Future Tense: Life With Kindle



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I'll just throw this out there for free. Anyone who clicks on then proceds to read an article has thereby solicited what the author has written. If the piece is good, credit should be given to the author, if it is bad, well you should have stopped reading when you figured that out.



I would like to see java support and add in memory card support. The screen is a bit too reflective for my tastes as well. Other wise... nice product. Look forward to getting a USB to mini USB adapter and digging into the file system :)



A fitting article, David.


I think you are right to point out the "next" Kindle will harness a lot of the improvements you and others have mentioned. But I have to say, Amazon nailed the market perfectly with the Fire. The people who were really craving those features in a tablet had most likely already bought in, be it with an iPad2 or cutting edge Android tablet. Amazon, on the other hand, managed to convince all the people who were craving a simple device that would let them consume their media content everywhere, without taking out a second loan. 

And the price is a very important factor here. Amazon is tapping into the magic of a sub $200 expenditure. For your everyday folks, this makes it equivalent to a smartphone (on contract) moneywise, and it comes off pretty good in that comparison. I know of at least two couples who were debating on getting either a smartphone for Christmas or a Fire. It really puts Amazon in a great position market-wise.

That said, I can't see the current lineup as sufficiently powerful or flexible enough to meet my needs. My Kindle Touch is great for my light travel distraction piece, while packing an unbeatable battery life; and my laptop covers my mobile gaming habits that don't require a battery life. When (and I really only think it is a "when", not "if") I can get a tablet that will either find a new home between those two, or possibly replace one, I'll jump in with both feet.


Keep up the great writing :)



I'm holding out for that "new and improved" Kindle your talking about minus the "content delivery" device designation.

I have a "high end" gaming computer, a email/torrent/do anything computer, 2 HTPCs, and a laptop (just good enough for gaming on the go). The only thing that I'd use a tablet for other then convenience is for ebooks, but I just can't bring myself to the point of buying a one use computing device. It's the same reason I use HTPCs instead of media streamers. I know I don't really use them for more then streaming content, but I like knowing I could do more if I wanted to. As well I really don't like "walled gardens" much. The major reason I don't own iAnything so the tablet/e-reader would have to be more open then the Kindle Fire/iPad currently are.

The only major tech problem I have with current tablet devices is their readablity in bright light areas like outside, and their weight. Once those 2 things are adressed I'm in. Till then I'm sticking to the old fashioned printed page.

BTW I do have a NAS box instead of a server, which I guess is a one use computing device after all. But I'm fine with that sort, just anything I actually interface with I guess. 



You comment that the Fire is just a 'content-delivery system' - so what do you think the iPad, iPhone and Touch are?

None of these Apple products would have existed if they could not have been exorably linked to iTunes. And arguably, none of these devices would have survived had they been stand-alone devices relying entirely on Apple software. It is, in fact, the 3rd Party software manufacturers that made them relevant, while Jobs ensured that it all came from the content-delivery pipeline known as iTunes, thru to your content delivery receiver.

While its 'nice' that users have found ways to make the devices useful to them, that was / is hardly Apple's raison d'etre for selling them.

Don't sneer at other devices like the Fire for not being real 'tablets' when the retailer simply has a more obvious reason for selling them.



So your buddy is now just like you--one of the millions of consumers who've bought into the idea that you need a tablet-like device just long enough to buy it, use it for a month out of curiousity, and then watch it sit on your desk for the rest of eternity. Well done, Amazon. You've now got your own set of Apple-like groupies. This article is what I've come to despise about the world of online reviews. 

You're language is vague to the point of worthlessness: "I can’t tell you if Amazon’s Silk browser is faster than browsers on other tablets because I don’t have another tablet handy to compare."

--Oh, ok, I'll just take your subjective word on it and hope for the best.

"If I’m too far away from my phone or if I’m logged onto a public source, web pages will slow down a bit. Not enough to be impractical, but enough to be noticeable."

