Nielsen on the Kindle 2 (and Kindle Reader for iPhone)

March 11th, 2009  |  Published in etc

Jakob Nielsen posted a preliminary usability review of the Kindle 2 and Kindle for iPhone a few days ago. He says it “provides good usability for reading linear fiction (mainly novels), though it’s less usable for other reading tasks.”

He’s a lot less friendly with the iPhone app, saying it’s “clearly a rush job that violates many application usability guidelines.” I can see the points he makes, though he got at least one thing wrong. His issues aside, I’ve developed a new complaint of my own over the past two days:

For some reason I completely don’t get, you cannot only not purchase new books from within the iPhone app, Amazon’s mobile site seems to actively thwart buying books from Safari on the iPhone. You can go in through the “PC version” of the site and buy whatever on the spot. If you go to a Kindle title via the mobile page or Amazon app, though, you get a message that the title’s not available. Irritating. Especially since following a link to a Kindle book from a blog or wherever usually results in your browser being sniffed and you being dumped into the mobile Amazon site whether you wanted to go there or not.

On the other hand, I downloaded and gave the eReader.com app for iPhone a try (Greg Bear’s Blood Music), and found it was a mixed bag.

I like being able to buy books from within the app. People who claim Kindle for iPhone can’t allow that because of an Apple policy against expanding an app’s functionality from within itself haven’t addressed why eReader is getting away with it. I like that it tells me actual page numbers rather than Kindle’s odd index values.

What I couldn’t believe was how poor the text was. I’m guessing they used OCR to digitize the novel and didn’t bother with much proofreading. I’m guessing what I saw was machine error, because there were a lot of issues like “cl” becoming “d” in the text, not things that are more obviously typos (if/of, adn/and, etc.)

A few times the errors actually impaired my ability to figure out a sentence without stopping to think about it a moment. I doubt I ever went more than 10 or 15 pages between errors, too, in a 600 page book. (600 eReader pages, that is.)

eReader stuff seems to also run a little more expensive. New releases seemed to match or exceed about what you’d pay for a hardcover version right off the shelf, especially if you factor in Amazon discounts or a loyalty card with a brick-and-mortar chain.

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