Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? - First Look

If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging for a few days, it's because there's a new love in my life - the Kindle Fire.Having been the owner and fan of the Kindle 3since it was introduced last year, it was with great anticipation that I counted down the days to the arrival of the new, much-hyped version of's tech baby.

My Kindle Fire arrived on Wednesday and I have experienced loss of sleep for several nights, information overload, the giddiness of a schoolgirl crush and absolutely no regrets about kicking it up a notch with my new eReader. Or is it a tablet? Or maybe an oversized smart phone without the phone?

Actually, it's all of the above. And more. Over the next few days, I will be blogging about my experiences with the Kindle Fire, making a side-by-side comparison to the Kindle 3 (now being called the Kindle Keyboard), sharing some of my favorite apps, and last, and by no means least, using the Kindle Fire for genealogy.

Out of the box, it's pretty simple. Just the device and the AC adapter. And a small piece of cardboard with an instruction on where to locate the power on button and to glide your finger across the screen to activate the device.

Tapping as fast as I can

Okay, confession time. I don't have a smart phone, don't have an iPad or iPod touch, so this touch-screen technology is all new to me. When I first had to use a mouse with a computer, I resisted, "I'm a keyboard person!" I insisted. The first days of using the Kindle Fire was adjusting to "tapping" instead of clicking. I'm still perfecting my tapping skills.

My first obstacle was to log-in to my wireless router. How DO I enter my password?? I struggled with this for at least 45 minutes until, entirely by mistake, the touch keyboard appeared at the bottom of the screen. It would have saved me a lot of time had that little cardboard instruction sheet said to tap the bottom of the screen to activate the navigation menu and keyboard. Please do not assume I know these things! And I even consider myself a gadget geek.

I had to make some password changes on my wireless router, restarted the Kindle Fire, and finally had access to my WiFi network. Here's where I should mention that the Kindle Fire accesses the internet only by WiFi, unlike a smartphone and some iPads which require a paid plan (or so I'm told). This is no different from my Kindle 3.

Books, books and more books

A few apps were preloaded on the device, so I logged in to my Facebook account. I test drove a few familiar web sites, then began downloading my Kindle books from my Amazon library (Cloud) to my Kindle Fire (Device). Over the past year I've accumulated close to 400 books for my Kindle. No, that didn't cost me a small fortune. I'm a big fan of FREE. If you like free ebooks for your Kindle or Nook, I recommend subscribing to the Free eBook Deal blog - they provide daily links to free books to feed your hunger for reading. You can also follow them on Facebook.

So, with a few taps, I began the process of downloading my existing ebook collection from my Amazon library to my device. All of my online cloud content from Amazon is at my fingertips as long as I have WiFi access, but I can download my books and music at will. I can remove my content from my device and it's still stored in the cloud on Amazon.

This morning I used an app for (now an Amazon company) to access my library of audio books. I've started downloading several of my audio books to my Kindle Fire. The app is extremely easy to use, although it took me a while to get account and password recognition - that may have just been due to my less than perfect skills on the tap-keyboard.

Social networking and blog reading

Facebook. Twitter. GooglePlus. Google Reader. All of these are part of my daily routine. And I get behind. Outrageously behind. Two days without checking the blogs I follow in Google Reader and I have 700-800 posts that have accumulated.

This is where the Kindle Fire is going to make my blog reading time much more efficient.

I maintain folders for different types of blogs that I read. My favorite "must read" bloggers are in my "A-MR Blogs" folder. When I have no time to read everything, this is the folder of blog posts that I always read.

In the mobile version of Google Reader, only 15 blog posts are displayed at a time. I can read the ones I select (I'm a headline/title reader, so if you don't grab my attention there, I move on). After perusing the 15 posts on my screen, I can mark them all as read and move on to the next 15. This has made my blog reading so much more efficient than on my PC. So, from now on, ALL of my blog reading in Google Reader will definitely be done on the Kindle Fire.

Facebook is pretty much the same as on my computer, except that I just get the news feeds and not the extraneous ads that appear on the right hand side of the screen. Nice! The icons to "tap" for notifications and messages are very small and difficult for me to "tap". This needs some refinement or perhaps the purchase of a stylus for me.

But when it comes to Twitter, this is where I see the real difference between the web and mobile. Those of you with smartphones are probably already aware of this. Using an app called TweetCaster, I now "get" why people like Twitter. Twitter is clearly intended for the mobile user and it's quick and easy to browse through tweets on the Kindle Fire. Tapping on the Kindle keyboard is still much too frustrating for me to do much tweeting from the device, but I'll certainly use it for reading tweets.

