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Thread: The Amazon Kindle : As a RPG Resource

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    The Amazon Kindle : As a RPG Resource

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    I promised some time ago to write up a review on the Amazon Kindle after I got it in my eager little hands. After waiting almost three months from the time I ordered it, at last it arrived. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Kindle - that it takes so damned long to get one. Luckily, the wait time seems to be getting a little better. Recently, my parents ordered one, and it took about a month from the time they ordered it until it was shipped out.

    So, is it worth the wait? I definitely think so. I've been using mine for a couple of months now, and I have been exceedingly happy with it. As a replacement for the paperback book, it excels. It is very comfortable to read, and I personally found that adjusting the font size to be a little larger than standard print noticeably increased my reading speed. I am also completely in love with the fact that I can browse the Kindle selection from home (on my Kindle or on my computer) and have my selection ready to read in less than a minute. Oh, and it is true what they say about the display being simply amazing. You have to see it to believe it.

    But, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of reviews written about the Kindle, so I will try not rehash what you can read about in detail all over the net. You may be wondering though how you might use the Kindle to enhance your pen and paper gaming. I hate to have to say that while the Kindle is so much more pleasant to read on than the standard paper back, it is a long way from replacing your RPG reference materials. Why do I say so?

    After tearing through my first digital book, I decided to see how I could use the Kindle to enhance my gaming. PDF conversions are still in the experimental stage, and they have already said that the conversion of multi-columnar books into the native Kindle format is still kludgey. But, they do support conversion of Microsoft Word documents. As luck would have it, Wizards of the Coast makes the d20 SRD available in RTF format, so I decided to try loading that bad boy in. I figured that since the Kindle automatically indexes books you load onto it, it would be an excellent resource when I needed to look up something during a game.

    The first problem that I ran into, which admittedly is not Amazon's fault, is that the d20 SRD is actually divided into a gazillion and a half separate documents. If I just loaded this up straight into my Kindle, I'd end up with a very cluttered library. Of course, one thought I did have on this is that I could throw them on a memory card and only load them up when I needed them. I didn't try this approach though.

    Instead, I decided to run a test and combine the seven Magic Items documents into one file and upload that to my Kindle. Unhappy days though, I found that the Kindle did not support Rich Text Format (RTF). So, I first had to load the document up and convert it to MS Word format. After I did this, I could then send it off to Amazon to be automatically converted and emailed back to me. Once I sent them a format they could convert, I received my Kindle ready document back through email almost instantaneously. Happily, I connected my Kindle to my computer via USB and copied over the AMZ file.

    The result was kinda sloppy. First, even when I reduced the font size to its lowest setting, I still wasn't getting that much on one screen. And at anything other than the smallest font, the line spacing was way too much. While this wasn't a problem reading a typical book, this turned out to be especially problematic for my converted SRD.

    The biggest problem that I found was that the tables did not keep their native format. Instead, the cells that were supposed to be spanning across the page, were printed line by line after each other. This made deciphering the table difficult, and the limited screen size and line spacing exacerbated the problem. Had I started with the Monster section instead, which is basically table after table, I would have ended up with a pretty much unusable document.

    Still, I did like the fact that I could plug in a search, like "Ring of Protection" and instantly get links back to the exact section the Ring of Protection showed up in. The pitfall of the Kindle's indexing engine as it stands right now though is that you cannot specify a specific book to search. So, if I were to search for a more generic term in my library, such as "magic armor," I would get hits from any books I had downloaded that contained those words as well. Even if there was nothing else loaded, I would still have to fish through the all the results where the words "magic armor" appeared in my SRD. Thankfully, the Kindle does give a snip of the surrounding text, so you can figure out if it is the right section before you click on it.

    Ultimately, I decided that the Kindle just didn't measure up as a replacement for reference material. Although there are no officially released RPG books on the Kindle that I know of, I did try loading up a couple computer related books. Most of these types of books use a lot of tables, charts and pictures, just like your typical RPG book would. And it is here that the Kindle doesn't do well. The tables in the computer books I downloaded were first converted into pictures and were not treated as normal text. But, while they kept their formatting, they were also zoomed out on the screen. Even when zooming in, often the tables aren't all that clear to read. Worse, that one table can end up spanning multiple pages.

    I suspect that many of the RPG publishers will came to the same conclusion that I did and will probably wait until a new and better model comes out. Out of curiosity, I queried the press department of Wizards (in January) to see if they were planning on publishing any of their RPG materials or books on the Kindle and the response was less than enthusiastic,
    "Dear Mr. Howard,
    Thank you for your email.

    Wizards of the Coast is always looking forward in how to best publish or books and RPG's. We do not have any plans at this time we can discuss publicly.

    I'm sorry I can be of specific help.

    Best regards,
    Pat
    Corporate Information"
    To date, they still haven't released any of their fiction lines on the Kindle, which is unfortunate, because I do enjoy some of the Forgotten Realms and Dragon Lance novels.

