Kindle Dx for the radiologist-is it worth it?

I am the proud owner of  a brand new Kindle Dx. I had a read a lot on Amazon’s website and heard about this on several podcasts including Macbreak Weekly and Windows Weekly.

As in the smaller, earlier versions, the display of text on the Kindle Dx is very good, with clean fonts and several easy-to-change sizes.  This applies to books bought for the Kindle on the Amazon website.

The ability to place digital bookmarks, take notes and highlight  passages may be useful to students and residents, but I do not find myself using these features.  The ability to look up the definition of a word or searching your whole library for a particular word/phrase/quote is quite neat. The other cool thing is the sync capability with the Amazon Kindle app on the iphone. This means you can start reading a book on the Kindle and continue where you stopped on your iphone. Plus, the text to speech feature means you can alternate between reading and listening to a book on the Kindle Dx.

One of the advantages of words displayed in the electronic ink technology on the Kindle  is that you actually read them with the device turned off. When you turn to a new page, the device turns itself on, writes the new page, and then turns itself back off. This change from one page to the next is accompanied by a slightly disconcerting “flash” that takes some time getting used to.  The way the screen works is quite interesting. Basically, there are tiny particles of black and white ink  pigment that are contained in minute capsules within the screen. These particles take up different positions within a capsule when an appropriate electrical charge is applied to them. The pigments rest in their last position without power, and the display only consumes power when it changes.

Images

The electronic ink technology is optimizied for text and the images in radiology books are still not as good as one would like, but it is marginally better than on the Kindle version 1.  Plain radiographs, CT and MRI are reasonably displayed, but ultrasound images are suboptimal.

Screen size

The larger screen size of the Dx is definitely better, but is it worth the extra 200 dollars over the smaller version? Depends. If you use the device to read your own pdfs like journal articles and textbooks, then probably. If you are reading books optimized for the Kindle, then I would say, go for the smaller, less expensive model.

Wireless access

Amazon offers free wireless access on the Kindle Dx that enables easy downloading of books from Amazon’s website. Further, there are several newspapers, magazines and blogs that one can subscribe to. I have subscriptions to the New England Journal of Medicine, Lifehacker and the New York Times set up and I am finding this a useful feature.

Negatives

It is almost too easy to click a button and buy a book! I find myself tempted a lot to buy a book after looking at a sample or if I need a page to refer from a book that I do not readily have at hand.

The other problem I have is that the font size on PDFs that I load on from my collection cannot be zoomed up as is possible with the books bought through Amazon. And as mentioned earlier, images are displayed only in black and white, rendering illustrations in books useless in most cases.

Another feature that needs improvement is that one needs to press the ALT key every time you wanted to type a number. This is a problem when one wants to go a specific page in a book etc.

If you leave the rotation feature on “Auto” when you are not using the device, it drains your battery, so you must remember to turn the feature off when you stop reading.
The inability to store files in folders and the lack of search-ability makes it a nightmare to scroll through the 3500 books that you could store on the device, sortable only by author, title, and “most recent first”.

Overall: Good device, definitely a harbinger of change to the world of book reading. But needs more improvements before it can challenge and change the world of books similar to the change brought about by the ipod to the world of music.

If you haven’t shelled out the cash for this, I would suggest waiting until the end of this year, when a number of companies are expected to release e-book readers for the holiday season. Of these, Apple may be the one to watch out for, as rumors suggest that Steve Jobs will be releasing a tablet in January that will be a e-reader, computer and large ipod all rolled into one cute package. Will Amazon make improvements to the Dx to answer the challenge posed by these new e-readers? I sure hope so!

I would love to hear comments, suggestions and other experiences that you may have had with this device.

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About Sanjay Prabhu

Pediatric radiologist working at one of the world's largest children's hospitals. I love gadgets, technology and anything with a chip in it!

Posted on September 13, 2009, in Gadgets, Product reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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