--Great Scot. So, like, how far? 10 feet? 50 feet? 300 yards? And how much slower? 10%? 30%? 

--Also, can we stop pretending there's no difference between reading a book on an e-ink display and on a tablet display--whether it's TN, IPS, AMOLED, or whatever? The one thing amazon has done well with kindles is make them fade into the background, and let you forget you're reading a book on an electronic device. 

These are not unreasonable things to point out, especially if I'm trying to decide whether to plunk down a hundred and ninety nine bucks on what you assert is essentially an incomplete tablet. Most of us don't make your fancy writer money, and you're contention that it's a low-cost content delivery system smacks of elitism. Or at least upper-classism. Content-delivery system? duh. Low-cost? Try again. A low-cost content delivery system would be my computer, since I already have it and it is capable of performing other functions when I don't need to buy a book.

What you are right about is that in a few generations, the kindle fire will be a full-fledged tablet with sd card, cameras, ports galore, etc. Big deal. Any first-year undergraduate could make this prediction. The reason it doesn't come with them right now is that the 199 price point was key for amazon to mass-market the fire. They were going to sell it at a loss, knew it, and decided to call it a new type of "kindle" rather than a tablet in order to a) not get caught in all of the let-down-tablet discourse that's been riding everything not stamped with an apple for the last twelve months, and b) so consumers wouldn't complain about a color e-reader not having extra goodies, and c) minimize the losses they were taking on each device to 5$ rather than 55$. You do not get any points for this "prediction." 

You want to post your thoughts, do it on your blog. Any of us could read about the fire "for a few days" and glean this information. Quit watering down the tech sites with this nonsense. Rant=Done.


David Gerrold

Raswan, Thanks for your passionate response to my column. 

Your points are well-taken, and if my column had been intended as a review, you would be absolutely correct. You would have nailed me to the wall like a frozen Jell-O shot.

But, as others have pointed out, I don't write reviews. I write perspective pieces, observing what's so and making an effort to extrapolate what's next. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don't. This article was about my own experience with the Kindle Fire, what I liked and what I didn't like. It was the print version of a conversation I had with a friend who wanted to know how I felt about the device.

But let's talk about the column in general.  

My role models -- columnists I've admired -- include Jim Murray, one of the best sports-writers the L.A. Times ever had; Isaac Asimov, who wrote great science columns for F&SF; Jerry Pournelle, who wrote for Byte for many years and described his columns as "me and Joe went fishing" but about computers; Edward Tatnall Canby, who wrote extensively about the history of the audio industry for High Fidelity magazine and educated a new generation of audiophiles about how far the industry had come; and Spider Robinson, who wrote reviews of SF books but always shared his love of the genre and his enthusiasm for good writing in every paragraph. 

Writing for MaximumPC is a special challenge because the goal is clearly stated in the word "Maximum."  Your own dissatisfaction here reflects that. You came to the article looking for the maximum, you didn't find it, and you were disappointed. If that is the biggest disappointment you have this year then you're having a great life.

But here's the point I'd like you to consider.  Just as the high fidelity magazines of the 70's (that's where I started my own tech journey) had to include perspective pieces, reviews, recommendations, tech breakdowns, and even articles for beginners, they also had to include personal commentaries about the experience of using the tech.  MaximumPC has that same mission. Remember, not every reader who comes to this site is a bleeding-edge expert. 

My guess is that readers come to this site looking for ways to maximize their own experience of the technology they have. Even if they don't yet have a state-of-the-art machine, they're looking for information about how to build or upgrade, what parts will best serve their needs, what's in the pipeline for tomorrow. Just as the automobile magazines publish articles about Ferarris and Corvettes, and the stereo magazines publish articles about impossibly expensive speakers, MaximumPC also publishes articles about impossibly fast dream machines. And all the magazines also report the experience of the technologies discussed--how it feels to drive the car, listen to the speakers, or in this case, simply use a popular device. It's all part of presenting a balanced menu for all the different kinds of readers who come to the site.

