a developer's notes – a semi-technical web development BLOG

February 15, 2012

Is the 4th Gen Kindle Reader ready for programmers and reading PDF programming books?

Filed under: Reviews — Duy Nguyen @ 11:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sure I have eBooks on my computer but navigating, editing, and writing notes is very easy with a mouse and keyboard! But sometimes using a laptop to read your ebooks isn’t practical. Imagine going on vacation and taking a LONG 5+ hour plane ride. (In my case, 13 hours.) Not many airlines let coach riding passengers use a power outlet so your laptop will probably die out before you want it to.

I’ve been holding out on the eReader and tablet world for quite some time now but with the recent price drops, it is hard to resist. Or is it? Right now, Februrary 15th 2012, The iPad 2 starts at $499 and the DX is $379. Pretty expensive if you’re just looking for an eReader. Unless you have the cash to buy an iPad or Kindle DX, who’s screen is 9 x 7 inches, smaller screens will be a little challenge to read on. There is also the Kindle Fire for $199, which is in the middle of the prince ranges. And of course there other brands which I have not researched. I’d love to hear if anybody has a good recommendation. But for now, here is my review of the 4th generation Kindle Reader. I will be reviewing the Kindle Fire next.

Of course, reading a traditional story book with a small Kindle is easy. You don’t have to navigate around as much, the font size is readable, you have a table of contents to navigate with, etc. So….is the Kindle Reader at $79 dollars a good investment to buy for reading technical books as many of us programmers do? Let’s take a look.

I have many ebooks in PDF format that I have on my computer. So let’s import a programming book into the new Kindle Reader.

Here is the Kindle with the full portrait view

Looks good right? Let’s check out the TOC now.

As you can see, the page links are pretty small to read.

Here is an image of a more complex picture with images and source code.

This is what source code looks like in a full portrait view. The formatting looks great because it is exactly like the original eBook. Except very VERY small. (Don’t let the zoomed image fool you.)

Now how about we put it in landscape view? This is good as it make the font a little bigger. But now you will have to page down twice to go through 1 page.

How does this compare to a real magazine? Here is a full portrait view. The font appears to be half the size of magazine print. This makes it very hard to read without having the Kindle practically on your face. This is a side by side comparison with an article in Rolling Stone magazine.

What about the landscape view? Not bad but it is still a little smaller than regular magazine print.

How would it look like if you zoom? The kindle Reader has the following options:

150% is the smallest? I wish you can customize it a little better. But if you choose 150%, this is the zoom box that you get.

So the problem is that now you have to navigate from the left to right side of the page AND (two scrolls) from top to bottom of one full page.

Left side of the page:

Right side of the page:

But the text DOES look comparable to magazines. This makes it very readable.


Is the Kindle Reader ready for technical reading such as programming books? Not quite. Here are the reasons why you should still stick to paperbacks.

1. Ease of Readability: You can’t read the font for a long period of time because of its size. Even if you set it on landscape view, it is still smaller than a regular magazine. Yea you can send the PDF to Amazon and have them convert the text to be more Kindle friendly, but it will mess up all the formatting that source code needs to have. Unless you’re good at reading spaghetti code, this is not a suitable solution.

2. Navigation: If you are importing ebooks in PDFs format, you won’t have the table of content for navigation. The TOC is only for native Kindle ebooks. So you will have to create your own bookmarks to navigate with. 1, for the TOC, 2 for your last read place, etc. Also, to go from page to page, you will have to use the dedicated buttons on the Kindle. If you want to go to the next chapter, it won’t be that easy. I find it easiest to read technical books by chapters or subjects. Unlike reading a traditional book where you can read from front to back, you jump all over the place with technical books.

3. Highlighting and Notes: Yea you can add notes on the Kindle Reader, but typing is a pain and the visibility of the note is NOT easy. You will see a small point marker that indicates there is a note present. If you had a real book (or on a computer), you can pencil in notes and use a highlighter with ease. I’m sure a Kindle with a keyboard will work better but it would still seem to be a pain. Also, if you had highlights already in your PDFs, on the Kindle reader, it will be gray, making it even harder to read.

With that said…this is why you might get one. Portability! Though, there ARE better options out there. But if you’re on a tight budget you might be able to live with just the Kindle Reader.

Who wants to carry big heavy programming books all over the place? Sure I would rather read from a paperback but you can only fit so many in a book bag. And if you are traveling, you need something portable. The Kindle Reader also has an extremely long lasting battery life, making it great on a plane. But I wish the readability was a little better.

So unless you are tied down with the Kindle Reader, there are better options. Either more expensive tablets / eReaders, or stick with the classic paperback. If you plan to just read one book, a paperback is an easy solution. But for multiple books? You might have to pony up the cash.

I will be reviewing the Kindle Fire next. Being priced at $199, the Kindle Fire is more than double the price of the Kindle Reader but gives you an extra inch of screen real estate. It is also touch screen so navigation might be a little easier.

So unless you are going to use the Kindle Reader for traditional reading books, be prepared for this! 0_o

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