Amazon Kindle Keyboard E-Reader— Things to Check Out if You Often Highlight, Note-make, and Book-mark — A Review

© 2012 Peter Free


09 March 2012



Good for simple reading — but not for highlighting and noting


As a reading only platform, Amazon’s Kindle Keyboard model works well— provided that you have enough ambient light with which to read a printed book.


Readers who do not book-mark, note-make, or highlight should be happy with the device.


Kindle is especially useful, when the reader wants to enlarge text fonts.


On the other hand, if you annotate and highlight frequently, the Kindle Keyboard may not be ideal.  My version was poorly designed for those functions.



Problematic design for note-makers and highlighters


After weeks putting up with the following Kindle weaknesses, I decided that I would be better off with either a conventional book or a significantly more sophisticated electronic device:


(1) Cursor’s default position in the menus cannot be changed — as a result, far too many button pushes are required to navigate


(2) Occasional inability to return to where you were in the book, if you inadvertently went somewhere else


(3) Lack of a “Help” button and a superficial instruction manual that does not address some important topics


(4) Link to’s website does not allow access to the shopping cart (which has the titles of books you may have wanted to download on the Kindle)


(5) Inability to conveniently delete highlights that were inadvertently made


(6) Lack of a backlighted screen may not be the uniform plus that Amazon claims



Problem 1 — time-wasting cursor positions and excessive button-pushing


The Kindle’s default cursor positions and poorly ordered menus make navigation tedious.


For example, here is the menu that appears when you click the “Menu” button, while reading an e-book:


Turn Wireless On

Shop in Kindle Store

Go to ...

Sync to Furthest Page Read

Book Description

Search This Book

Add a Bookmark

Add a Note or Highlight

View Notes & Marks


The cursor is aligned with “Go to . . .”


This means that to go anywhere else, the reader has to press the top or bottom edge of the square-shaped navigating controller that sits below the Kindle’s display screen.


For me, the most used items on the menu were, in order of use:


Add a Note or Highlight

Add a Bookmark

View Notes & Marks


To get to the “Add a Note or Highlight,” I had to click 5 times — each time.


For someone who highlights as often as I do, this gets tedious quickly.  Why not allow the user to choose a default position for the cursor?


My irritation with cursor placement did not end there.  Once you click “OK” for adding a note, guess where the default highlighting cursor is on the page that you are going to highlight?


At the bottom of the page.  Always.


This means that one is frequently going to have to button click at least half-way up the page — at the rate of one click per line.


I say “half-way” because you probably will not be highlighting a passage that continues on to the as-yet unread next page.  Nor will you be starting a highlight in the middle of a sentence or paragraph that began on the previous page.


It is, therefore, probable that your highlight is going to start somewhere less than one-half page from mid-page.


So why did Amazon not put the cursor’s default position at mid-page?



Problem 2 — occasionally getting lost in the book, with no easy way back


Although Kindle is supposed to remember what page you have read to, it sometimes gets confused.


This happened to me a few times when I (usually mistakenly) went somewhere ahead (or behind) of where I wanted to be.  In my case, klutz-ness was the cause.  But Kindle’s obtuse user interface didn’t help.


Specifically, my not-so-slim fingers sometimes inadvertently pressed parts of the navigator button, when I shouldn’t have.  At the time, I was frequently back-and-forthing in reading and highlighting a heavily footnoted 499-page book.


One would think that the menu’s, “Synch to Furthest Page Read,” would correct this mistake.  But it seems only to remember where you went most recently.  Which, more often than not, was the place that I was trying to get away from.


So, what does the place-losing reader have to do to find his way back to where he was?


He/she had better remember some key word on the page, the page number, or the chapter number — or be in for a long bit of voluminous page-turning.


Incidentally, another of Kindle’s flaws is that page numbers only show up when you press the “Menu” button.  To keep track of where you are, you have to remind yourself to press it occasionally.  And then you have to press it again to get rid of the way the menu interferes with your view of the underlying text.



Problem 3 — no “help” button — and a less than helpful instruction manual


Finding help on the Kindle requires getting out of the book one is reading and into the less than useful instruction manual.


The manual does not have an Index.  Nor is the Table of Contents efficiently ordered and worded.  Consequently, one has to read page after page to stumble across what one is looking for.


Unlike searchable computer “help” menus, which usually generate lists by relevance to the keyword, the Kindle instruction manual only allows the reader to search its text in the way that Microsoft Word does.


These results are, of course, not ordered by relevance.  They simply show the key word highlighted in its surrounding text.


To find what you are looking for — just as with the Table of Contents — you have read page after page of too-long, usually irrelevant extracts.





Problem 4 — incomplete functionality with


Buying Kindle books is admirably easy.  But trying to find one that you have forgotten the title or author for is not.


I often use a computer to add titles to my Amazon cart, precisely so that I won’t have to memorize each.


But Kindle Keyboard won’t connect me to my Amazon cart.  So, to find a book that I want Kindle to download means I have to search the website from scratch.


Kindle’s tiny keyboard, small screen, and’s sometimes less than well-executed search function makes this process more irritating than it should be.



Problem 5 — tortuous deletion of highlights


This frustration may be individual to my Kindle.


It will not allow me to delete highlights that I’ve inadvertently made, at the time they are live, without going out to the “View Bookmarks” section, finding them, and doing the deleting there.


Part of the problem is that Kindle’s cursor highlights at unpredictable speeds.  It sometimes skips ahead of where the display shows it to be.  (It also skips words that are linked with a hyphen.)




Problem 6 — lack of a backlighted screen may not be the uniform plus that Amazon claims


This observation probably affects older folk, who have the excessive light-requiring vision that comes with age.


Kindle relies on ambient light.  Its screen background is gray.  I found myself wishing for a backlight more often than I was concerned that a reflective, backlighted screen would have made it hard to read.


In fairness, Kindle’s go-anywhere convenience meant that I was often trying to read it where I probably would not have been trying to read a conventional book.



Kindle — recommended for most readers — but not for voluminous highlighters and note-makers


I probably will not buy more e-books for my Kindle Keyboard. The device is too frustratingly primitive for the way I interact with reading material.


For people who just read, without making a production out of the process, the Kindle seems fine.