Now, about that Star Trek PC you mentioned...it's very fast. And no, I didn't run any benchmarks on it. But I did write a column about my personal experience bringing it home, setting it up, and going to work with it.  That column will show up in this space soon. And you'll probably dislike it as much as you disliked this one, because it's not tech-heavy, it's another experiential piece, because as much fun as it is to design and build and admire a state-of-the-art machine, the real fun is the experience of actually using it.  

I appreciate that you're demanding the best when you log in here. Like everyone else at MaxPC, I know I'm not going to please everyone all the time, nobody can, but I can say we do share your commitment to excellence and we do strive for it, each in our own way.

Thanks again,

David Gerrold 



Calm down buddy. I think you're a little bit confused. At no point does this article claim to be a product review, and it is never tagged as such. It certainly never says "review" or gives the Kindle Fire a score on a numeric scale. "Future Tense" is an opinion piece, always has been. Opinion pieces are nothing more than a single persons thoughts, always have been. It's written weekly by a well known science fiction author and as many of us in the tech industry are sci-fi nerds, we tend to like this sorta thing.



You're absolutely right it doesn't claim to be a review. I don't think I ever criticized it for not being one though. It's an opinion piece that provides me with no new information, provides unsolicited vague subjective thoughts about how awesome his kindle fire is, and then offers his friend's conversion as justification for clogging up what is otherwise a good site with useless filler. One can write an opinion piece that's also well-informed, or at least has something new to add to the discussion. He's specifically tagged as an author of more than 50 books, a well-known sci-fi writer, yet you or me could've written that "article" using the information from the first teaser of the kindle specs back in February or whatever. The tone of the piece was unmistakeably that his friend, who was ripping on the kindle, was missing some crucial perspective that only his majesty Gerrold could offer. But the fact remains that he's about 8 months late to the party, and he's taking up space that an actual interesting writer could be utilizing.


Edit: I stand corrected. I did imply that it was a review by saying it was like all the other shit reviews out there. I should have been more precise and called it an op-ed (though I think the case can be made that it acted a lot like a review). In either case, my major criticisms still stand.




David doesn't write reviews for maximum pc he writes editorials.  I happen to like his editorials (what you call watered down nonsense) and look forward to seeing them on the site.

Did you google "kindle fire review" and end up here? No. You were surfing maximum pc and saw his post title and thought, hmmm this should be an ideal trolling opportunity!

Maybe you should stop watering down tech site comment sections with this trolling "I'm smarter than you" nonsense.



I will revise my language, since I did imply above that it was a bad review when it doesn't claim to be (even if for 75% of the time it acts like one, perhaps confusing someone who did end up here looking for a kindle fire review, as you put it). So it's not a review, but it has no meat to it, offering up instead nothing worthwhile to probably 90% of the people who frequent this site. Maybe you have a hard-on for Gerrold as an author--fine, whatever. But that doesn't mean he should be entering the conversation in the parlor and offering up some "future tense" vision of the kindle that is laughably obvious. 



I don't understand why so many people who pass by this website immediately tear into anything David Gerrold writes. I agree, his editorial are pretty cool and I'm excited each time a new one is posted.

I hate these flamers and trolls that plague his editorials.



Then you and DJSmoke can go sit in the bushes outside of his house and watch him through the windows. I couldn't care less WHO he is. If he writes pedantic, superficial drivel, he's wasting his time and ours. You blithely toss my comments in with other "flamers" and "trolls" because it hurts your feelings when someone rags on the subject of your bro-mance fixation, but maybe you should take a look again at the content of his piece and ask yourself if it actually says anything. If it does give you new info or a new perspective, then you belong reading the tech section of Yahoo! News, my friend, not at maxpc.


