Cover via Amazon
In August I bought this book – Information and Coding Theory.
As I was then in rural Norfolk I bought it for the Kindle. That was a mistake.
The book is a good one – I would recommend it for those seeking to get to grips with the maths of information theory – an increasingly important field of study well beyond communications.
But do not buy it – or any other mathematical or scientific – textbook for the Kindle. Because Amazon do such a shoddy job that sooner or later you will hit a page or pages where the notation is so messed up that the book is impossible to use.
When this happened to me I contacted the publishers – Springer Verlag – who were polite and helpful but said it was really a matter for Amazon.
I then tried the book on other versions of the Kindle reader (eg for Mac, for Android) – but it was no better and nor did a recent update of the Kindle’s OS fix it (I suspect the character are missing and the notation messed up in the data file, so no hardware or software fix would ever help – in other words the fundamental data format for the Kindle is broken.
I repeatedly questioned Amazon on twitter on this but got no answers as to what they intended to do about it. I even got a story on Slashdot but still no answers.
So I did the last thing that was open to me and asked for a refund.
To be fair to Amazon they gave that without question.
I have now ordered (from Amazon – this is a monopoly) a paper copy.
As I have reported before, the Amazon Kindle is a lousy product.
What is more, I have repeatedly asked Amazon for an explanation as to why they are selling e-books which are plainly not fit for purpose, but I have had no reply at all.
Now, according to the Guardian, we read that Amazon are using their dominance of the e-book market to gouge money off publishers.
The back of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thanks to the SCONUL inter-library agreement between British universities I was able to join Imperial College‘s university library today and went on to borrow a copy of Information and Coding Theory: the book I bought about six weeks ago for the Kindle and subsequently discovered to be all-but-unreadble on that device.
Immediately I can see just how much easier to understand the printed edition is and the simple lesson is rammed home: no matter how nice the new Kindles look on the Amazon website, do not buy one in the hope of using it to read mathematical texts – they are not up to it.
(I have repeatedly questioned @AmazonKindle if they intend to do anything about the fact they are selling “books” to people that they must know are of such poor quality they are of no use, but have had no reply.)
Having checked out the alternatives to the Kindle that are provided by Amazon the current state of play is:
- Linux: no native alternative offered
- Windows: Kindle app crashes on 64 bit wine, so cannot tell you what that’s like
- Mac OSX:
seems to render pages perfectly as broken as the Kindle
- Android: app is as broken as the Kindle itself
- Cloud Reader: supposedly what Linux users should be using, but this too is broken, failing to render characters properly in the same way as the Kindle.
The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the last twenty-four hours I have been forced to completely reassess my view of the Kindle.
I have been reading a book (I won’t say what as I want to make the comments below anonymous) on a Kindle (the device, not an application – see below), and was resigned to the usual second class Kindle editing – the odd missing paragraph, the loss of a non-roman letter or symbol here or there, when I came to a chapter which was essentially unreadable because it relied on (for example) the difference between and but was unable to render , merely displaying .
I was so frustrated and annoyed – how could any publisher allow their book to be published in this form when a whole chapter was rendered into (literally) nonsense – that I emailed a senior editor of the publisher to complain.
To be fair to them, they replied quickly and passed on my complaint to a senior colleague:
This is a problem with the way the Kindle displays mathematics and it is an ongoing problem that we are trying to solve with Amazon and other hand-held device makers … I suspect you will be due a refund from Amazon.
The reply does the publisher a lot of credit, and more or less restored my faith in them. But it also carries a very simple message - don’t buy a Kindle to read technical books.
I have since discovered that one Kindle app
- on Mac OSX – renders the book perfectly, while another – on Android – is just as poor as the Kindle itself.
Why are Amazon selling books that are broken like this?
In the meantime I suggest sticking to hard copies when it comes to technical works.
Update: Not sure why I thought the Mac OSX app worked – it’s just as broken as the Kindle itself.
Cover via Amazon
I wrote a piece a while back about why I wasn’t looking to buy a Kindle. Well, now I have got one.
To be fair to myself I did not buy it – it was a present. I quite like it – especially when faced with a long haul jet journey (as later today). But I also realise more than ever just how much power it gives Amazon over my books – that aspect of it is not nice at all.
But right now I am interested in any recommendations for jet flight reading:
- Mildly intellectually taxing thrillers
- Great literature that is also a page turner
- Essential works on computing maths that I may not have read
Amazon have a new version of the Kindle.
I still have no plans to buy one.