Kindle Fire: The Curated Content Device

I had one primary goal when I ordered a Kindle Fire: it would free up the iPad to leave home during the day for my wife and kids to use. (Okay, okay, stop looking at me like that. I also love shiny new things. Like you don’t?)

While the iPad has held a steady place in my workflow, my primary use for it during the day was reading. Of course, I love managing projects with OmniFocus for iPad, or browsing feeds, or taking a quick look at email between meetings, but most of my other daytime tasks could be handled just as well on my laptop. So, with the arrival of the Fire, the iPad spends a lot of time in the family room for use by my kids during the day, and for checking stuff in the evening. Or decimating malicious pigs with catapulted birds.

Based on the amount of reading I’ve done in the last few weeks, the Fire has become a welcome addition to my life arsenal. Negative and positive reviews aside, it has turned out to be a perfect device for one purpose: a hub of curated content. I’ve been protective of what makes it on to the Fire, and some of the limitations of the fire are helpful for this. When there are words that I want to give extended attention to, they make it to the Fire. Stuff like:

  • Books — The books app on the Kindle is basic, but it does one thing better than any other Kindle or Kindle app I’ve used – it’s the most responsive and streamlined when it comes to highlighting text. (I also installed Mantano Reader for epubs, though Amazon has since decided it isn’t compatible with the Fire. Hmm.)
  • Instapaper queue — InstaFetch worked well enough that I invested in the Pro version. It’s not as great an experience as Instapaper, but it’s convenient. (It seems a little dirty to use a third-party client to access InstaPaper, but I feel a little better about it having paid for the monthly $1 subscription via the iOSapp.)
  • Music — It took a few days to upload my music library to Amazon’s cloud player, but it was worth the little bit of setup.
  • Dropbox Notes — Syncing with NVAlt via Epistle.
  • Bible Software — I’m still awed by how large of a reference library I can carry with me via Logos.
  • The New Yorker — With it’s emphasis on words, the New Yorker is the only magazine I’ve enjoyed reading on any digital device.

What’s more valuable about the Fire is what I haven’t allowed on it. I don’t have a twitter app installed. I haven’t added an RSS reader. (I did browse briefly, but I wasn’t impressed with what I saw anyway.) I’ve never signed in to Facebook. I haven’t set it up for email, other than a private address used only for sending things to and from the Fire.

As an added [airquote]bonus[/airquote], web browsing on the Fire is nothing like web browsing on the iPad. It’s available, but it’s not a smooth experience, so it’s not pulling me into long sessions of aimless digital wandering. It’s useful enough for short term access when necessary, and in that case, it’s quite useful for things like Lendle or checking out ebooks through our local library. (Or reading about Tebowmania.) But it’s unusable enough to not be very distracting. (Except when it comes to reading about Tebowmania.) My experience isn’t matching up to the sales pitch they put on the great browsing experience of the Fire, and in my case, that’s a plus.

What comes down to is this: I’m spending more time with the content that I have decided is worth more time.

2 comments
Mike Perry
Mike Perry

Thanks for the review. You've confirmed my hunch that the Fire is primarily for consumption, meaning that it doesn't have enough muscle or sufficient apps for serious creation. I was disappointed, however, to find out that the browsing experience is a drag. I'd hoped for better. You've confirmed my feeling that my Kindle 3 is all the Kindle I need and that, if I find myself needing a tablet, a used iPad 1 after the iPad 3 comes out probably fits my frugal lifestyle better.

John Chandler
John Chandler

Mike, I can't say I've dug deep into the available apps, because that's not how I intend to use the Fire. But from the few that I've dabbled with (that seem to be the popular ones), I'm not very impressed. The bottom line is that the browser experience doesn't compare to an iPad, which I can't get past. If you aren't coming from regular iPad usage, you might not find it as disruptive as I do.