FYI: MAXPC, I realize you guys are big fans of him, you built him that star trek computer, and he's an icon to many. But if the comments section is really meant for comments, then I'll stand by everything I wrote. Apparently it's not possible to critique someone's writing without both sides coming out of the woodwork and attempt to call it personal. Maybe he just needs more current or relevant research to draw upon. If he writes something good next week, I'll be the first to sing its praises. 



Although a strong supporter of David's writing I will say this -

this particular piece does come across a bit as sort of a review (upon a second critical read).  Take that for what it's worth.  I didn't read it initially expecting a review format, I read it because I am eager to delve into what David has to say on any given topic.  That said, David puts a lot of thought into what he writes; if MaximumPC needs to work on anything it's not filtering David but rather reigning in on the onslaught of regurgitated tech-e-news from the side-line contributors.  Techcrunch, Engadget, Fudzilla and many other sites don't need to be replicated with little or no value add by the likes of - ah - hmm - Paul.

Back on topic, I don't believe there is a interweb rule or axiom that states an op-ed or editorial piece can't take on a "review" like tone.

Moral of the story, don't worry be happy

...and have a nice day.

Life is too short to get all twistoflex'd about any of this.





While you have every right to both voice your opinion and stand by it, I not sure you understand Future Tense. It's less a review and even an Op Ed then it is a jumping off point for discussion about current trends in technology, how they currently apply, and might change our lives down the road. At least that's how I see it.

So the idea isn't about the Kindle Fire, tablets, etc. But more about what they are and what they could become. As in my own post about Future Tense's take on the subject, I'm still on the fence for the very reasons the article mentioned. I really don't see them having a use for me in their current form. So far I think the Asus Prime shows some promise, but do I really want a tablet/netbook? I do know I'll know the tablet for me when I see it. Till then I'll just be on the sidelines reading a good old paperback.



I have an eInk Kindle and had problems tethering it to my phone.  The phone set up an ad-hoc connection, to which the Kindle refused to connect.  Is this a problem with the Kindle Fire?


David Gerrold


I recommend getting in touch with either Amazon tech support -- they're very very good -- or your phone provider.

Or you could try googling "[phone company] [phone model] [kindle model] tethering problem" and see if anyone else has had the same difficulty and what they did to solve it. 

Tethering shouldn't be difficult, but every device has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Personally, I always experience a thrill of excitement when something works as promised -- because in the long history of computer tech, a lot of it didn't. 

I wish I could give you a more specific answer than this. I hope my suggestions above help.

David Gerrold



Bought one for my wife for christmas. It's the only electronics devise that she has really loved... which was fortunate since it was a christmas gift... I was going out on a huge limb with the Fire. Turns out she loves it, it fits in her purse so she takes it everywhere. she reads magazines on it or surfs the internet at home... it's pretty much close by at all times. I'd say Amazon did a good job with this, and with a few small improvements it'll be near perfect. Anyway we are very happy with it.



Currently an owner of a Toshiba Thrive, I have to say I feel spoiled with the flexibility and the build quality.  I jumped onboard the tablet train before Toshiba released it's newest 7 inch but in retrospect, bigger is better all the way around and you have to love the full sized SD slot and the full sized connectivity ports.  Magazines just play better on a 10 inch.  Reading standard books seems easier on the eyes when using a non-color Kindle IMHO so any color tablet is a secondary device in terms of the raw consumption of books.  There are too many benefits to be found on the Thrive so I will leave those details to anyone looking to do their own research and a bit of googling.

My ideal 7 inch would be based upon the Blackberry Playbook (build quality, screen quality, smooth operation...) but ports and memory expansion are KEY - which the Playbook lacks.  HTC Flyers are cool too but need more horsepower and ICS.

I'd say it will take another year or so for the 7 inch playing field to come to full fruitition.  Til then, it would seem there isn't an "all for one, one for all" solution yet to be had.  That should change.


Always love your articles David!

A happy and properous 2012 to you and yours...


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