2 users - I am not alone.

June 2009

I was just looking at the customer comments about the Kindle newspapers on Amazon.com. I see that the one I subscribe to, the San Jose Mercury News, has an average of three stars with many bad reviews. In reading the reviews I found that many of the bad reviews were about poor or missing delivery to the Kindle. And those bad reviews were all more than six months old.

I've had a Kindle for five months and there has only been one missed delivery in that whole time. I suggest that they age off old reviews, both good and bad, for subscription services. For books and other products old reviews remain relevant since the product does not change. For a subscription service, the product changes every month, every week, or every day. In these cases the only relevant reviews are those that are timely.

In the case of the Mercury News, it does not make sense to keep showing one star reviews due to poor delivery that happened a year ago.


Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)