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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Fair Weather Friend

Rather to my dismay, I have discovered that my Amazon Kindle is a bit of a fair weather friend, not as up to the rigors of wintertime as I might wish.  I first noticed several weeks ago while Kindling on a walk to Costco that the refreshing of the pages got a little bit sluggish.  Instead of a kind of "flash" from one page to the next, you had the image of both the old and new pages overlapping.  That also means you can't time as well for hitting the next page button a line or two from the bottom because you can't read either page when they're superimposed.  I came to realize that this was because the Kindle did not like even a moderately chilly 40 degree temperature.  The offical specs in the fine print of the manual say it works from 32 degrees, but it's safe to say there's need of an asterisk.  It might work, but start to get below 45, and it's going to show some degradation in its performance.  Seattle doesn't have some of the temperature extremes we have in New York, so maybe the people at Amazon don't need to worry about using at the Bellevue Transit Center while waiting for Sound Transit to wisk them to their office downtown, but anyone wanting to Kindle on the LIRR platform at Woodside in mid-January may want to do a rethink.

Beyond that, the specs say that the device can be stored at temperatures upward of 14 degrees.  That might be as generous as saying it works above freezing.  We had a couple of cold days in NYC a week ago, one with temperatures in the 20-30 degree range.  I knew better at this point than to try reading on my Kindle, but I did have it in the back pocket of my backpack while I was walking around.  Come Tuesday, I couldn't get the battery to fully recharge.  The charging light would stay on and on and on, and within five minutes of starting to read the device went from having four battery charge lights (of 4) to being down to 3.  After a couple of days the battery unfroze and has been charging and drawing down as it's supposed to.

I've already gotten used to the fact that I have to adjust my reading for the possibility of rainy weather, but for the next two months it looks like I'm going to have to spend a lot of time planning around having a useless piece of plastic in just about any outdoor waiting situation.  I'm not happy about this, and I think it's a significant enough issue that Amazon may want to reconsider its official specs for the device and maybe be a little more forthright about discussing weather issues in its marketing.  This would not be a good holiday gift for your friends in Wasilla.


Anonymous said...

I had the Kindle on my Amazon Wishlist, but I yanked it off before anyone could buy it because I decided to wait for the Kindle 2 next year. Now I'm glad I did. Maybe they will fix that issue in the next version. I certainly don't have problems like that with my phone or iPod. I wonder if it has to do with how the page renders.

I'd be interested to know how the Sony reader compares. In the meantime, maybe you should hit a ski shop and get one of those little chemical heat pads they sell as mitten warmers and slip it into the back of your Kindle case by the battery when you're out and about in the cold.

Kevin Riggle said...

Peat: It's more the way the display works than how the software renders the page. Your cell phone and iPod likely use LCD display technology (the same as is in your laptop's display), whereas the Kindle uses eInk technology. I'm pretty sure LCDs don't like cold, either, but they can tolerate a lot more of it before they die.

Even the numbers Amazon quotes for the Kindle's operating range seem pretty warm to me -- the electronics can certainly operate much lower, so it's likely the display technology is limiting it. eInk has only been widely-available commercially for a few years, so it's not surprising the kinks haven't been worked out. I'd expect the Sony Reader to have the same problem, unfortunately, because it uses eInk as well.

I don't think it would impact my use of an ebook reader much, because, despite living in New England, I don't tend to read outside in the cold much, but it's good to know this problem exists.

Anonymous said...

Just found your very learned blog. What a treat. Thank you for taking the time to post, it does help strangers miles away, who are gimbling in the wabe wondering about Kindles and such.

(a baker who gimbles)

Tim Akers said...

That's frustrating. Maybe as part of its marketing strategy, Amazon could pay to move us all to Florida. And then have the hurricanes surgically removed from the atmosphere.