My beach experiment with the Kindle Paperwhite

I’m connected, lead a connected life, and I can’t live without being connected. So, every year when traveling to the beach I am faced with the challenge of trying to read my iPhone’s display in the stark sunlight. This year I decided to try a little experiment: “Could I be with an e-reader with an e-ink display?”

First, I needed to find a device with a usable browser, understanding that it would not be a first-class experience and that I would depend on tethering to my iPhone and that the refresh rate of an e-ink display might limit what I could do.

Choosing – Winner: Kindle Paperwhite

The day before we left for the beach (I only buy electronics on impulse), I headed over to the local electronics retailer to compare the Nook to the Kindle.  The Nook was what I assumed I was going to pick up: allegedly faster refresh, micro SD slot, more format support and so on.  However, it is difficult not to admire the tech behind the Paperwhite’s screen and, in my opinion, I found the it a little nicer in the Kindle.  The second factor was that most of the Nooks I see on display are busted.  Either they are so popular that they get handled a lot or they are fragile.  I went with the Kindle.  While I would miss the micro SD slot I have come to like just emailing my Kindle anything I want to sync to it.  I could just use the USB cable but I hate tethering.

Getting Content – Feedly+Instapaper = WIN!!

My primary beach activities (other than burying my daughter in sand) include reading my way-old stack of magazines and reading my (RSS) news feeds.  Funny enough, many of my magazines have gone totally digital or I canceled as I just never have time to read them.  What was left was a “stack” of MSDN PDFs and a new subscription to MIT Technology Review (Kindle edition).  Long story short: PDFs stink on the Kindle (you can zoom in/out but turning the page os just too slow) but the Kindle edition of the magazines are really nice.  As a note, I can convert the PDFs into .mobi by emailing them to Amazon and they’ll just appear on my device.  MSDN mag did not survive the conversion process 😦

Since the demise of Google Reader, I moved on to Feedly for my RSS feed madness.  Generally, I scan through headlines on my iPhone or laptop and read just a few articles but Feedly would simply not work in the Kindle’s browser. Then I re-discovered Instapaper. Feedly integrates with Instapaper where, when not on the Kindle, I can simply flag articles I want to read later.  Then, with a single push of a button, I can have those web articles delivered to my Kindle in e-reader (.MOBI) format.  Now they are super easy to read and waiting for me.  Brilliant!

Staying Connected – Kindle’s Experimental Browser + Gmail + Twitter

Once I inevitably get bored of reading, I move on to checking email and tweets.  The good news is that Gmail and Twitter are perfectly usable in the Kindle’s browser.  That’s not to say the experience is awesome … but it easily gets the job done and I don’t have to struggle to see what I am reading in the bright sunlight.  My corporate webmail client, however, is totally unusable … what a shame 😀

Most other web sites work to some degree in the browser as long as they aren’t getting crazy with the rich media.

Conclusion – Success!

After using the Kindle this way for a few days, I am very pleased with the experience. In fact, I wrote the intro to this post with the Kindle itself.  The spelling mistakes (from the slow refresh and my fat thumbs) were a little comical and required some post edits but it was fun anyway.


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