Kindle DX Update Improves PDF Experience

A recent update to the Kindle DX answers my #1 complaint about PDF reading on the “big screen” Kindle. Now, the Kindle DX automatically crops the whitespace margins of a PDF file. By removing these “gutters,” the reading experience of a portrait-formatted magazine or journal article has been significantly improved.

However, I have to share an unexpected development: for some reason, I find myself preferring the long-duration reading experience on my first-generation Kindle to the reading experience on the DX. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but it seems to be the subtle influence of three things:

  • The paperback-size of the 1st-gen Kindle is just enough smaller to be unobtrusive on the coffee table
  • The page-turn button of the 1st-gen Kindle is right under my thumb, so page turns are totally unobtrusive (people complained about the look of the 1st gen Kindle — I think it’s wonderfully ergonomic)
  • The amount of text on the smaller screen is enough to be read at regular reading speed (say, 300-400 WPM) but with less actual eye movement. While it’s not quite Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, it’s very pleasant.

Of course, the DX is much better for technical documents, source code, and magazines, but I’ve found myself moving novels onto my first-gen and keeping my DX by my desk.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-14

  • Signing off so that I can watch the Oscars spoiler-free. Up “Hurt Locker”! Down “Avatar”! #
  • Edward Tufte takes Gov’t app’t to chair production of reports on recovery spending. #
  • First good rain in Kona in months yesterday afternoon. Cleaned out sky for gorgeous stars and blazing mars. #
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  • I may have to move back to the mainland just so I can see Tron in 3D. #
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  • Writing Ruby program that solves problem: 1 hr. Getting ActiveRecord to work with ODBC on client’s XP machine: 2 hrs and counting. #
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  • Nanoconchord: The time between discovering Jemaine Clement is in “Gentlemen Broncos” and moving it to the top of your Netflix queue. #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-07

  • Applying for data-centric jobs. I think of myself as an algorithm / performance guy, so it’s weird to write cover letters with DBA stuff… #
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  • “CoverScout” from the MacHeist bundle fills in your missing album art. Didn’t think it would be that big a deal, but it’s a blast to use. #

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Misleading Photo For New Microsoft Tablet Formfactor

Twitter’s buzzing with technolust based on an Engadget article picturing a Microsoft concept-computer.


Looks lovely, but the photo is misleading. It shows lines of cursive writing that are fraction of a size of the reader’s fingernail. Take a look at this blowup:


Based on my fingernail, that cursive writing is about 3mm tall. You might be able to read 8 point cursive handwriting on a high-resolution dispay, but there’s no way under Heaven that you can write anywhere near that size, especially not using a stylus on a glass screen.

In fact, using a stylus on a Tablet PC, you write about 33-50% larger than you do on a piece of paper because your cursive writing is based on the muscle memory of pushing a pen or pencil over paper, which is more resistant. Personally, my experience is that on the 12″ diagonal screen of my Tablet PC, it “feels” like a writing area close to a 4″ x 6″ index card.

Don’t get me wrong — the Microsoft Courier looks like a great form-factor. But the user experience implied by that photo is not realistic. It’s perfectly possible to imagine that what’s shown is a zoomed-out page and that when you’re writing and sketching you’re zoomed in to a much smaller viewport. But the user experience that everyone dreams of — the user experience of a digital Moleskine notebook — requires innovation in either the screen surface or the stylus tip. As far as the iPad and the idea that dragging your great big finger across a piece of glass is going to be an acceptable way to write or draw, the sooner you give up on that hope, the better.