    So, overall, I still love my Kindle and I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading and has a few hundred bucks burning a whole in their pocket. But, before you run out and purchase one, I suggest you first check out their book lineup and see if your favorite authors have books published with them. WotC doesn't at this time, but I did find one of my favorite authors, R.A. Salvatore, does have all of his non-Forgotten Realms books available digitally. There was also plenty of Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist, or Stephen King for you horror fans.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm sure I have bored you enough, and I have a book to read or something...
    Robert A. Howard
    Pen & Paper Games
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    Ah, thanks very much for the review--precisely my first question when I first heard about the Kindle.

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    Can kindle the Kindle so no thanks...but thanks for the review.

    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    I promised some time ago to write up a review on the Amazon Kindle

    So, is it worth the wait? I definitely think so. I've been using mine for a couple of months now, and I have been exceedingly happy with it. As a replacement for the paperback book, it excels.

    Hmmm...good to know you like it but are ambivalent about its propspects just now as a replacement for good old D&D 3.5 books and such still...some of your complaints about the interface are simply a reflection of some of the needs of intellectual property and digital rights management headaches.

    For me I use old books for Kindling if I wanted to start a camp fire and the Kindle not at all because it is a closed source app that allows people to repackage old books into new files and sell them.

    On the one hand this could be good for the environment and its portability is exceedingly good, the Amazon Kindle that is but on the other I like visiting used book stores like Strand and blowing an hour looking for a book out of print that I simply "must have."

    I mean yeah I almost broke down and bought the thing so I could have Neal Stephenson's "In the Beginning... was the command line" and the nicest thing about it is it is hard for people to peer over your shoulder or at the cover and figure out what you are reading on the Kindle. But I am sorry...

    I got to talk to a pretty NYU librarian grad student and be informed, mock smugly/crossly, that the book I wanted was so out of date, copyrihgt 1999, that only the "Social Sciences" section had this bit of sci-fi-geek non-fiction and those copies included rather smug pencil marks on Neal's work.

    I mean, yeah I coulda gotten MORE with the Kindle but that thing is just kindling to me that would give off PCB's, poly-cyclic-benzene compounds in a camp fire and you can't even wipe anything down with it...

    I hope the rare Earth Metals in the thing will be recycled one day and maybe they already were from other chips that got reprocessed but in the mealtime its junk waiting to happen that we can't recycle and can't even sequester carbon emissions with.

    And paper, well paper that stuff just LASTS if you make it right, ever seen some medieval manuscripts that were working documents most of their life?

    I'll wait till the apple people steal the tech and lay it over their thin Screens as a power-management saving feature so we can all get great crisp text without needing so much juice. I figure it will be good tech by then in the meantime...

    that's for being a "leader of the pack," "thanks for the review" but...

    no thanks on a kindle, lots of people carry those things on the Subways and Starbucks and they ain't happy people sitting in Barnes and Noble all by themselves. I like the people with the strollers and the people man or woman handling the books. Keep the kindle until I can safely burn it.

    -Jonathan

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    I must say I didn't know about the kindle. Thanks for the tip. That's one of the reason I love being a member here.

    It's a nice device, the price is kind of rough still... I hope they have a decent policy about updating the firmware and enhancing the format the machine is dealing with.
    Au gibet noir, manchot aimable, dansent, dansent les paladins
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    So, overall, I still love my Kindle and I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading and has a few hundred bucks burning a whole in their pocket. But, before you run out and purchase one, I suggest you first check out their book lineup and see if your favorite authors have books published with them. WotC doesn't at this time, but I did find one of my favorite authors, R.A. Salvatore, does have all of his non-Forgotten Realms books available digitally. There was also plenty of Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist, or Stephen King for you horror fans.
    I'll stay well away from such animals until they support the open formats of RTF, and ODT, TXT at minimum. Sorry, but I'm not paying Amazon hand over fist for every document I have to be kludged into their propitiatory format, and it can't even handle tables? Bah! Humbug!

    Open format, no DRM, that is my minimum requirements. A Book I buy is mine, not merely renting it to read on my Amazon revenue source.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    I'll stay well away from such animals until they support the open formats of RTF, and ODT, TXT at minimum. Sorry, but I'm not paying Amazon hand over fist for every document I have to be kludged into their propitiatory format
    Tesral, you really should research the Kindle a bit further before railing against it so. First of all, the Kindle natively supports text (TXT) documents without any conversion required. It also supports opening unprotected mobipocket files without conversion. Additionally, you also don't have to pay a single dime to get your documents converted as Amazon provides an alternative. If you don't want to pay the 10 cent per document transaction fee (or 10 cents for an entire zip file of documents) then you can instead have the documents emailed to you. You are then able to load the documents over to your Kindle using a USB cable. Voila. Free

    As to being able to buy DRM free digital books -- good luck. Even with the DRM in place on mobipocket books, there are apparently thousands of recent titles and new releases out there to be had on BitTorrent and the like. If there were no DRM, and you didn't even have to search for it very hard, piracy of e-books would be far more prevalent. So, without some sort of copy protection, how then would companies like Amazon attract publishers to allow their books to be distributed electronically? In a fledgling market like this, I think DRM is a good thing if it helps bring the publishers to the table.