This is just a quick look at the new Kindle Fire. I'll be back with more about my experiences in the coming days.

Related posts from

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux


  1. Thanks for sharing Susan.. I've been betwixt and between the Kindle Fire versus the iPad. Everything you have shared sounds really great.

    I look forward to more information as you continue to experience this new tech Kindle.


  2. Looking forward to hearing more, sounds pretty cool so far. I'm the same on my iPad, I read things but typing is just too much of a pain.

  3. I was contemplating a Kindle Fire but then my awesome b-i-l got me an iPad for Christmas!! (Christmas came in Oct this year) I finally got myself a keyboard but only use it for heavy duty note taking. I'm fine with the virtual keyboard for things like passwords/logging on to stuff etc.

    So my question - since the Kindle Fire is like a tablet I am assuming it's backlit? How do you find it for reading??

  4. Thanks for the review. I, too, have a Kindle e-reader and have been thinking about getting a Kindle Fire so that I could access the internet without dragging out my laptop, but I wasn't sure how well it worked for the internet. Glad to know you like it.

  5. I received my Kindle arrived with the first shipment on Wednesday. I also own a Kindle DX, which is about the same size as an iPad. And I have an iPhone and and an iPhone Video. This is what I like about the Fire and how I've used it so far:

    1. The color screen makes viewing subscription magazines and the web quite nice.
    2. It's smaller than the iPad and easier to slip into a medium sized purse.
    3. It was $200 as oppose to $500 to $700 that the iPad. As one reviewer said, it's almost an impulse buy.
    4. There are not many apps and especially not ones that are genealogy specific, BUT, when mobile device programmers were polled the platform they were the most interested in programming for was the Kindle. FIre, so I'm expecting many nor apps soon.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I should have also said I have watched Netflix movie on it, as well as a Rootsmagic teaching videos and it worked quite well. Peggy Baldwin

  8. Thanks, everyone, for reading and posting your comments. Your comments address some of the topics that will be in my next couple posts/reviews of the Kindle Fire.

    It only took me 3 days to use up the entire capacity on the device. That occurred this morning when I began downloading the majority of my audible book content (around 250 audio books). That was more than the Fire wanted to have, so I scaled it back to four or five audio books. It's not like I'm going to be stranded on a desert island for the next five years and need all of my content available RIGHT NOW.

    I'm also testing the battery life with constant on and constant WiFi connection. At the moment, it's been on about 7 hours and has 17% battery life left.

    I am probably pushing the device more here at the beginning just to see what it will do.

    Stay tuned for more of my impressions on my new KF!

  9. Peggy - thanks for posting your 2nd comment. I deleted the incomplete one!

    My future posts will also include my Netflix experience, Legacy webinars, and Amazon instant videos. Tonight's agenda is to watch Larry Crowne on Amazon.

  10. If anything you need to click on is too small, placing your index finger and together on the screen and then spreading them apart while still touching the screen will enlarge what you see on most screens. There is luser guide in the documents section of the Fire.

  11. Peggy - I've done that with standard web pages, but I've found I haven't been able to enlarge pages that are set up for mobile.

  12. I totally get it, Susan. I've been in love with my NookColor since I got it for Christmas last year. Seems like I discover more I can do with it each day. :-)

  13. Good points. I received my kindle fire yesterday and had similar experiences. I don't have a smart phone so there has been a bit of a learning curve to it. Reading and replying on your blog while listening to iheartradio app, I could get used to this! Good luck. Looking forward to figuring out what can be done on it for genealogy.

  14. Such perfect timing, Susn. For 2 days we've been researching the Kindle Fire extensively. I'm so grateful for all your comments. I think you've convinced us that we'll be happy with our purchase. We may even be in a Best Buy next Monday and are thinking about looking at it "in person". Maybe our Christmas will come early. We're eagerly waiting for your next posts that explore it more in depth. Keep in mind, I've heard it reads pdf files too--so lessons, group sheets, etc could all be accessed on the Fire while doing field research! I think Debra Osborne Spindle has written quite a lot about that.

  15. I have been considering buying one and can't wait to read more of your posts! Maybe that will help me make up my mind. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Thanks Susan, I think this finalizes my decision to buy the Fire. Your reviews are always great to see and appreciated!

  17. Sounds great - Can't wait for the Kindle Fire to be available in the UK.

  18. Enjoying all your comments on the Kindle Fire, Susan. It's high on my Christmas list. Am looking forward to hearing more ...

  19. Like Tony looking forward to it being released here in the UK. I do have an iPad & will soon have a Kindle so can I justify a Kindle Fire? (typed on my iPad!)

  20. Forgot to ask, can you import books from Google books?