Reading Crikey on the Kindle @hmoffatt

A commenter, Hamish Moffatt, on my post about my first impressions with the Kindle has asked if I've solved the reading Crikey problem. The problem is how to read the daily Crikey newsletter on the Kindle. It's a long block of text so it's convenient to be able to read it on the bus, in bed, on the couch at home.

The solution I'm using now isn't perfect, but it's not bad and saves a lot of trees.

Set up an Instapaper account. Instapaper is designed to allow you to read long web pages offline, and I use it all the time. It's mostly used by iPhone and iPad people, but there's some (rather hidden) Kindle features. You'll want to set up the "Read Later" bookmarklet anyway. This gives you a button you press on a long pieces you want to read later, and they'll get pushed to your Kindle the next time you send out a bundle.

Now go to the "Manage your Kindle" page in the settings section of Instapaper's site and enter your Kindle's email address. You'll then need to login to your Amazon account and set up your Kindle to accept emails from the special address shown on the Instapaper Kindle page. Note that the Instapaper Kindle page gives the impression it'll automatically send you a new bundle of articles whenever there's new stuff.  It doesn't, so bookmark the page so you can send it through on demand.

Finally, on the Instapaper Extras page, "Email in links and long messages". Copy that out, then go into your email account and set up a rule that will forward your crikey emails, identified as coming from "", to this unique address.

Now each afternoon, after the Crikey email arrives, go to the "Manage your Kindle" page and send yourself the latest bundle. You'll want to go into Instapaper and archive stuff from time to time, but otherwise it's pretty painless. The first page with links to the articles will look really messed up, but after that the formatting is mostly okay.

Now if Crikey really wanted to help us out, they'd create a Kindle-specific version of Crikey, with images automatically resized and the formatting less broken, I'd be thrilled. It wouldn't be that hard for them and I'd be happy to help out!

Kindle: first impressions

My Kindle arrived on Monday and I've been using it to read stuff ever since so I thought I'd record my first impressions of the device.

Hardware design
The industrial design is incredibly slick. This piece of kit looks and feels like the future was always supposed to turn out. It's no bigger than it needs to be to accommodate the screen and buttons, so incredibly thin and light. One downside of this form factor is that I've found holding the device slightly tricky. With a paperback novel, you'd tend to hold it by the page you're not reading. With this screen, I worry about getting smudges across it (though it's less of a problem than, say, a mobile phone screen). The left and right sides have the page turn buttons, the bottom the keyboard, so they're not available for holding it. It's funny but it almost feels like it'd be better if there were more unused space around the screen area.

The screen, as I'm sure you've read, is divine. Just as readable as paper, in any light, with crisp edges to text. Out-of-the-box the device has instructions for your initial charge. The instructions look like one of those plastic notes stuck on modern equipments' screens when you buy them, but actually they're rendered on the ePaper screen. When you plug it in, it changes to etchings that show off the screen.  Slick.

Reading books
Reading books formatted for the Kindle is a dream. I bought William Gibson's new novel and have been reading it. Very quickly the device disappears and you find yourself immersed in the book. The technology just goes away, and impressive achievement.

Reading PDFs is less successful. The only available view modes are to fit the entire page to the screen, which means unacceptably-small text and images, or to have a movable viewport at a fixed zoom level. Any document with text running all the way across and A4 is a major pain to read this way. Switching to landscape view, which is a few clicks to hard if you ask me, solves this for some documents. I can think of a couple of usability improvements here:
  • Allow you to adjust zoom for the full-screen mode so that you clip the margins out and get more useful screen space.
  • In viewport mode, have shift-Page-turn-button zoom in and out, shift-arrow move the viewport.
  • A one-click way of rotating would be nice.
Getting documents
Getting documents onto the device is trivial. You just email them to <address> and it'll be delivered next time you're on a wireless network. Drop the "free" part and it'll be delivered over 3G (if you bought that model) for a cost of US$0.15/megabyte which isn't actually that bad given ebooks are generally quite small.

I've been playing with Calibre, which can download newspaper content from web sites and turn it into an eBook, then email it to your Kindle. The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald turned up on my Kindle this morning from this approach.  It's nice, but I think I'll toy with the recipes they're using for the Guardian to give better navigation of sections and highlight the bits I'm really interested in there, similar to the awesome how Guardian Anywhere for Android works.

ReKindleIT is a bookmarklet that converts the web page you're viewing into an eBook and emails it to your Kindle. It works well for longer text you see online that you want to read at leisure, or need for offline reference like recipes.

Quite nice, but I haven't had much luck with Crikey's daily emails. Crikey is my number one target for reading on the device, but most of the conversion tools rely on RSS feeds and Crikey's paid newsletter doesn't show up anywhere as RSS. For yesterday's edition I converted to PDF and emailed, but as noted above PDFs aren't great.  I'll continue to work on this one, trying to find a better way to handle it.  ReKindleIT doesn't work, and I'd prefer something that was completely automatic as well.  Anyone got a better approach?  The perfect solution would take the daily email and have it just pop up as an eBook on the Kindle. Getting the HTML email, plus images, converted is the trouble.