New computers – Kindle – First Encounters

What I have is a Kindle 4.  I assume the “4″ stands for some level of the software.  Having done my initial exploration, I vaguely remembered having seen that it was a model D01100.  (Eventually I found that reference again: it was buried in the appendix to the “Kindle User’s Guide.”  I assume it’s less important than the Kindle 4 part.)

When you start out, the Kindle wants you to go through a registration process.  Being in a place with a Wi-Fi network, I did.  (This version of Kindle doesn’t have a keyboard.  It does have a virtual keyboard, which is usable, but difficult.  Entering a 26 character hex password was a bit of a pain.)  I have had an account with Amazon, so, when it asked if I wanted to use one or create one, I guessed at my old username and password.  It did seem to work; at least it let me start working on the Kindle, but somehow it didn’t pick up my “Registered User:” name.  At some point something must have figured out who I was, because the “Send-to-Kindle” email address (I’ll get back to that) did have my name in it.

On the first screen you see after the registration process (I later learned it was the “home” screen) there was an entry for a “Kindle User’s Guide,” and I believe it was the entry highlighted.  Being a “read the manual” type person, I read it.  It starts out by saying that it’s short and informative and can be read in 10 minutes.  Hah!

It starts out with charging the battery.  This would seem to make sense, except that a) like most battery-powered devices these days it comes charged, and b) if it wasn’t charged, you couldn’t read the manual, now could you?  It then shows you the physical layout and buttons.  Including the power button.  The power button is not intuitively obvious on first glance: one of the people who gave it to me had to show me where it was.

The Kindle has a “5-way controller.”  This should be familiar to most people who have a cell phone that still has buttons: a centre “select/enter” key, surrounded by left, right, up, and down arrow keys.  The user guide mentions that you can get around menus and text with it.  It doesn’t mention that the left and right keys have context sensitive functions that are not immediately obvious.  The Guide did mention that, when a book is highlighted, using the left key brings up an offer to delete the item.  However, it mentions a lot of other stuff, and I missed that.  (Fortunately, I did not encounter this until I had learned that the “Back” key acts as a combination of “last page visited” and “Esc.”

There is a menu button.  It is context sensitive, and will bring up, or dismiss, menus appropriate to the screen you are in.  There are lots of different menus.  It is not obvious which menu will bring up a function you may want.  This is also a good place to mention that one thing that I believe I can state, without fear of contradiction, is a major error in the design of the Kindle user interface.  There is no rollover.  Menus are limited in length, as are entries in the “home” page or your “collections” of ebooks.  Actual pages in an ebook can be much longer.  Menus tend to have the “active” item fairly near the middle.  (After a while you begin the realize that the most important and useful functions are going to be near the middle, not the top, of a menu.)  Pages always start from top left.  In either case, there is no rollover: no return off the top of a page or menu to the bottom, or off the bottom to the top.  There is no wraparound going off the right side of the page to come back in on the left, or vice versa.  (There is one exception to this” the virtual keyboard.  It doesn’t wrap top to bottom, but it does wrap side to side.)

One other problem related to the menus: the time, battery power, and Wi-Fi indicator only show when you have a menu open.  You can’t even tell the time on the home page unless you bring up a menu.  (Interestingly, when I got mine, the time was set for a time zone either four or sixteen hours later than the one I’m in.)

The User’s Guide takes a lot longer than 10 minutes to read.  It does contain a lot of information, but a great deal of it will not make much sense until you have explored the device a bit.  So you are going to have to read it at least twice.  And probably keep it around for reference.