    Besides, your book purchases are still backed up and can be redownloaded at any time. And even if they weren't you still have a mechanism for making permanent backups on your own.

    The one thing I do disagree with Amazon on is that there is that there is no way I can share a book I have finished with a friend, as I might do with a hard copy book. The only way I could share my digital book would be to lend out my Kindle -- and thus my entire digital library. I do think there should be some way for me to transfer ownership of my digital book to someone else. Perhaps the constrain is technology, I dunno. But, I do hope that they eventually make it possible.
    Robert A. Howard
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    He..he....

    What you don't want to be "A Kindle in The Wind?" What's wrong with Kindling anyway?

    Its cool, its sexy, its all new old school that will convince people around you you are prosperous.

    Yeah, it won't bring you enlightenment but I bet you could get kids interested in reading by walking around with the thing and denying them the pleasure of reading what you are reading. You say "No what I am reading is Out Of Print but it is SO very good I had to by this expensive wonderful thing just to read it...."

    Then you stick your finger on the optional retinal or fingerprint scanner and unlock the book and sit there reading Dr. Suess while they laugh at your face.

    See, that's its only good point. We can I-pod-ify literature. That's good. It almost makes the ability to read look cool again.

    Smile

    Jonathan

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    Wow, this is the first i've heard of it but after reading your review its definately something that I would think about getting but yeah i agree the Landlord Insurance is still very expensive at the moment Is there any news about the price dropping down a bit or not??
    Last edited by Nathaniello; 09-10-2009 at 09:04 AM.

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    Kindle DX

    Look out! The Amazon Kindle DX has native PDF support.

    Very cool features, and it seems this version is addressing many of the objections the previous versions did not.

    Amazon is marketing it as Textbook capable. Can you imagine going to school with just the Kindle and no other books to lug around?

    This would be fantastic for gamers. This means all those PDF's from RPGNow.com and other such venues can be stored in one slim package.

    Now, if only it could display color.

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    For the price, it should. Net books with full color monitors and more functionality are going for less.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    That would be an unfair comparison, Tesral, since it isn't backlit and uses a completely different technology for display than LCDs.
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    I think it a perfectly fair comparison. Electronic appliances used to transmit information. The only advantage I see the Kindle to have is battery life. In every other comparison the netbook with its expandable base of software, open ability to read different formats, and no lock down to one company, is a better platform. Not to mention cheaper. Good netbooks are $299. the cheapest Kindle 50 bucks more. If I had to pick an internet appliance smaller and lighter than my Thinkpad T-61, I would get a netbook.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
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    There are a lot of other features of a Kindle. The delivery mechanism is a big part of that. The e-ink feature lets you read the device in even bright sunlight. I can attest that on the two days that it is Sunny here in Seattle, that I could read in the Sunlight just fine. And if there is a bigger selection of books available from any other provider, I certainly haven't heard about it. That is probably the most important thing. What good is a reader if you can't get the content you want on it?
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    Netbooks are hard to read in the sunlight. I can attest to that.

    This sweeping generality just gives us a taste of a skeptical attitude. If you have a specific netbook in mind then maybe a proper comparison could be made. Because if you have such a cool appliance to compare, I'm all ears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronpyatt View Post
    Netbooks are hard to read in the sunlight. I can attest to that.

    This sweeping generality just gives us a taste of a skeptical attitude. If you have a specific netbook in mind then maybe a proper comparison could be made. Because if you have such a cool appliance to compare, I'm all ears.
    I don't like single taskers. While the Kindle is a cool toy, it is too locked up for my taste, and does too little. Any netbook does more. That is why I don't mention a model. I still prefer hard drives. SSD it is coming out still has some issues in long term use. And I don't like the fact they don't tell you how much memory the thing has, just how many books it will hold. It would be nice if I'm carrying a Kindle, why do I have a USB drive too? Why not use the Kindle for mass storage as well?

    You are paying far too much for something that they won't let you fully own. Like the iPhone. I would not take the gift of one. Now if Amazon opens the device up so you can freely move things on and off, use an open format for the books so once you buy it you can platform shift it, and you can get your formats like RTF and ODF on to read them, I'd consider its advantages in sunlight and long battery life.

    For me the Kindle still falls into the category of net appliances like the WebTV that you have to buy, but are only usable with a single service.

    Now I would like to see some of that technology shift to small computers. The eink screen would be great, once it is developed in color so computers are not handicapped in bright light. the weight and power requirement for LCD screens are still their downfall.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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